Nautical Style Interior Designing

By Megan Fulweiler

You can bring the nautical look home with some simple decorating ideas and few wonderful accent pieces, which will keep the boating season alive all year round.

Why should boaters put their passion aside indoors? There are endless ways to evoke the boating life at home. On the pricier end, there's quality marine-type craftsmanship to remind us of fine-tuned yachts, especially with features such as meticulous millwork and gleaming mahogany countertops. Or consider our photo. From the vaulted beadboard ceiling to the bunks and tiered porthole windows, this inspirational room is the kind of berth houseguests or kids find irresistible. Even the crisp colors are a nod to smooth sailing, blue water, and sunny skies.

Take a less dramatic and far less costly course, and the options are equally as inviting. Ship's models, charts, and sea chests all exude the salty life. But they're just the beginning. How about woven rugs with a watery theme — say, starfish or waves — bulkhead lamps, or simple knotted-jute doorstops? You'll find that a few subtle touches can lead to a magical transformation. Look for linens with colorful patterns evocative of the sea such as fish and seahorses. Remember sandy shores when you look at pillows you've sewn yourself using fun beachy fabric (hint: try Ikea). Swap granny's ottoman for a beefy dock bumper and lose the flowered dinnerware. Plates emblazoned with boats and maps help to inspire your future voyages.

From sailcloth totes (great for keeping newspapers and magazines tidy by a reading chair) to flags, throws, and telescopes, never before has the market swelled with so many seaworthy options. For inspiration, we've assembled a sampling of favorite finds, with something for every budget.

Light Up

Nautical lighting looks every bit as good ashore as it does on classic yachts. Brass companionway or bulkhead lamps lend a stately note to kitchens, halls, and powder rooms. Check out Lannan Ship Model Gallery (their Royal Navy Convoy lights and copper brass beacons are perfect too), Boston, (617)-451-2650;

Whale Watch

A carved whale on your coffee or dining table will remind you of summer days scanning the horizon. DIY types, of course, might even try carving their own. $310. Bliss Studio, Corona del Mar, CA, (714) 914-7304,

Wound Up

Solidly crafted of mango wood, this cool side table could serve beside the sofa or bed. Inspired by the actual spools used by French rope makers, the table includes an authentic manila rope accent. The stenciled top lifts off making it multi-purpose. Store blankets or toys inside. $199. Ballard Designs, Atlanta, Georgia, (404) 603-7019,

Open And Shut

Rope knot

It doesn't matter whether the knot (hand-woven rope over cast iron) holds the back or bedroom door in place. Wherever it sits, it gives off a happy dock vibe. Use a pair to secure a line of books across your desk, and another set to anchor office files. $39 each. Ballard Designs.

Rest Stop

Maybe it's the meticulous mahogany construction and the hand-rubbed finish? Or, perhaps, the tailored cushions? When your ship comes in, swap out your old floral chairs for these handsome Bauer International nautical-club chairs in navy blue ($1,178 each). Charleston, SC, 843-884-4007,

Night Light

Sailing over a dining or kitchen table, this jute-wrapped chandelier would be dramatic. The fixture's laid-back stature makes it ideal for a traditional or modern décor. Top the lights with small shades for a more polished look. Or let it shine the way it is. $380 (includes an 8-inch antique bronze chain with brown cloth cord and antique bronze ceiling cap).

Hit The Floor

This beautiful rug, complete with a school of fish, is a spectacular catch to keep forever. Hand-knotted Tibetan wool, 9' x 6', by Barber Osgerby for the Rug Company, $5,130.00, (323)-653-0303,

Rope mirror

Image Booster

At 22 inches high, 16 inches wide, this mirror can slip into a tight spot over a sink or in the entry. At the same time, the appeal quota is strong enough to make it a candidate for above the mantel. $125. (212) 741-0455,

Sleep Over

Whales on sheets? What a way to set sail to dreamland! $79-$109 depending on size. LL Bean, 800-809-7057,

Pillow Talk

Affordable and rugged, these comfort providers are as nautical as you can get. $39-$46. Home by the Seashore, (562)-799-7751,

Shell Game

Each shell in the company's "Tahiti Shell Collection" resonates with the sea and beach. The patterns and colors (shells and layouts vary) may move you to try crafting some of your own collages too. $1,200 for a set of three small collections framed; $1,200 for one large collection framed, Oly Studio, (775) 336-2100,

Copy Cat

The Lombok Ornament — cast in resin — is a dead ringer for the real thing. Place this giant clamshell on display, full of pretty guest soaps, and it's an instant attention getter. On the other hand, the faux shell is lovely all by itself — the way you might've found it on some faraway shore had that vacation panned out. Small $1,150; large $1,375, 775-336-2100,

On Display

Think about all the ways you could utilize this see-through cloche with its trailing jute rope. Lower it over a small clock or a boat model you build yourself. Available in two sizes, old-school cloches give ordinary objects stature. Group them, and hang boating mementos inside. Small $90; large $120. Arteriors Home, (877) 488-8866,

Bag It

Newspapers, magazines, files — totes are super at revving up organization. And when they look as good as this recycled sailcloth number, it makes sense to put them out for all to enjoy. These sturdy workhorses, made of recycled sailcloth, are equally as comfortable aboard your boat. $150-165 for the medium to large size. 44 Knots, 949-515-8637,

On Display

Give pride of place — on the wall, atop a sideboard? — to John Derian's decoupage plates. One could set the décor tone for a whole room. Prices range from an $48 for a small 5" round up to $145 for the beautiful 10 x 14-inch oval. John Derian Co. Studio, 212-677-2118,

Model Behavior

Boat models never get old. Choose one of a boat you'd actually like to own. Or for real drama, hang a whole collection down a hall! $170. AM-Living, 8666-700-9200.

Wood You

A combination of solid maple and center-balanced, book-matched maple veneers, this gracefully curved custom cabinet is a work of art. Most of us can't afford to sail away with one just like it, but it does fuel our creative fires. Painstaking woodworking — as any wood-boat builder will tell you — is a thing apart. South Shore Millwork, 508-226-5500, 

Megan Fulweiler is a freelance writer living in Rhode Island. Her articles have appeared in top decorating and lifestyle magazines in the U.S.

— Published: April/May 2011

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