Adieu to light and airy aesthetics—there’s a moodier trend taking over the town.
Photographed by Sarah Winchester

Beach homes have long been known for a light and airy aesthetic, but recent interior design projects are nodding toward a moodier and darker tone. “The whites and the light are really wonderful but can sometimes lack soul if it’s all white with no character,” explains Kristen Rivoli of Kristen Rivoli Interior Design ( She suspects that the u-turn to darker aesthetics relates to the warmth of elements like wood built-ins, antiques and vintage furniture that were customarily painted over in recent years. Now, clients want to keep these characteristics rather than change them. “It adds this warmth and soul to the home that would otherwise just lose all of that deep dark moodiness of the space,” she adds.

Light-colored curtains juxtapose this dark wood table. Photographed by Sarah Winchester
Light-colored curtains juxtapose this dark wood table.

Of course, the moodier vacation home trend differs slightly from the dark aesthetics in primary abodes. This is illustrated in one of the designer’s recent projects within a Cape house in Chatham. The family home held a lot of history through antiques, artwork and book collections, and the next generation of owners didn’t want to lose these roots but still wanted the home that was a reflection of themselves. Rivoli accomplished this by juxtaposing the older, charming elements with lighter accents like rugs and drapes for balance. This is seen in the dining room, where the interior designer opted for seagrass brush chairs from Serena and Lily ( as a nautical touch. Original bookcases in pine and darker frames nestled around artwork continue the darker theme. “In this project, there is a mix of the old antique or vintage pieces with the new…and it just works so much better because it’s a unique point of view, as opposed to, (it looking) like every other beach house I’ve been in,” Rivoli says. When it comes to accomplishing this look, she emphasizes the importance of bringing antique pieces into the home and banishing any fear of using darker fabrics and textures. For example, look to a nook in the house that hosts a rattan desk. There, a dark-framed chair with a more traditional design is brought back to life with a flame-stitch fabric. “People’s attitudes in the past have been ‘it’s a beach house, let’s get some cheap and cheerful quick retail stuff that is all white plastic,” Rivoli explains. “And there’s so many things wrong with that because obviously it’s not sustainable in a friendly way, and it just lacks the soul that you want in a house and looking at a mix of that is so much better.”