Interiors: bring the holiday feeling home

It’s time for the great escape – to the coast, to the continent, or perhaps just to the most inviting corners of your own home. For those of us staying put this month, a bit of interior sprucing can satisfy the urge for escapism and will prolong the relaxed mood that the amazing weather has brought.

But resist the temptation to load up on seaside-themed quick fixes, say the experts. If you go too far with ticking stripes, anchor motifs and driftwood, you end up in pastiche territory – it’s the opposite of that laid-back, warm-breeze atmosphere we’re after, and will soon look as lacklustre as tinsel in February.

“You know you’ve really nailed an interior when people walk in and want to flop down on a chair,” says Abigail Ahern, an interior designer and author of Decorating with Style. “If you’re too literal, it has the opposite effect – it feels artificial, and people don’t relax. It’s possible to create that holiday atmosphere in a more sophisticated way.”

Lisa Hecht, the interiors buyer at Achica, the members-only lifestyle luxury shop, agrees, and advises concentrating on the foundations. “The key to this look is moderation,” she says. “Think of looking out over a sea harbour. For a light and breezy space, natural hues such as blue, grey, white, turquoise and silver are a good base, while for smaller details you can use darker, bolder shades of those hues.”

Design experts at the website also recommend a restful palette that brings to mind a remote holiday cottage: their Dulux Light and Space paint range (from £24.98 for 2.5 litres) is full of muted colours, from soft corals to serene blues, that make a room feel brighter and more spacious by reflecting light. “Keep it simple, and interject your chosen colours with white to keep the ambience light,” says Nicky Pysden at DecorateNow. For an instant thrifty ‘lift’ she suggests painting tired wicker furniture in a crisp white. Habitat’s linen-cream, woven rattan-seated Jak chair (£60;, inspired by Van Gogh’s chair painting, has similar appeal.

The Dulux Light and Space paint range reflects light, creating a serene ambience (from

Of course, white all over is instantly refreshing. Take Loaf’s Bobbin bed (£695, – it looks like an old brass one, but is solid-wood finished in calm off-white heritage paint, buffed with wax – and dress it with cool linens (Cologne and Cotton’s jacquard stripe Capri and white seersucker styles are five-star hotel quality, and on sale;

Then introduce one or two vibrant accessories. For deep ocean tones, go for Habitat’s two-toned cotton Leni throw, below (£35, or John Lewis of Hungerford’s painted artisan stool in coastal blue (£210, If you prefer a smarter, nautical feel, there are deep cobalts and inky, French navy blues about: the handwoven indigo Paris pendant lightshade, £65, from Habitat (as before) or a vibrant tie-dyed rug from the Savine range by Designers Guild (

“Blue in nearly all its tones has such an uplifting quality,” says the colour guru Tricia Guild, founder and director of Designers Guild, whose new book, Colour Deconstructed, will be published in September. “My favourite at the moment is cobalt. Its dynamic strength and joyous optimism are infectious. Using it with white creates a feeling that is crisp and timeless; it says summer without being twee.”

Abigail Ahern’s approach to the holiday mood is to emphasise the unexpected, using rich colours. “Even at the coast I don’t use pastels,” she says. “I use dark colours on the walls, because they look amazing when there’s more light; summery accessories like woven baskets and reed grass matting, which look beautiful against dark colours; and maybe a vase in yellow or aqua, which, along with flowers, will instantly lift a room.”

The factor that really makes this look work, the “game changer”, is texture. “The more texture you add to a room, the more friction you create, the more compelling it is,” she says. “Do this with soft textiles and natural weathered surfaces, a bit of metal and shine, some rough some smooth.”

You could also turn one corner into a restful retreat, she says, referring to the interior above, making a feature of ‘downtime’ furniture – a daybed, window seat or rocking chair. Imitate the weathered panelling with Piet Hein Eek’s Scrapwood wallpaper (£199,

‘Scrapwood’ wallpaper, by Piet Hein Eek, £199 from

A dreamy book, Homes from Home by Vinny Lee, also coming out soon, provides escapist inspiration for small spaces. Devoted to decorating the places that can be enjoyed “without the responsibilities or obligations of a full-time home”, from beach huts to woodland cabins, it encourages a romantic, fuss-free style that could equally be introduced in your living room.

A tasteful way to introduce a bit of shells-and-seaweed spirit to your scheme is to use Abigail Ahern’s principle of “decorative clustering”. “Displays on walls and surfaces make your home seem more lived-in and loved; anything that tells a story engages people,” she says. “It’s a good way to use vintage postcards, mementos or photos; group them together, along with found items, in a spontaneous way, never in rows.” If you haven’t had the chance to collect pebbles for your displays, Sainsbury’s has wire-netted glass bottles that have a hint of the harbour (£14, – or choose just one graphic, unfussy boat ornament (the boat model from Liberty, £145;, then give all other coastal references a wide berth.

‘Decorating with Style’ by Abigail Ahern (Quadrille, £16.99) is £14.99 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 71 1514 or see

‘Homes from Home: Inventive Small Spaces, From Chic Shacks to Cabins and Caravans’ by Vinny Lee (Jacqui Small, £30) is £26 + £1.35 p&p from Telegraph Books. Call 0844 71 1514 or see

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