Nautical Nuance

Wade, don’t dive, into a subtle maritime motif. Photography courtesy Gorman’s

Gorman's sitting roomTHERE’S NO NEED to go overboard with your nautical décor in order to make a splash.

In fact, the casual theme often seen in lakefront settings has become more refined.

“Natural materials make your space feel beachy, like a vase filled with grasses instead of a structured floral arrangement.”
— Duane Petroskey

According to Duane Petroskey, general manager for Gorman’s Home Furnishings & Interior Design in Grand Rapids, it’s easy to add nautical flair with art and other accents.

“It’s not like you need a sofa fabric with anchors or boats. You can take a pillow you have and trim it with rope,” he says.

Another way to get the look is by incorporating the colors of nature.

“Use lighter tones like cream, sand and beige, or the colors of water and sky, like blues and greens,” says Petroskey. “Keep it casual with natural products, like sisal, that have texture and an outdoorsy feel. Natural materials make your space feel beachy, like a vase filled with grasses instead of a structured floral arrangement.”

Introducing nautical elements in smaller doses allows for quick changes down the road, as seen in a grouping at Gorman’s that features a blue sofa paired with a blue-and-white houndstooth chair.

Gorman's bedroom

“We took upholstered pieces and made them look more nautical just by adding pillows,” says Petroskey. One pillow has a piece of rope tied around it, another features the word ‘Beach” across the front.

Stripes lend a nautical feel, as do accent pieces like rattan baskets and metal lanterns, and deep tones of navy.

“Blue is huge this year,” he says.

Travel images and souvenirs can contribute to the feel.

“Your home needs to reflect who you are and how you live. What’s more important than family and memories?” says Petroskey, who likes to highlight vacations through photos and mementoes. “Use what you have. Make it your own, make it personal.”

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“Nautical means different things to different people,” says Chris Meredith, owner of Your Nesting Place in Milford. “I think of it as a clean and crisp look with a lot of contrast in colors, like really sharp blues and really sharp whites.”

Meredith, whose shop offers vintage and new items as well as interior design services, is fond of finds from the past, like old boat propellers.

“What a fabulous statement piece on a bookshelf or hanging from a ceiling,” she says. “I’m all about authenticity, something that’s real, not a (reproduction), like ship rope or a piece of driftwood that you found on the beach, not resin. It just has a flavor you can’t get when you buy it new.”

Gorman's living room

Other options include candleholders made from clamshells, abstract art with a textured sand-like finish, a convex mirror or an old porthole clock. Pillows made from sailcloth and furniture made from weathered boat wood give a room a genuine nautical feel.

Traditional fabrics can be more subdued, like a ship pattern in muted shades of black and gray. “When you get one with sophisticated colors, it’s not what you expect,” says Meredith. “Fabric colors that blend together for a less definitive image, like tie dye, are back in style, too.”

Lastly, as Meredith explains, there’s no need to be afraid of sharks.

“When you live on a lake, you can still mix in a saltwater theme,” she says.

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