How to decorate with nautical antiques

Discover a ship's bounty of nautical treasures with this summery coastal trend 

We may not be able to sail the glittering Mediterranean on the once-great cruise liners of the 1930s, but the decorative appeal of nautical antiques means we can indulge our romantic holiday aspirations at home. Inspired by the warmth of copper, industrial accessories and striking glassware, embracing coastal trends will add a grown-up and classic edge to your rooms. 

Times are changing 

Gone are the days of dealing brass plaques and commemorative mugs to seasoned sailors. Today's market is all about fantastic quality decorative and statement pieces, shot through with the romance of life spent at sea. From ship's fittings to life rings, oars and ropes, anchors and antique diving helmets, Britain's long history as a seafaring nation has resulted in a rich haul of aesthetically pleasing paraphernalia with an interesting story to tell. 

With these six easy ways to combine nautical antiques with your existing decor, you'll find yourself amid an oasis of history and intrigue. Plus, scroll down for a list of where to hunt for the best pieces.

1. A loose-covered sofa accessorised with vintage linen cushions creates a casual and relaxed feel

‘Rye’ three-seater sofa in ‘Rockpool Washed Linen’, £1,840; ‘Charlotte’ armchair in Ian Mankin organic ticking in ‘Iris’, £945, both Low rise trolley table, £695, Ines Cole. ‘Parkstead’ wood console table, £859, Oka. ‘Driftwood’ side table, £120; ‘Gunmetal’ bistro table, £330, both French Connection. Industrial Czech pendant lighting, £240 (excluding VAT), Skinflint. Round ball rope fender, £30, Trinity Marine. ‘Helix’ rug in grey, 200 x 300cm, £1,095, Barker and Stonehouse

On sofa: Cushion covers in vintage linen, from a selection starting from £27, Parna

On console table: Fine shipyard model of a steamship, £5,800, Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques. Straw hat, find similar at Lock & Co Hatters. Island Life: Inspirational Interiors by India Hicks and David Flint Wood (published by Pavilion Books, £25).

On wall: Opening ship’s porthole mirror, £192; USA porthole 14in glass four key brass, £174, both Trinity Marine. Smiths Astral ship’s bulkhead clock with eight-day movement and 6¼in dial, £675, Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques.

On trolley table: Glass vase, find similar at Design Vintage. Log depth recorder, £3,000–£4,000, Trinity Marine. ‘Corinium’ bowl, £74, Neptune. Vintage marine coral specimen from a selection, £45–£145; Galvanized fishing float, from £22, both Home Barn. On sofa: Cushion covers in vintage linen, from a selection starting from £27, Parna.

On armchair: Blue fishbone rug, £35, National Trust. On side table: Art deco blue glass tumbler, £115 for four, W & L Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Swing stopper bottle, £8.50, Labour and Wait.


2. Choose rattan outdoor furniture draped with soft woollen and linen textiles for a quiet place to lounge outside

Rattan chair, find similar at Oka. Krauss monocular, £1,650, Hatchwell Antiques. Telescope by Dolland, c18th century, 46in brass and leather, £475; pair of Carl Zeiss binoculars, c1940s, £230, both W & L Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Early 19th-century leather naval trunk, £450, Travers Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. On trunk: Vintage books from a bundle, £29, Home Barn. Ceramic tea mug, £15, Nom Living.

On chair: ‘Ticking 01’ dark navy cushion, £40; ‘Grain Stripe’ indigo cushion, £40, both Ian Mankin. Navy fishbone throw, £48, Design Vintage 

3. These galvanised dining chars make for an industrial-style dining area, and the addition of storm lanterns enable you to carry on entertaining after dusk even when there's a fair breeze

Old Country’ table, £725, The Old Cinema. Grey hammered metal chairs, £140 for a pair, Cox & Cox. HMS Dragonet ship’s bell 1939, £1,250, Trinity Marine. On stairs: Dutch ship’s wheel – D4, £390; Dutch ship’s wheel – D6, £300; Royal Navy binnacle compass – patt 183, £420; HMS Otranto commemorative life ring replica, £216, all Trinity Marine. ‘Windrose’ gaff rigged cutter (large), £250, Neptune. On table: Blue stripe tablecloth, £45; grey stripe napkins, £16 each; dinner plate ‘Gris’, £19 each; side plate ‘Gris’, £14 each, all Ines Cole. Denby 1950s cottage blue 1pt jug, £30, Robinson Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Enamel teapot, £20; hurricane lamp, £20, both Labour and Wait. Square blue bottle, £50 for a pair; art deco blue glass tumblers, £115 for four, W & L Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Kershaw ‘MK3’ binoculars, £18, Trinity Marine. Dip circle, £1,100, Hatchwell Antiques. Light blue glass bottle, £19, Nordic House. Telescope by James Pettit, £1,800, Hatchwell Antiques. Round blue glass bottle, £18, W & L Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Vintage marine coral specimen from a selection, £45–£145, Home Barn. Square blue bottle, as before. Straw hat, find similar at Lock & Co Hatters.

Cushions on chairs: ‘Angus Stripe’ red cushion, £40, Ian Mankin. Cushion cover from nubby grain sack, £33.50, Parna. ‘Ticking 01’ dark navy cushion, £40; ‘Ticking 01’ flax cushion, £40; ‘Grain Stripe’ indigo cushion, £40, all Ian Mankin.

