Wishing you could escape to a sandy beach right now? While that may be hard to do, you might be tempted to bring the beach to you by embracing a popular home design style known as Palm Beach decor.
Palm Beach style first became all the rage thanks to Lilly Pulitzer, a socialite in Palm Beach, FL, who opened a store full of colorful dresses in the 1960s. Her designs soon ballooned into a huge lifestyle brand, complete with home furnishings—all characterized by wild patterns filled with coral, starfish, seashells, and other tropical motifs.
And, given celebrities and politicians galore seem to be moving en masse to Florida right now (think Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, Tom Brady, and others), the Palm Beach craze may only gain steam.
Don’t get me wrong—I long for the beach right about now, along with everyone else. Still, while a little dash of Palm Beach decor here and there might be nice, if you splash it everywhere, it can quickly go overboard. Here are some classic Palm Beach decor fails to avoid at all costs.
1. Sea shades
Photo by Alair Homes Sanibel
Too much Lilly is silly, alas, especially when paired with saturated ocean hues like turquoise and Kelly green. It’s enough to make you feel like you’re underwater—or worse, drowning—just standing in the space. A smidge of this cute pattern is fine, of course, or leave the bulk of it to your 5-year-old daughter’s bedspread or shams.
2. Pattern on pattern
Photo by Fun House Furnishings & Design
Eclectic is one thing, but too much of this style borders on wacky, as seen on this settee. We get the general idea here, which is giving a plain white couch some oomph with bright pops of color. Still, less is more, so subtract a few pillows, please.
3. Animal tables
Photo by Wostbrock Home
Are elephants native to Palm Beach? I think not. So what’s the deal with turning them, along with monkeys, parrots, peacocks, and various types of lap dogs, into decor?
Yes, the natural world is beautiful and bringing the outside in makes sense in a warm climate, but these poor creatures should not bear the burden of our boxwood planters and cocktails.
4. Seashell furniture
I guess this is an antique to be cherished and passed down through the generations, but the rustlike veneer gives me pause. And with sharp shells protruding from all sides, this isn’t a piece you’d want to brush by in your bedroom or let kids handle.
The solution: Donate it—fast.
5. Coral decor
Coral is lovely when printed on napkins or plates—but not when it’s literally looming from the ceiling, stuffed into vases, and wrapped around glass hurricanes. And don’t get me started on the chair backs. (Can you say “ouch” every time you rest on them?)
6. Palm plant overload
Photo by Period Homes, Inc.
Palm fronds and succulents and ferns—oh my! Draped on every table, dangling from above, and blocking doorways is not the way to style your home with greenery. Leave some room for other accessories (books, maybe?), and allow ample access to all entrances and exits in case of emergency!
Photo by Houzz
Again, wild patterns on every surface can make your eyes bug out and your head swim. And pairing bamboo accents with miles of Chinoiserie is too much Palm Beach in one tiny loo.
Oh, a word of caution: Intricate scenes like these may prompt guests and family members to linger in your powder room while studying them, causing a line of waiting customers at the door.
8. Color explosions
Photo by Anthony Baratta LLC
Yards of fabric as displayed in this drapes-within-drapes look is a tragic design element I can’t unsee. (What goes on behind these green and yellow doorways anyway?) But the fatal flaw here is the color riot that requires sunglasses to view.
Photo by Michelle Workman Interiors
Lacquer is shiny and fun. But up close, this desk and the upper doors will force you to spend your free time wiping these surfaces to remove fingerprints. Yup, lacquer paint is a magnet for these smudges, and it looks good only when it’s pristine (sigh).
10. Trellis wallpaper
A twisting, turning trellis print, along with Greek key patterns, is dizzying—and enough of it on dining room walls might turn off your eaters.