Beachy Furniture Ideas and Surf Style Design Tips to Try

When it comes to designing your home and making it feel like you, there are many avenues you can take. You can go for a bohemian vibe befitting an artist living in the West Village, tap into your coastal grandmother look if you’re by the shore, or adopt the Japandi aesthetic if minimalism calms your mind—to name just a few. If you clicked into this story, though, you’re likely intrigued by surf-inspired design, perhaps wondering a) what this is or b) how to incorporate the look in your own home. There’s no better person to ask than Newport Beach, California–based interior designer Raili Clasen, who grew up in and around surf culture. She even wrote a whole book about it: Surf Style at Home.

Clasen worked in marketing for the iconic surf apparel brand Quicksilver before eventually trading fashion for interior design to bring “surf style” to life in peoples’ homes. So, what is surf style and decor exactly? “It’s about color and stripes. It’s bold and doesn’t go by a playbook,” Clasen says, sharing that she borrows the phrase from fashion for the home. “When I worked for Quicksilver and Roxy, a lot of people think surf style is putting a couple boards up on the wall. [But] that’s not at all [what it is],” she says. “The inspiration starts with nature [like wood], and then you layer in the fun colors and graphics [you see in surf fashion and on the boards], like stripes and polka dots. Back in the ’80s and ’90s when surf became stylish, there was this whole era of the surfers and what they were wearing. And these kids all had the brightest boards and the big polka dot board shorts. I take a lot of inspiration from that.”

Still feeling a little puzzled about how to make surf style work in your home? Don’t worry, the designer explains how to put it all into practice ahead. Clasen breaks down her easiest, tried-and-true tips for tastefully incorporating the surf aesthetic into your space—free of charge.

Dial Up the Colors

If you Google surf fashion, you’ll see that the clothes often come in vivid colors like lime green and hot pink and a medley of psychedelic prints. Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate some vibrant colors in your home. Some of Clasen’s favorite shades are hot pink, mustard, dark navy blue, and olive green. When deciding on hues, “the key is not getting obnoxious about the colors—you want just a little hint,” she advises.

a bathroom with a tub and sink

Karyn Millet

“If you’re doing a striped sofa and you’ve got stripes on the wall plus a big piece of art, it’s too much. If you wallpapered a wall and hung some art over it—that’s already a big statement. Choose where those big moments are, and then neutralize [the surrounding area by] calming it down with pieces like jute rugs and natural linens.” Adding in color could be as simple as going for mustard dining room chairs or tiling the bathroom blue, with doors and wallpaper in similar tones. Ultimately, Clasen says, the idea is to bring personality and cheerfulness into your space, so have fun and don’t overthink it too much.

Go Beyond the Surfboard on a Wall

You can certainly hang your board on the wall, but don’t stop there. Make sure to decorate with art—the imagery can be as literal as a photo of your favorite beach, or it could be a phrase like, “Thanks and come again.” “Art is very, very emotional, in a good way. If you walk in and see something funny, it’s going to change your mood. If you see something very moody, it’s going to change your mood,” Clasen says.

a table with a vase and cups on it

Laurey Glenn

“I love oversized artwork because it’s like it has an exclamation point on it. You can change the whole personality of your room with one big piece of art.” If you want to know where to get art that falls into these specific parameters, the designer says one of her favorite artists is Kerri Rosenthal. “[Her art] is so bold, and when I put a piece of hers up in a room, that’s all you can do because any more [art or decor and the room] starts getting too circusy,” Clasen says. “There’s also this guy I work with in California, Pierce Meehan, he does these beautiful pieces of art that literally look like a square surfboard.” If you don’t want to hang a literal surfboard on your walls, you may want to scoop up a piece by Meehan.

Bring the Outdoors In

Clasen says one of her favorite ways to bring surf style into the home is by using wood. “When you go to the beach, there are trees, sand, boardwalks. I love, love, love a boardwalk, especially when the sun hits the wood. I love to bring that inside,” she says.

a kitchen with a staircase and a staircase

David Tsay

The designer suggests using wood paneling on the walls for that “Topanga Canyon, Malibu kind of feeling,” opting for wood ceiling beams, or perhaps working it in as a decorative element via a wooden dresser or coffee table. She also writes in her book that she isn’t afraid of mixing wood species throughout the home, so if you want to use rift oak, Douglas fir, cedar, and plain sawn oak—go for it!

Aside from using wood to give your space a nature-inspired look, Clasen says you can achieve a similar effect by adding in pieces like jute rugs, rattan furniture, braided rope wall decor, and nautical lighting. And don’t forget the greenery. Even if you’re not the most experienced plant parent, you can choose low-maintenance houseplants or decorate with cut flowers. “This morning, I was out cutting bougainvillea and putting those all around the house,” Clasen shares. “Surf culture is all about the outdoors and plants evoke that surf style.”

Surf Style Is for All Homes

At this point, you may be wondering if the surf-inspired aesthetic works only for beach houses or in locations where surf culture thrives, and the simple answer is no. According to Clasen, any space, even an apartment in New York City, can adopt this look with ease. “I have a lot of friends who’ve moved to New York who were total surfers,” Clasen says. “They all have their favorite board hanging up because they’re not going to use it, and it’s the most beautiful art.” Surfboard decor aside, Clasen adds that if your space already has a weathered look to it—think the floors of a brownstone—keep it. “Think about the beach,
she says. “Everything gets weathered, from the umbrellas to the wooden structures.”

a bathroom with a mirror and a sink

Chad Mellon

So go ahead and decorate with art and colors you love that make you feel like you’re at the beach, even if the closest one is an hourlong drive away. You can get the vibe in a temporary living situation too: “If you’re renting, you can hang up a big mural [or use] a peel-and-stick wallpaper, and then even take it another step further by doing a big word [signage] across it.” For more insider ways to decorate your home, Clasen shares several of her favorite surf-inspired products to use in any space, below.

Stripe Flag
Slightly Choppy Stripe Flag
5'10 Sandia Fish #8963
Almond Surf Boards 5’10 Sandia Fish #8963
Oak Surfboard Rack
Crawford Craft x Raili CA Oak Surfboard Rack
Sunset Teak Outdoor Lounge Chair
CB2 Sunset Teak Outdoor Lounge Chair

Now 20% Off

Glacier National Park Blanket
Pendleton Glacier National Park Blanket
Jute Cross – Black
Nordic Knots Jute Cross – Black
The Coast is Clear
Raili CA The Coast is Clear
White Scallop Bell
Double M Pottery White Scallop Bell
Low Arm Sierra Chair
Croft House Low Arm Sierra Chair

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