Designers are playing with the idea of nautical decor in new ways, with furnishings and style notes that say "classic contemporary" instead of "kitschy cute."
There might be life preservers on the wall, but they're probably vintage, and paired with modern chairs. There might be art, but instead of the usual beachy tableaux, there are close-up wave prints, or oversize photos of sea creatures.
It's a look that still pays homage to a home's waterside location — actual or aspirational — but in a stylish way.
New York designer Ghislaine Vinas recently did a project out in the sandy seaside enclave of Montauk, New York. A fresh palette of white and blue was accented with Vinas' signature punches of bright orange, green and yellow. Beach-chair-style stripes of color adorn furniture pieces and shower tile. Porthole-style mirrors in various iterations anchor bathroom vanities. And scattered throughout the home are nautical references given a playful spin. For example, in the open plan living area, Vinas hung a group of white sphere light fixtures suspended in blue netting; they look like boat buoys.
Blues ranging in intensity from sky to pool to navy were used in textiles and rugs throughout the house.
And there's loads of lively art, from photoprints of giant waves to San Francisco artist Rex Ray's groovy surfboard wallpaper, as well as a group of whimsical, painted shark heads from California ceramicist Lorien Stern.
"For this Montauk project, the client's roots are strong in Florida, and she has fond memories of time spent on the beach in the 1970s," Vinas says. "So we adopted a super tongue-in-cheek aesthetic and mixed it in with a classic but cool Hamptons beach vibe."
That mashup led her team to dub the home "Floritauk", a name the client liked so much that it stuck.
Vinas also introduced tasty citrus hues like lime, orange and lemon to the decor.
"We loved this homage to Floridian agriculture, and decoupaged a vintage dresser with fruit cut-outs," she says.
While Vinas went for a playful seaside vibe, Minneapolis-based designer Raena Albers opted for something a little more serene in one of her recent projects. "My clients moved to Minnesota from the Pacific Northwest, and have a huge affinity for sailing," she says.
Albers referenced that coast's moody palette of sand, mist and ocean in the furniture and accessories. A smart little model sailboat graces a mantel, while a gallery wall of white-framed, watercolor seabird prints adds interest in a family seating area.
Wal-mart and Wayfair have several well-priced options if you're looking for a rope-trimmed table lamp; some have the rope wrapping a base, while on others the rope itself is the lamp base.
At Ballard Designs , there's a mirror framed in faux white coral that would make a statement; it's available in wall-mountable and floor sizes. Suzanne Kasler's bold, graphic nautical flags come framed in natural wood.
Salvaged wood from Thai fishing boats is used to make interesting lamp bases in several sizes at Continental Home . There are floor and table lamps made of gathered driftwood here, as well.
Cle Tile carries British artist Boris Aldridge's Ocean, Tide Pool and Water tiles, part of his handmade porcelain and poured-glass collection in an array of deep, liquid blues. Water sparkling on the bay inspired San Francisco designer Erica Tanov's Shimmer collection for Cle. Each tile is crafted in Northern California of solid brass, and when arranged on a wall they do resemble sunlit water — or mermaid's scales.
If you like the idea of a siren's song on the wall but don't want to go with tile, consider designer Genevieve Gorder's Pearl Belly repositionable and removable wallpaper at Tempaper . A dreamy, iridescent finish brings both mermaids and shells to mind.