What is Nautical Interior Design?

Nautical interior design celebrates seaside living. It’s full of nature-inspired colors and ocean-inspired decor.

Nautical decor is popular for seaside homes, vacation rentals, and those who like to pay tribute to sailing. Here’s a look at how nautical style came to be and how you can incorporate it into your home.

The History of Nautical Interior Design

What is Nautical Interior Design?

Nautical decor made its way to the interior design world in the 1980s. The style relied heavily on model ships, anchors, seashells, and other sea-related and sailing decor pieces. While nautical design trends started in seaside homes, the style spread throughout the United States.

In recent years, nautical interior design has fallen out of favor as coastal interior design, which is more modern and natural, has taken over. While many people get them mixed up, nautical and coastal are two distinct design styles with very different elements.

Nautical design is not entirely out of style, though. Many people use it in a more modern way than the sailing-heavy versions of the 1980s.

How to Decorate Nautical Style

To decorate nautical style, look no further than the ocean. Colors and items you find at sea or on the beach can work in a nautical-inspired room.

Stick to an Ocean Inspired Color Palette

A nautical color palette sticks to seaside colors like blue, white, sand, and green. Blue and white are the most popular for this interior design style.

Look for Blue and White Stripes

Blue and white striped accent furniture, curtains, or blankets can tie together your nautical look in a modern way. Since this style began in the 1980s, blue and white stripes have been a defining element. 

Decorate with Ships, Anchors, and Seashells

Traditional nautical decor is heavy on ships and anything related to sailing. So, consider adding model ships to your bookshelves and anchors on the wall. 

You can also use ropes when appropriate, like when hanging shelves or curtains.

Add Wicker and Rattan for a Modern Look

Wicker and rattan, widespread in coastal style, offer a natural feel that can help modernize nautical designs. You can add this material in the form of chairs, stools, or baskets.

Hang Whimsical Ocean-Inspired Wallpaper

Another way to modernize the nautical look is with whimsical wallpaper. Depending on the room you’re decorating, you can find wallpaper with marine life, ships, or even something in a navy blue and white pattern.

Go for Brass or Gold Metal Finishes

Brass and gold are the two best finishes for nautical rooms. Use them for drawer pulls, door handles, and bathtub fixtures.

Keep Spaces Light and Bright

Nautical decor connects the indoors with an ocean-like atmosphere, creating light and bright spaces. Maximize natural light and opt for sheer white curtains if possible.

Nautical Theme Design Ideas

You don’t need to follow a theme to decorate in a nautical style. Just stick to a seaside-inspired color palette and sprinkle in ocean items. But, if you want to decorate in a nautical theme, here are some ideas:

  • Ships
  • Anchors
  • Whales
  • Dolphins
  • Starfish
  • Seashells
  • Mermaids
  • Fish
  • Beaches
  • Sharks

Examples of Nautical Interior Design

If you’re ready to go nautical, here are some examples of how this interior design style looks.

Modern Nautical Bedroom

nautical bedroom for kids
Interiors by Maite Granda

The designers went heavy with the blue and white stripes for this seaside modern nautical bedroom. The wall features two types of wallpaper – blue stripes and ships. The varying shades of blue keep the room bright and happy.

Nautical Living Room

nautical living room decor

A key feature in most nautical designs is ship decor, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The living room also features blue and white repeated throughout and a beautiful gold telescope.

Nautical Bathroom

Bathroom with a nautical theme

The color palette of this room pulls from the ocean with its use of blues, whites, and sand colors. The seashell photo and starfish work as nautical decor.