5 Easy Ideas to Decorate with Vintage Nautical Decor

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Ready to add some nautical themed decor for a vintage coastal style or feel of a beach house?  Check out 5 easy ways to decorate with vintage nautical decor without being too thematic or cheesy!

There are so many beautiful ways to infused coastal style into your home.  This can be especially fun for some summer home decorations!  One way that has a special sense of nostalgia and feel of a beach house or lake house is to add some vintage nautical decor.

In this post, we are going to chat about some easy ways to add vintage nautical decor without going tooooo overboard!  (No pun intended but I did just laugh out loud after I typed that and realized what I’d said.  Haha!)  Adding an abundance of nautical items can make a living space feel overdone and even a little “cheesy” with too many themed accessories, even if they are all beautiful nautical accessories for a vintage nautical decor style! 

All that being said, the vintage nautical decor style is a gorgeous decor look that I think blends especially well with patriotic decor for the summer months.  Plus, what’s not to love about turning your home into the feel of beach house for the summer?!

What is the difference between coastal and nautical decor?

If you had this same question, it’s a good one and very valid to ask!  Traditionally, the coastal style leans toward light colors, the use of wicker and rattan accents, and beach-themed accessories like shells, coral, and sea glass.  The coastal style typically includes florals and is overall a more feminine look.

To get some of my favorite coastal decor ideas, make sure to visit THIS post, with an in-depth look at the coastal grandmother decor style and why you may love it for your home!

The nautical style typically involves more maritime antiques.  Often, reproductions for maritime antiques are used as the actual vintage treasures are extremely expensive (usually, at least!) Nautical pieces tend to lean toward a “heavier” look, with the use of some dark woods, ship salvage items, and brass accents, like brass portholes or a captain’s wheel.

I will admit, both the New England states and here in Florida house some of the finest nautical antiques that show extraordinary care and are absolutely gorgeous.  However, for most of us who are not dedicated, nautical enthusiasts, those authentic nautical antiques are not in the regular decor budget.

Today, we will chat about some simple ways to bring a touch of that vintage nautical decor style into your home and even mix it with coastal decor, which is what I enjoy doing in our home.

Pro Tip:  When you collect pieces you love, it doesn’t matter so much whether they are coastal or nautical.  You can mix them together in your own home to create your own unique style of summer home decor!

What is nautical design style?

Unlike coastal interior design, the nautical design style focuses on the actual maritime objects.  In a nautical style design, you would commonly find an old buoy, ship’s wheels, nautical flags, or other common marine salvage mixed into the home’s furnishings.

The authentic nautical antiques can be really expensive.  However, the good news is there are fortunately a lot of great reproduction pieces and new nautical pieces in similar styles that can still give you the vintage nautical decor style.  

Pro Tip:  In fact, if you are looking to create a nautical decor style, check out coastal gift shops that have an online store and offer nautical gifts.

Sometimes, they even offer free shipping with larger orders!  Gift shops are not only good for purchasing great gifts for friends and family but also for adding beautiful home decor.  Also, they often feature handmade pieces and made-to-order items from local artisans, which can add a truly unique and curated look to your home decor.

Today, we will chat about how to mix vintage home decor, coastal style, along with new and old nautical items for a gorgeous vintage nautical decor look in your home!

5 Easy Ideas to Decorate with Vintage Nautical Decor

1. Use Nautical Color and Finishes for a Vintage Nautical Decor Style

​Before adding a single piece of vintage nautical decor or even new nautical themed decor, one of the easiest ways you can begin to add the nautical look to your home is with the use of color.  

As with coastal style, the nautical decor style focuses on colors of the sea.  Consider mixing in varying shades of blues and even some green tones.  Whereas in the coastal style you would typically find a lot of white, slipcovered, and rattan furniture pieces, consider mixing it up a bit more for a vintage nautical decor style.

I like to think of a beautiful scene along the coast in New England and pretty boats of all sizes and colors anchored by weathered docks.  Can you picture it?

This is great inspiration of accents to bring into your vintage nautical decor style too.  Weathered wood, varying wood tones, and marine salvage will really take your decor from traditional coastal decor to a true nautical style.

Before you even add nautical themed decor, you will have created the perfect backdrop to add beautiful nautical accessories!

As you consider the colors and finishes to bring into your nautical themed decor, focus on:

  • Shades of blue
  • Include some deeper navy blue tones
  • Neutral colors, such as tans, whites, and creams (Think of the pretty beach sand and shells!)
  • ​Wood furniture
  • Chippy painted furniture (Think of the weathered boat with paint chipping slightly from the sun and salt water!)

