Even in cities you can create the impression of relaxed beachside living by using driftwood furniture and shoreline-style accessories, and the look can appear surprisingly sophisticated.
Driftwood furniture ticks all the right boxes. Its weathered grain and sea-sculpted shapes can be stunning and, being recycled, it conserves resources and reduces waste — and homeowners love its evocation of a carefree summer by the beach.
Martin Scorey, a boat-builder by training, makes innovative furniture using traditional skills at his Southampton base. "I love using driftwood because it's tactile and evokes the weathered, windswept feel of the British shoreline. To walk along a beach after a storm collecting wood is just the inspiration I need to fashion it into a unique piece of furniture."
Scorey's throne-like chairs are made to order (from £250) and hand-decorated with shells, pebbles and rope. Tables in a variety of idiosyncratic shapes (from £280) and custom-made, decorative timber screens (from £600) are also available from his Shoreline Furniture collection.
Homeowners looking for less sculptural pieces can create the driftwood look with Scorey's glasstopped desks (£600), bedside cabinets (£140) and coffee tables (£250), made from sand-blasted Cedar of Lebanon. Bathroom and kitchen cabinets are custom-made in a similar style (from £110).
The marine theme can also be extended, indoors or outside, with decorative accessories such as green glass fishing net floats, whelk pots, driftwood flowers, shrimp nets and vintage pond yachts, all available online from Shoreline Furniture.
Surfing enthusiast Jonty Henshall started making driftwood furniture while living at Sennen Cove in west Cornwall. "If I find an interesting, discarded piece of wood I try to use it in a sympathetic way, creating sculpture, furniture and paintings that will capture its unique form forever."
His made-to-order designs are available at Beyond the Sea in Padstow, north Cornwall, and online. Prices start from £120 for bedside tables, from £250 for coffee tables, from £350 for dressers and from £650 for beds.
One of the pleasures of living with driftwood furniture lies in knowing where the raw material washed up. David Holmes of Nautilus Design combines driftwood collected from St Peter's Bay in Essex with driftnet corks from Petershead in Scotland to create attractive mirror frames. Meanwhile the knotted trunks of birch trees washed up on a Pembrokeshire beach are cut into stubby lamp bases (£185 a pair) and topped with shades made from layers of hand-made, recycled paper pulp.
"It's a pretty perfect lifestyle, collecting driftwood from some of Britain's most scenic beaches, then taking it home to my workshop in Bedfordshire to make one-off designs," says David. "Wood can be a difficult material. Oak goes very hard in salt water and I've burned out many a drill bit and saw blade. And a nearly finished piece is sometimes ruined when you discover a soft spot is, in fact, a honeycomb of tunnels created by sea worms."
Holmes's Twig mirrors (£235) are painstakingly crafted from small, salvaged pieces carefully entwined in a wreath-like fashion, while artistic combinations of driftwood chips form the rays of his starburst mirrors (£235). He also makes cabinets (£145), lamps (from £145) and photo frames (£75). One of his latest pieces is a lamp made from driftwood twigs, bleached by the sun and sculpted into smooth, tactile shapes by the sea and sand. The twigs are arranged in a crown around an energy-efficient lamp that gives off a warm glow and creates interesting shadows.
Even mainstream producers are getting hooked on seaside style. Furniture manufacturer I&JL Brown makes a driftwood console table (£1,920) with subtly curved legs and driftwood floor-standing standard lamp (£495). The company also offers an antique deed box (£410) that could double as storage and a coffee table, the Wicked Ray sunburst mirror (£495) and Wavyline Ladderback armchairs (£360).
Not all shoreline flotsam is timber. The Tide chandelier created by London-based designer and photographer Stuart Haygarth measures nearly 5ft in diameter, and is created from debris washed up on the Kent coastline. Its myriad components range from clear plastic water bottles to sunglasses. Its visual impact relies on the sheer quantity of diverse objects massed together, but it is Haygarth's creative eye that allows the collage-like arrangement to work effectively as a single piece.
HOW TO GET THE LOOK
* Beyond the Sea, Padstow, Cornwall (01841 533588; beyondthesea.co.uk).
* Jacaranda Carpets: for stockists, call 01858 464144 (jacarandacarpets.com).
* I&JL Brown, 636 King's Road, SW6 (020 7736 4141; brownantiques.com).
* Nautilus Design (01525 874055; nautilusdesign.co.uk). Permanent display at The Bothy, Hexton Manor, Hertfordshire (07974 376347). Closed in August 2010.
* Shoreline Furniture, Calmore, Southampton (02380 663376; shorelinefurniture.co.uk).
* Stuart Haygarth (020 7503 4142; stuarthaygarth.com).