Nautical style is all about keeping the ocean close to your heart by embracing the maritime lifestyle in your home. Today we’ll explore how to merge the modern-day nautical lifestyle with your interior design by understanding the key design elements that bring Modern Nautical style to life.
First Off – Nautical is Not the Same as Coastal Style
Coastal style is inspired by sandy beaches and destination trips to a cozy beach cottage with breeze fabrics and a mix of cottage style details. The color palette is soft, breezy, and natural. Where Nautical style is inspired by luxury ocean voyages taking on traits from the architecture of traditional ships and colors of sky and ocean waters. The color palette has stronger contrasts of whites against dark navy blues, or warm brassy metals against cool-toned white, gray, and blue finishes.
The History of Nautical Style
Let’s take a step back and discover the years of history that made the Nautical style what it is today. The technical term ‘Nautical’ by definition means in relation to maritime, ships, sailors, or sea navigation.
Nautical style first became an iconic style during the era of Queen Victoria. In 1846, she commissioned for her son, Albert Edward the Prince of Wales to have a child-sized naval uniform, which he wore aboard the Royal Yacht. She wrote, “When he appeared, the officers and sailors, who were all assembled on deck to see him, cheered, and seemed delighted.” The story of the adorable outfit worn on such a luxury ship soon spread quickly.
Soon after, the uniform was immortalized in a portrait by painter Franz Winterhalter. The story of the young prince and the famous painting quickly sparked a craze for Nautical styled fashion for people of all ages as well as influenced home interior designs with luxurious ship-like looks
Additional influences from maritime life continued to inspire and morph this design style as the years went on. In the 1930s Hollywood took the reigns as stars Ginger Rogers and Betty Grable acted as women sailors in famous films like Give me a Sailor and Follow the Fleet inspiring a whole new generation to adore not only Nautical fashion but also luxury Nautical inspired home interiors.
In 1958, the French navy introduced the Breton shirt as a naval uniform which soon influenced bold stripes to appear on interior décor and furniture upholsteries.
An advertisement for the movie, Give Me a Sailor
The Breton shirt French naval uniform of 1959.
Today, Nautical style is being reborn once again with a modern twist. Modern-day nautical designs feature clean lines and less intricate details yet still maintain a similar color palette and design features that call to the sea.
The Modern Nautical Style Color Palette
Like any interior design style, Modern Nautical Design has a distinctive color palette that helps create the signature look. The color palette of a Modern Nautical interior design is centered around the ocean. Think about sky blues, bright whites clouds, and deep blue ocean waters, as well as wood textures that remind us all of driftwood or an aged wood of a luxury ship. Within this color palette, you’ll discover LOTS of hues of blue from dusty light blues to distinguished navy blues, an abundance of white finishes, antique brassy fixtures, and weathered/driftwood-like wood textures.
Painted cabinetry is commonly used in Nautical kitchen designs and bathroom designs. Create a clean smooth look with standard painted finishes or add some texture and character with painted oak cabinets.
True brown and washboard stained cabinets are a great choice for a Nautical kitchen design as they go beautifully with the strong cool hues of navy blue. Weathered woods that resemble wood on a ship that has been exposed to the elements of the sea are a popular choice for accents like a kitchen island, wood hood, or hutch area.
Selecting Nautical Style Cabinetry for a Kitchen or Bathroom Design
Nautical style branches out and uses a wide variety of cabinet door styles to create the look. You may see some Nautical kitchen designs with simple modern shaker or slab cabinet door styles all the way to intricate raised panel door styles with tons of decorative detail. You can use inset cabinetry construction for an old-style furniture look, go more modern with full overlay construction, or get back to the Nautical style’s traditional roots with standard overlay construction. There is no wrong choice.
You’ll find cottage beaded cabinet doors (like our Craftsman Beaded Panel door) and Shiplap-inspired cabinet doors (like our Carson V-Groove door) that add a little extra emphasis on nautical style. You can do an entire kitchen with a shiplap or beaded door or just use it as an accent.
Here is a small sampling of door styles that work fabulously in a Nautical style kitchen design.
If you’re looking for more accent cabinet ideas, a simple X mullion or a simple glass cabinet door are popular choices. If you’re looking to tie in some more traditional accents, an intricate leaded glass door could be just the right fit. Being Nautical style is known for watery environments, the Louvered Door is another popular option.
Design Elements of Modern Nautical Style
Nautical style kitchen & bath designs bring the ambiance of maritime life into the home. Common design features include grand ship-inspired ceiling beams, X motifs (I.E. an “X” kitchen island and cap or an “X” patterned mullion cabinet door), circle décor & mirrors that resemble porthole windows, and of course, SHIPLAP!
For soft goods, a variety of patterns are frequently used, especially blue and white striped patterns. You’ll find these patterns often used in furniture upholstery, wallpaper, rugs, throw pillows, blankets, wall art, and more.
In this kitchen & living room space, notice the dark Navy Blue and white striped patterns used throughout the design, the intricate mullion cabinet doors, and the rope-inspired decor and light fixtures. A driftwood-like texture is incorporated into the furniture pieces as well as an accent on the shiplap wood hood.
Maritime and ocean themed décor is prevalent throughout all nautical style home interiors. Nautical style home décor will typically incorporate ocean-inspired elements like seashells, coral, wide ropes, driftwood, anchors, model ships, and old-world navigational tools (I.E. globes, maps, compass, etc.).
In many Nautical style kitchens and baths, you will find brassy details used for light fixtures, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, furniture pieces, decor, and more. Brass, copper, gold, especially antique brass finishes are popular choices for a Nautical design.
Furniture style cabinetry like this nautical style bathroom vanity is commonly used to add interest to the design.
Is Modern Nautical style your interior design style?
Dura Supreme Cabinetry featuring a “Cyberspace” painted finish. Kitchen design by G2 Design Group, Inc., Illinois.
Dura Supreme kitchen design by Helena Steele of Golden Gate Kitchens, California. Interior Design by Susan Love Design. Photography by Christopher Stark Photography.
Shiplap details are used on both the wood hood and to wrap the peninsula in the beautifully designed Nautical kitchen design.
Design by Kristen Peck of Knight Construction Design, Inc., Minnesota. Photography by Mark Ehlen of Ehlen Creative.
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