The Easiest Route to Authentic Nautical Style

Decorating with Ship Wheels 

There’s a certain carefree sentiment that the ocean evokes, and conjuring it takes less effort

than you might think. A few deliberate touches can bring out a nautical feel in just about any

interior. Whether it’s the addition of an accent like a ship-themed item (like wooden decorative oars, knots, or

weatherproof lighting) or the choice of a particular color, nautical-themed decoration is simple.

These additions do not require a re-envisioning of a room’s color palette, nor do they require

repainting. It is simply a question of placement. That is not to say that paint colors do not matter

— quite the contrary, because coastal communities have a bright and sunny aesthetic that

places them across cultures and time periods. However, for one’s first foray into nautical decor,

object placement is the easiest route by which one can establish an effortless nautical style.

Nautical Signal Flags For Decoration

A key aspect of nautical style is the deployment of a few choice authentic items such as

lanterns. This might be the best place to begin, as a light source can immediately change the

ambiance of a room or exterior. However, one cannot just place a lantern in a home to evoke an

impression of the sea, as there are specific harmonies required — consider the difference

between a run-of- the-mill camping lantern and a weatherproof nautical lantern. What makes

these two items distinct? For one, a nautical lantern’s ruggedization or weatherization should

evoke a kind of timelessness, a gas-lit bygone era usually referenced with period metals like

nickel, brass, or silver. That is not only historically accurate, but also environmentally


Why is this? For one, it’s a purpose-driven design, meant to resist corrosion in salt air or in the

bracing climate of the Great Lakes. It’s meant to provide reliable light in punishing conditions,

and as such is quite unadorned. An overabundance of decoration distracts from what should be

a kind of elegant functionality. Secondly, one should consider the placement of a lantern or

similar item on a wall, table, or sconce. On a ship — particularly in oil-lamp days of the past —

there was an inherent danger to unsecured items that might jostle around on rough seas. As

such, a lantern light fixture should be secured, unless it’s specifically a hand lantern. A bicolor

light, by comparison, is meant for permanent exterior display on a ship and would seem out-of-

place inside the home.

Anchor Lighting Fixture 

Another question is: how does a specifically nautical item interact with your existing home

decor? Consider the period you’re trying to evoke, and consider whether or not a nautical item

clashes with an overtly modern piece of furniture. In this regard, wood surfaces and traditional

upholstery will harmonize much more readily with a nautical decor item than, say, a modern

fixture. Similarly, nautical decor items make sense with items appropriate for a similar period. An

old-fashioned stand-up radio, for example, might not make sense on a ship — but by creating

the impression of a 1930’s setting, it harmonizes with nautical decor items of a similarly analog

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