Interior Design

Nautical decor is back – designers share how to bring this timeless trend into 2021

We all love to be beside the seaside... bringing nautical decor into our homes is seeing a surge in popularity for 2021

Nautical decor
(Image credit: Future)

Nautical decor had a moment back in the 1980s – and in many ways, it's subtly endured through Hamptons, New England and Cape Cod styles. It's easy to see why it's a look that still appeals – fresh and elegant, it's a wonderful way to introduce a hint of faraway shores, vacations and natural colors and textures. 

However, nautical decor isn't what it was way back when – it has had a more sophisticated makeover for 2021. We gathered advice from the designers at the top of the industry, who show us how to nail this traditional aesthetic in a modern home. 

See: Interior design trends – top looks for the year ahead

What is nautical decor?

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Andrew Martin)

Nautical decor is defined by natural colors associated with the ocean – think the neutral tones of stones, sand and driftwood, and the brighter shades inspired by the sea and the crafts we use to navigate it – from the luminescent turquoise of the Caribbean to the racing blue of a yacht's hull. 

What makes nautical decor so much more popular in 2022 compared to previous years? As living sustainably becomes more of a priority in homes worldwide, this natural trend has taken on a new and increasingly important meaning. 

'As we are being faced every day with the collapse of our ecological climate, there seems to be increasing interest in all things natural. This, of course, has translated into interior trends,' highlights Martin Waller, founder of global design house Andrew Martin.

How do you decorate a nautical room?

These are our favorite ways to embrace nautical decor. As you can see, nautical decor can range from warm, rich color schemes to the more pared back shades inspired by New England.

1. Use stripes to emulate Hamptons style

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Future / Emma Lee / Sally Denning)

Stripes are instantly associated with the nautical trend (think Hamptons style), but as Laura Barnard, ‎buying and merchandising manager at Arlo & Jacob, shares, there is a fine line to tread so that it doesn't look clichéd. 

'Re-invented Post-Modern classics are having a moment. From razor-thin Breton stripes (below) to broad and bold (like those above), stripes are reminiscent of summer days. However, it's the infusion of comfort and a sustainable color palette that stops new interpretation of stripes from feeling like a nautical cliché,' she adds. 

See: Decorating with stripes – smarten up a room with these elegant looks

Nautical decor

(Image credit: OKA)

2. Pick accessories that make subtle nautical references

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Hobe Sound table at Oomph)

'Gone are the overt nautical decor references – thank goodness – but here to stay are subtle reminders of the theme, whether that be a blue and white bedroom scheme accessorized with bedside tables with curves reminiscent of waves, or coral-look light sconces, like those in the bathroom below designed by Kit Kemp,' says Homes & Gardens Editor in Chief Lucy Searle.

Nautical decor

(Image credit: CP Hart/Kit Kemp)

3. Choose wallpaper with a nautical theme

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Cole & Son)

When bringing nautical decor into the modern homey, Paula Taylor, Color & Trend Specialist at Graham & Brown, suggests there is one element that is often overlooked – our walls. Paula agrees with Martin Waller's suggestion that the trend links to our need to reflect elements of nature in our homes. 

'After a year spent indoors, nature-inspired home decor shows no sign of slowing down,' Paula says, sharing how aquatic print wallpapers are the ideal reflection of this craze, and perfect as a 'statement feature' that 'offers depth and movement while maintaining a muted calming atmosphere.'

Again, subtlety is the key to success – although in a children's bedroom or bathroom, you can afford to be more overt. 

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

4. Create nautical style with a red, white and blue color scheme

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Future/Emma Lee)

The colors of the smartest of yachts are red, white and blue – and they lend themselves to the subtlest of nautical decor schemes. In fact, use this color combination and you need little more than a single cushion cover with a design that suggests waves or a simple framed wall print with an aquatic theme.

In both these rooms above and below, white is the prominent color to keep the spaces feeling bright and airy, with blue the secondary color for freshness, and red the simple accent color that adds a shot of heat.

See: Blue room ideas – wonderful room schemes to inspire you

Nautical decor

5. Be inspired by the colors of coral reefs

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Future/Dominic Blackmore)

A take on nautical decor that's truly 2021? Coral and turquoise. 

'The awe-inspiring beauty of coral reefs and the vibrancy of this color shares such strong associations that adding just a hint of nautical decor to your home will effortlessly evoke the fragile beauty of the sea,' says Martin Waller. 

'Plush cushions in coral tones scattered across a deep marine sofa will immerse you in the watery depths of the South Carolina Reef, while armchair piping in joyous blue hues can hint at the way the knotty branches tease the sea foam in the shallows of the Great Barrier Reef.'

Nautical decor

(Image credit: Future / Chris Everard / Alyce Taylor)

Find more inspiration in our gallery of Cape Cod living room ideas – perfect for fans of the fresh blue and white room scheme.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.