Skip links
Island Style and Coastal Style Comparison

Island Style Vs. Coastal Style And Some Characteristics Of Each

I was once at a conference and heard the fantastic Nate Berkus speak. He said, in the design business, you are only as good as your references. He wasn’t talking about what past clients have to say about working with you (although that’s important too!). He meant what are the various visual elements in the room referring to.  


Designers make references throughout the space, and together they tell a story. What story do we want the home to tell? Many factors influence that answer, from the client’s unique life experiences and lifestyle to the home’s architecture and location. How will we weave a visual representation that whispers to the homeowner and guests a subtle story behind what’s currently going on in the room?

Island Style and Coastal Style Comparison

Island Style

To understand Island style, you need to understand a little more about the region and the unique history. In the Caribbean, each little collection of islands is its own nation, and they all have their individual identity. The US Virgin Islands are American, and therefore we have an American take on lifestyle and décor. Many different countries have owned these islands over the years (there’s a whole course to discuss the details), but you can still see bits and pieces of those influences throughout the USVI. 

Island Style

So what are some unique VI visual references? 

  1. Dark Hardwoods like Mahogany
    Mahogany trees are not as prevalent as they used to be here, but they were prevalent in the past. The look of dark mahogany hardwood furniture and trims in homes is a definite indicator of island style.
  1. Louvers in Windows and Doors
    Locally referred to as Jalacies, these adjustable wood louvers are designed to allow the breeze to flow into the home.
  1. Caned Furniture
    These pieces were traditionally made by hand and are now enjoying a resurgence in popularity. The open weave of split rattan allows for a comfortable seat and breezy airflow.
  1. Island Color Schemes
    Color schemes tend to be influenced by our surroundings. Richer color pallets with hues ranging from palm leaf green to the vibrant tones of bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers are all very common and blend in nicely to the environment.

Island Style Vs. Coastal Style BlogCoastal Style

Coastal style, on the other hand, is informed primarily by the beach and the sea. The references here pay homage to long days spent boating and swimming in aqua seas. Coastal style references might point to the northeast’s Hamptons lifestyle, with the rattan and bright colors that are so popular in South Florida or the more modern laid-back aesthetic of the California coast. There is a crossover between the island and coastal styles. After all, the VI has more lovely beaches than you can count! So, the two do go hand in hand and blend well.

Coastal Rug

Some of the typical style references for coastal style are:

  1. Lighter Wood Tones
    We speak to driftwood and weathered docks with our wood tones and even use more weathered textures.
  1. Sea Grass
    Seagrass is a classic coastal material and a natural choice for rugs and appears as accent panels in cabinetry and as wallpaper.
  1. Coastal Color Schemes
    Color schemes focus on the sea and sites you can only get when you visit the beach. Preferred coastal color schemes include sand neutrals, navy blues, and shades of the turquoise sea.
  1. Iconic Décor
    Often times décor items and accessories are shaped to resemble shells, fish, and sailboats. We feel it’s possible to convey a coastal feel without being too obvious with these items!
  1. Casual Style
    Coastal rooms are usually styled in a more casual way than island-style homes and have a lighter look overall.

    Island Style Versus Coastal Style

    Whether you love island style, coastal style or you enjoy a mix of the two; there are so many different variations to fit your desired style. If you’re unsure about the story you’re trying to tell, give us a call. We can help you identify the references that speak to you and your family’s story. Let the translation you choose speak to your unique love of the islands and the shore and blend the various visual cues to tell your own personalized narrative.

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.