From 90s hip hop to street style and beyond, the East Coast vs. West Coast debate is a tale as old as time. Whether it’s NYC versus L.A. or The Hamptons versus Malibu, the two coasts boast incredibly distinct personalities and cultures that are equally iconic.
True to form, both coasts have a distinct take on coastal design style. While the East Coast leans more classic, traditional, and a touch preppy depending on the locale, the West Coast is distinctly more natural, sculptural, and of course, laid back. They do, however, share an affinity for the timeless blue and white color palette and organic textures.
While you might have an opinion on which is arguably superior, the truth is, they’re both chic in their own unique way. Want proof? We put 12 East and West coast cities head-to-head in the ultimate coastal design face off. Keep scrolling to see how to channel each and every coastal look in your home (even if you’re land-locked).
Cape Cod vs. Monterey
To channel East Coast elegance à la mainland Massachusetts, start with the obvious: a crisp blue and white color palette. Layer in traditional prints, relaxed organic textures like jute and washed wood, and a few cottage-inspired details and voila! You’ve brought Cape Cod to your living room. This look is all about history and tradition, with a beachy twist.
On the opposite coast lies Monterey — a misty, monied beach town just south of San Francisco. This look is (literally) straight out of Big Little Lies — think sculptural, contemporary furnishings, limewash walls, and plenty of natural materials, including woven lighting and fresh greenery.
Martha's Vineyard vs. Santa Barbara
Catch a ferry to offshore Massachusetts to hit the ultimate East Coast island destination: Martha’s Vineyard. Classic, comfy, and preppy, this look is the design equivalent of a white button-up and loafers. Embrace a neutral palette with hints of soft blue, accented with light-washed woods, and clean lines. It’s elevated, yet easy going.
Welcome to the home of Spanish design influences. The Santa Barbara look is all about stone walls and wooden beams to imbue a sense of history, while furnishings lean more modern. Iron, wood, plaster and woven textures give the space an artisanal aesthetic — swoon.
Charleston vs. Big Sur
The Charleston look is Southern charm at its finest. Steeped in history with a coastal flair, this look mixes tradition with down-to-earth sensibility. Think: classic wallpaper, furniture, and lighting meets an effortless color palette and clean linen upholstery.
Nestled between the California forests and the Pacific ocean, Big Sur is as naturally beautiful as it gets. True to form, so are the interiors — this look is basically warm minimalist perfection, down to the raw, natural wood, simplistic silhouettes, natural materials, and artisanal beauty.
Greenwich vs. Newport Beach
This Connecticut coastal city is best described as classic meets luxe. To channel this luxury East Coast destination, opt for a bold navy and crisp white palette with plenty of preppy and traditional patterns. The look is classy, sophisticated, and rich in heritage.
If we had to compare this look to an early-2000s teen drama, it would definitely be The O.C. Relaxed yet refined, the Newport Beach look boasts a neutral canvas with navy and coastal blue accents. Bring in clean lines, modern silhouettes, comfy textiles, and plenty of greenery to nail the style.
The Hamptons vs. Malibu
The Hamptons is the ultimate mix of trendy and classic, and so are the interiors. Bring in a classic blue and white coastal palette plus traditional patterned wallpaper, plus on-trend rattan, plush bedding, and a sculptural light fixture.
Malibu is known as the epitome of beach chic for a reason. Get your Sarah Sherman Samuel on with sculptural, curved furnishings, wooden accents, and natural materials. This look is elevated yet easy going — lean into form to make a statement over excessive pattern and decor. Less is more with this one!
Hilton Head vs. Catalina Island
Southern hospitality meets coastal charm in Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina. Go with a seaside aquamarine and white color palette and layer in preppy patterns for a hint of Southern coastal kitsch. Add in a few brass touches, and the finished look is timeless, dynamic, and put together.
A beachy island town on the West Coast calls for vibrant patterns and pops of color. Laid-back and fun Catalina Island is bursting with personality, down to the vibrant colors, sculptural furniture, and vintage furniture. It’s cool and original, without trying too hard.
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