2. Decorate with Vintage Nautical Decor Using Paintings and Wall Art

​If you have followed along with my decorating for much time at all, you know I love creating gallery walls!  Another easy way to add a vintage nautical decor touch to your home decor is by adding marine paintings, sailboat sketches, landscape paintings of ocean currents, and other nautical art.

I have collected all of my vintage nautical decor art from vintage markets, yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets!  When you go thrifting, don’t miss the art section!  There are often treasures to be found!

In addition to thrifted art, I love collecting maritime books with beautiful artwork.  You can frame some of that art to create a gorgeous vintage style.

For a super budget-friendly nautical artwork option, THESE prints look so much like real paintings.  Honestly, even up close they just make you want to touch them to feel the texture, even though they are prints.  For under $18, you can create a stunning gallery wall that looks like beautiful nautical and marine paintings!

Another really fun option for vintage nautical decor wall art is to use nautical flags!  These are less common to find actual vintage ones.  However, hit up the antique shops if you vacation near the coast!  Nautical flags can make a really bold statement for wall decor, fill a significant amount of wall space, and are super easy to hang too!

Even though THIS fun flag is not actually vintage, I think it is just such a great play on vintage nautical flags.  It would definitely be a really fun statement piece for your nautical themed decor!

3. Use Maritime Books for Vintage Nautical Decor

​I briefly mentioned maritime books to frame the artwork and this can be a really great way to get some beautiful wall art.  Vintage books are one of my favorite things to collect and no matter the season or decor style I am using, I always mix in vintage books.  They add so much character and texture to decor.  At the same time, they can be a great way to add a pop of color to your vintage nautical decor.

Here are a few ways to use vintage maritime books in your decorating:

  • Carefully cut out pages to frame for wall art.
  • Stack books with shades of blue for nautical color.
  • Collect books with nautical words in the title and display with the spine showing for a subtle nautical decor touch.
  • Open a beautiful maritime book to pretty pages and display on a console or coffee table.

For over 27 ways to use vintage books in your home decor, check out THIS post!

4. Use Vintage Oars for Vintage Nautical Decor Style

Vintage oars are such a fun way to add a playful touch to your nautical themed decor and give that great boat house vibe!  I am currently on the hunt for a great pair of vintage oars in a chippy blue-gray color to add to my coastal decor!  

Over the years, though, I have used different sizes and colors of salvaged oars.  They can make really fun wall decor or just lean against the wall to fill an empty corner of a living room.

​Another great thing about adding oars to vintage nautical decor is that you don’t really need to worry about whether or not they are actually vintage.  If you find some oars that show wear and tear from days at sea, they will do the trick, even if they aren’t actually really old!

Here are some fun ways to decorate with vintage oars:

  • Hang on the wall over a gallery wall.
  • Hang over a double doorway or any long wall space.
  • Add hooks and hang the oar to hold hats, jackets, and bags.
  • Use a long oar as a fun curtain rod!
  • Collect a grouping of old oars and stand them up in a bucket in the corner of a room.
  • Lean a single oar against the wall for a simple and subtle nautical touch.

5. Use Marine Salvage for Vintage Nautical Decor

No matter the decor style, I love using actual items whenever possible.  Nautical themed decor lends itself perfectly to using marine salvage as decorative accents.  To me, the key to using marine salvage in vintage nautical decor is to keep it minimal, casual, and don’t overthink it!

Nautical rope, for example, can be casually “tossed” into a wooden bowl.  The key is to not over-arrange it!  Sea glass floats are also great to add as decorative accents.  You can use a big one as a door stop or pretty shelf decor.  Small sea glass floats can be collected in a wooden dough bowl.

Nautical flags, pennants, ship models, and fish nets are other examples of smaller marine salvage that you can add to your home decor.

If you want to invest a bit more and make more of a statement for vintage nautical decor, big ship salvage such as brass ship lights, ship wheels, or marine instruments can make truly stunning decor.  These kinds of authentic nautical antiques are the perfect addition to work into your more permanent design style rather than swapping out decorative accents for the season.

Here are some ideas of marine salvage pieces, both new and old, that you could use as decorative accents:

For other fun nautical accents and accessories, including lamps, throw pillows, wall hangings, and decorative pieces, shop this curated collection on my storefront!

​After writing this post, I’ll admit that I am more ready than ever for our summer vacation!  In addition to historical sites, we are going to have fun exploring a couple of coastal beach towns in New Jersey and Delaware, along with a whale and dolphin watching cruise.  The nautical vibe is going to be strong for sure!  I have a feeling we will be adding a couple of decorative elements to use in our summer decor in the future!

I hope you’ve had fun getting creative with me and thinking of simple ways that you can infuse some nautical vibes into your own home decor!  It’s the perfect style for summer decor or even enjoying year round!

I’d love for you to follow me on social media!  You can find my home decor inspiration on Instagram, Pinterestand Facebook!  











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