With its crisp blues and whites, breezy linens, and texture-rich rope accents, coastal chic is a favorite decorating style. How can you put your unique spin on the look? By introducing vintage finds into your coastal decor. Below are a few suggestions.
Hang a nautical flag on a wall, and you’ve instantly injected coastal flair into a room. And unlike with the U.S. flag, there are no restrictions as to how you display boating flags when they’re not being used on the seas as a form of communication. So not only can you hang them vertically or horizontally, framed or unframed, you can also drape one over a sofa or a chair as you might a throw, toss one over a table in lieu of a tablecloth, and display several on your backyard fence or the overhang of your porch.
Coral and Seashells
Sizable pieces of coral and large seashells can serve as purely decorative items, or you can use them as bookends or paperweights. A large clamshell half also makes an eye-catching bowl or catchall. If you have multiple smaller specimens, consider displaying them all together in a transparent vase or jar.
In the 19th century, so-called sailors’ valentines were in vogue. These were mosaics in which tiny seashells were formed to create hearts and roses or to spell out romantic messages; seafarers gave them to their loved ones upon returning from a long voyage. The image of a lonely sailor painstakingly gluing minute shells onto wood while gazing at a picture of his sweetheart is a lovely one—but not one rooted in reality. It seems that sailors instead bought these mosaics at various ports of call. Nonetheless, sailors’ valentines and similar beachside souvenirs are unusual ways to bring coastal chic to a room.
Oyster Plates and Other Tabletop
Oyster plates, with their shell-shape indentations, are equally elegant hung on a wall or displayed in a cabinet. Tableware with coastal motifs, whether they’re porcelain plates with intricate underwater scenes or fish-shape Bakelite napkin rings, also bring nautical charm when displayed or in use.
The beauty of vintage is that you’ll often discover items that fit an aesthetic or a theme yet are from the typical objects: A ceramic vase in which you place flowers in a fish’s gaping mouth. Cut-velvet pillows with a coral motif. Sconces with gold anchors and fish on their conical shades. See a few more of our favorites below, and discover more for yourself.
• Set of 8 Nautical Sailboat Cocktail Napkins. A red-and-blue embroidered sailboat surrounded by red dots and blue trim adorns each of these beyond-charming white cocktail napkins.
• Rockingham Glaze Nautical Spittoon. Little more than seven inches in diameter, this circa-1880 ceramic piece is adorned with anchors and certain to be a conversation starter.
• Set of 6 Fornasetti Tall-Ship Coasters. A different gilt-trimmed ship, rendered with Fornasetti’s distinctive panache, adorns each ceramic coaster.
• Nautical Brass Dolphin Figurine. Standing 19 inches high, this dolphin appears to be jumping from the waves.
• English Pond Boat on Stand. This vintage model sailboat would have been floated in a local pond… or a bathtub.