Tips to nailing a maritime style without going overboard

It’s no surprise that the crisp colors and fabrics, clean lines and natural elements of the coast make have made the nautical design aesthetic consistently popular. Some experts even believe it’s a favorite because humans are hardwired to feel a connection to the water. So, nautical design makes people feel good, because most of us like to be reminded of the sea.

However, decorating with a nautical theme should be approached similarly to taking a dip at the beach when the yellow marine warning flag is flying – with caution. It’s very easy to get carried away, which can result in a look that’s cutesy, rather than chic.

We recently visited Taylor House Interiors, on St. Simons Island, and took in an array of nautical and marine room vignettes, including living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms. The nautical design motif is a broad one. At its core, nautical décor should evoke the sea and its related elements.

Taylor House owner Gail Butler is a big fan of nautical décor.

“It is a design that will never go out of style,” she said. “This design is great for a relaxed atmosphere that will create a mood with being close to the ocean.”

Butler recommends using beach-inspired textiles, awesome accessories and upscale coastal chic furnishings.

“Then you will have it … a space you’ll love coming home to,” she said.

Taylor House Interior Designer Elizabeth Zachry echoed Butler’s sentiments. She recommended several different types of fabrics to set a seaworthy tone, including canvas, burlap, sailcloth and ticking.

“Anything that makes you think of the ocean will work,” she said.

Color schemes include those inspired by driftwood and sea glass, as well as the crisp, high-contrast colors reminiscent of a classic yacht.

Nature is the No. 1 actor in coastal décor. Sea life, including coral, seashells, starfish, lobsters can be represented in photographs, sculpture or found objects.

Blue is the primary color in most nautical design schemes, but bright, primary colors evoke the red, yellow and blue used in signal flags, and that timeless combination of crisp white and dark blue is derived from naval uniforms.

Other common elements in nautical décor are wood, rope and metallics, especially brass. Popular accessories, other than photographs, paintings and prints, included brass ship bells, nautical flags, maps, knot displays and oars. Lacquer finishes on wood give knickknacks a “yacht-y” feel. Zachry also likes rope lamps and oyster accessories, as well as rattan for some pieces of furniture.

“Nautical and marine art are popular, as are maps on canvases,” she said.

In a nautical bedroom, ideal objects include ship models and steamer trunks (which also make great extra storage). Fabrics should include stripes, checks and plaids. Whale tail hooks can keep jackets and sweaters where they’re supposed to be.

The best advice is to choose the colors, textures and symbols of nautical décor that you like, and make them your own. The trick is to not go overboard.