People go to beach houses to escape and relax, which is why beach house interiors should be easy and breezy.

"When you go to the beach, the minute you hit that bridge you want those stresses to slide right off of you," said interior designer June Shea of">Shea Studio.

Shea and her family love spending time at their beach house in the Southern Shores on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which is far more whimsical than the English Country interior of her Fairfax home.

"You could actually recreate the style of your home at your beach house, but I wouldn't recommend it," Shea said. "Because then it doesn't feel like you're on vacation."


Shea decked her beach house in tropical colors: lime green, turquoise, aqua, peach and yellow. She avoided the traditional beach house look of flip-flops and fish patterns.

"When I go there I want to get away. I don't like a lot of stuff around me," she said. "I tend to be more minimal. Not as many tchotchkes. Not as many things to dust."

To add warmth, Shea put family photos and contemporary art around the house so it didn't feel like a rental.

Bright, cheerful and casually cool describes what separates beach house style from other seaside d?cor, such as nautical and Cape Cod.

"Beach house style to me is more casual," said Washington-based designer Erica Burns. "You're going to be barefoot walking around in the house."

"Nautical can be Nantucket. It has lots of navy and stripes. Cape Code can be formal. It could be winter or anytime. It could be anywhere," Burns said.

Instead of using predictable beach motifs, such as seashells and light houses, Burns prefers elements that "reference the beach feeling."

She suggests using blues and greens, sandy beiges, wistful whites and other colors found naturally on the shore. She incorporates organic accessories made from driftwood or oxidized metal, "things that look like they had been left out in the salty air."

When it comes to upholstery and draperies, Burns uses indoor/outdoor fabrics, such as those made by Sunbrella. She also uses a fabric treatment called Nano Tex, which weatherproofs almost any textile.

The ideal is for people to feel free to stop and plop on any surface in the house. Oversized sofas that can double as beds are perfect for the many guests who frequent beach homes.

Gina Fitzsimmons of Annapolis-based Fitzsimmons Design said a beach house is an opportunity to have fun with design.

"It's a second home, so people are willing to take more chances," she said.

Fitzsimmons Designed a wave-themed kitchen in a five-bedroom beach house. She had a customized wavy counter top created. Wavy cabinet pulls complement wavy designs on metal bar stools and pendant lights. The waves are repeated in a backsplash made of sea glass.

"It's your home away from home," Fitzsimmons said. "You should have something different from whatever you have at home."