4. Contrast rustic furniture with white-washed walls for a smart and contemporary take on a nautical look

‘Primitive X-frame’ table, £880, Puckhaber Decorative Antiques. Chair, find similar acacia wood ‘Panama’ garden director’s chair, £49, at Debenhams. Navy stripe hammam towel, £38, Design Vintage. Jute and indigo cotton rug, £95, Nordic House. Hungarian factory light shade c1940 ‘MK2CB’, £220 (excluding VAT), Skinflint.

On window seat: Ship’s inn sign, £1,800, Hatchwell Antiques. On floor: ‘Bahima’ wire basket, £36.95, Design Vintage. In basket: Rope doorstop, £72, Labour and Wait. Galvanized fishing float, from £22, Home Barn.

On desk: Vintage book bundle tied with twine, £29, Home Barn. Vintage-style filing tray, £65, Rose & Grey. Kershaw ‘MK3’ binoculars, £18, Trinity Marine. Late 1800s ink well with four feathers, £195, Louise Verber Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Original 12in glass fishing float, £48, Trinity Marine. Desk staples, £1.50; plier staples, £1; ‘Salami’ blue string, £6.50; wooden folding ruler, £8.50; greyboard sketchbooks, £4.50 each, all Labour and Wait. Dip circle, £1,100, Hatchwell Antiques. Newspaper, black twine and paintbrush, all stylist’s own.

5. A painted wall in a soft blue shade acts as a striking backdrop for a bounty of coastal finds 

Walls painted in ‘Cook’s Blue’ Estate Emulsion, £39.50 for 2.5l, Farrow & Ball. Iron bound teak trunk, £1,400, Hatchwell Antiques. Diving helmet, £40; HMS Otranto commemorative life ring replica, £216, both Trinity Marine. Linen hand towel in ‘Parisian Blue’, £12, The Linen Works. Vintage war time mug, £6.50, Dee Puddy. Leather and steel vintage hip flask, £30, Robinson Antiques at Alfies Antique Market. Vintage marine coral specimen from a selection, £45–£145; Sea urchin specimen, £30; vintage books from bundle, £29, all Home Barn. Portable floodlight, £480, Puckhaber Decorative Antiques. Vintage GEC table lamp, £285 (excluding VAT), Skinflint.

6. Gold, brass and copper-toned antiques offset rich blues beautifully. Mix up stripes with plain fabrics for added visual interest

Bed, find similar at Homes in Heaven. Kingsize duvet cover in ‘Parisian Blue’, £195; housewife pillowcases in ‘Parisian Blue’, £30 each, all The Linen Works. ‘Indigo Stripe’ linen bolster pillow, £95, Home Barn. ‘Vintage Stripe’ four black cushion, £65; ‘Angus Stripe’ flax cushion, £55, both Ian Mankin. Reclaimed wood stool, £59, Ines Cole. English gilt metal clock in the form of a ship’s wheel, £895; English gilt metal ship’s wheel desk clock, £795, both Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques. Antique French keys, from £4.50 each, Dee Puddy. Enamel mug, £4, Labour and Wait. Navy stripe hammam towel, £38, Design Vintage. Vintage books from bundle, £29; starfish sea star marine oceanic specimen, £34; shell from a large collector’s set of vintage shells, £120, all Home Barn.

7. Bring the age-old charm of the Breton stripe into the bedroom with contrasting tonal shades for a contemporary edge 

Bed, as before. Gunmetal bistro table, £330, French Connection. Reclaimed wood stool, £59, Ines Cole. Dutch ship’s wheel – D4, £390, Trinity Marine. Yacht Bloodhound early silver photographic print by Beken of Cowes, £295, Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques. ‘Cindi’ rug, £50, Design Vintage.

On the bed: duvet cover and housewife pillowcases, as before. ‘Waffle’ throw in grey, £115, Ines Cole. ‘Blazer Stripe’ cushion in putty/black, £65; ‘Angus Stripe’ flax cushion, £55, both Ian Mankin. ‘Indigo stripe’ linen bolster pillow, £95, Home Barn. On bedside table: ‘Airforce’ blue short necked vase, £12.50, Barker and Stonehouse. Magnetic fob clock, £22.50, Dee Puddy. On bistro table: Telescope by James Pettit, £1,800, Hatchwell Antiques. Novelty nautical clock and barometer set by Westbury Clock Co USA, £1,800, Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques. Vintage books from bundle, £29; starfish sea star marine oceanic specimen, £34, all Home Barn.


Anderson Wallrock Nautical Antiques, Unit 2, Riverside Business Park, Gosport Street, Lymington, Hampshire, SO41 9BB. 01590 677558;

Bond’s Nautical Antiques. 01803 835007;

Charles Miller Ltd Auction House, 25 Blythe Road, London, W14 0PD. 020 7806 5530;

Nautical Antiques Centre, 3 Cove Passage, Hope Square, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 8TR. 01305 783180;

Skinflint. 01326 565227;

Trinity Marine. 01647 253400;


The full feature on decorating with nautical antiques appeared in the August issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here

Want to learn more about how to bring the summer sea side into your home style, find out right here.

Online feature: Phoebe Jephson 

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