By the Sea
Back in the late nineties, my then-boyfriend took me to Block Island, where he had spent most summers as a kid. It was my first visit to this tiny island off the coast of Rhode Island, and there have been many more since. While I have marveled at other coasts around the world – from the silver grey skies of the North Sea to the pink beaches of the Mayan Riviera – there is nothing quite like this place: the fresh ocean breeze (conducive to many afternoon naps), the beaches (raw and unspoiled) and the ever-changing flora and fauna of a north-eastern coastal paradise. In the end though, it's the island's utter simplicity and lack of pretense that takes my breath away with every visit. I joke with my kids that my heart rate slows down as we are on the island-bound ferry, and there is more than a grain of truth in that.
I can't be the only one who feels such a strong connection to the coast, wherever it may be. No wonder that nautical decorating has long become a staple in our design vernacular, as it is rooted in a love and appreciation of our planet's many coastal areas. Sadly, this also means nautical style has become riddled with cliches and platitudes. Here are a few ideas to keep things fresh and original – relaxation guaranteed!
No-fuss, easy-care performance fabrics are the number one prescription for a carefree environment, one that will be enjoyed by humans of all ages and their pets. Sandy feet and muddy paws? No problem! Ditch the beige and go for bold awning-stripes in high-contrast color combos.
Machine-washable slipcovers are your new best friend: there's no easier way to instantly refresh a room than by adding a white slipcover and an assortment of brightly colored pillows, in mix-and-match patterns. Don't be afraid to combine fabrics and decorative items of various styles and proportions, as long as there is a common color palette this eclectic approach will work beautifully.
Orange is the new … red! Red, white and blue may be a classic American color combo, but try shaking things up by replacing the red with a strong tangerine, or a rustic terracotta – a fresh and sophisticated update for a classic approach.
When it comes to the decorative items on the wall, think outside of the box. These framed woolen bathing suits from the 1920's speak to the nautical theme in an original, tongue-in-cheek way. I did a similar thing with by daughter's very first blue-and-white striped bathing suit and matching hat, after she outgrew them.
Take your color inspiration from the simplest things - such as the pretty sea glass shades of mint and bottle green – and don't be afraid to incorporate utilitarian nautical objects in your décor, especially if they have a vintage patina: surf boards, oars, even canoes and small row boats (hung on the ceiling) can make for interesting decorative items.
Speaking of simplicity: when it comes to fabrics, go for summer-weight classics in fresh colors: madras, ginghams, plaids and stripes are all great choices.
Scour yard sales and flea markets for affordable vintage oils of seascapes and other nautical themes, even paint-by-numbers works will look great when curated into a cohesive gallery wall.
Don't overlook the power of scale: one giant framed piece or a bold oversized fabric pattern is all you need to make a strong design statement. Keep the rest of your décor simple, and off-set it all by lots of white for a zen-like space.
As for myself, I am looking forward to a few more summer weekends on Block Island. The boyfriend and I ended up getting married there, and will celebrate our 20th anniversary this fall :)
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.