13 Must-Have Items To Create Your Own Vintage Nautical Decor🌊 

As a long-time fan of the short but rich and intense Edwardian era, I hold a sentimental spot in my heart for retro seaside nostalgia. What I mean by that is, that turn-of-the-century seaside mood that emanates from early 20th-century beach photos of fringed striped parasols, men and women in their fun but terribly uncomfortable-looking Edwardian swimsuits, or ladies strolling along the beach in beautiful cream-colored high-neck dresses. No matter which period someone prefers, vintage nautical decor is pretty universal to most. 

In this post, I’ve compiled a list of 13 must-have vintage nautical decor items for all those looking to add a bit of vintage coastal charm to their space. 

Vintage Nautical Decor Ideas💡 

Now, of course, not all of the items mentioned below must be purchased at once – decorating in any vintage style requires time, patience, and combing through flea markets and thrift shops. These are my suggestions as to the essentials of decorating in the vintage nautical style and I hope you enjoy them🤗

1. Ship’s Wheel

A close-up view of a wooden ship’s wheel, part of vintage style nautical decor.

A classic symbol of seafaring, a ship’s wheel can make for an eye-catching focal point in a vintage nautical-themed room. Enthusiasts of nautical vintage decor can either use a wooden ship’s wheel solely for decorative purposes, for example, with this wood and brass vintage ship’s wheel found on Amazon or this antique-finish wheel from Everything Nautical. For those looking to combine decorative with functional, I would suggest this Nagina International 30″ nautical wall mirror

2. Brass Sextant

A vintage brass sextant on a white surface, placed against a wooden box.

A sextant was one of those indispensable antique nautical instruments used for navigation before GPS, and a vintage brass model is another must-have in achieving vintage nautical interior decor. You can place the sextant on a bookshelf or mantel as a decorative item or use a wooden or glass display case to keep it safe and add to the visual appeal.

3. Antique Map🗺️ 

A close-up of an old map with an orange and black colored compass, an example of vintage nautical wall decor.

Back in the day, maps were essential for navigation at sea, and today, antique maps are a great wall hanging in a vintage nautical-themed interior. You can find plenty of old maps on online marketplaces, and this 1605 Western Coast of France map is just an example. 

4.  Vintage Life Preserver 🛟

An orange and white vintage life preserver with rope, hanging on a distressed white wooden wall.

Life preservers were important safety equipment aboard ships. Hanging a vintage life preserver on the wall will immediately add some old-fashioned nautical feel to the room. They can be found on various online marketplaces, in many different color combinations, and, if you’re lucky, you will be able to get your hands on some authentic pieces as well. This rare find from Etsy is a great example, and although it’s pretty small in size, it does make quite an impression. Another one is this authentic S.S. Mayfair canvas life preserver ring that is pretty pricey, but definitely a one-of-a-kind item. When looking to incorporate vintage nautical home decor, a vintage life ring buoy is definitely a must. 

5. Wooden Model Ship 🚢

An antique wooden ship model used to achieve vintage nautical wood decor, with windows in the background.

Wooden model ships are classic nautical decor items that can be displayed on shelves, mantels, or coffee tables. I can’t imagine a vintage nautical interior without them. Beautifully crafted and incorporating linen sails, this Spanish Fragata Siglo ship model alone will make a perfect maritime statement piece. It will look wonderful in any part of the room and doesn’t need to be accompanied by other items.

6. Rope 🪢

A close-up view of a thick nautical rope hanging over a wooden chair.

Rope is surely a must-have when it comes to decorating in the vintage nautical style, and the great thing about it is that it’s fairly inexpensive (for more ideas on how to upgrade your home on the budget, check out my other post). Natural rope can be used in a variety of ways regardless of the interior style, for example for framing mirrors or creating a rustic chandelier. You can also wrap it around a floating shelf, for example. The idea is to create a vintage nautical atmosphere and rope will definitely be handy here. 

7. Lantern / Oil Lamp

A coupl of vintage oil lamps seen in a shop display.

To me, vintage lanterns and oil lamps have that nostalgic Old Man And The Sea vibe and they are one of the top essentials for vintage nautical room decor. Oil lamps can add a warm, cozy feel to any interior and can be used as both decorative accents and functional lighting. Vintage nautical lights & lamps can be found on online marketplaces or, even better, bought directly from local sellers at flea markets. This chamber oil lamp gives off a wonderful vintage aura.😍 

8. Porthole

A gold-tone porthole on a rusty-red colored ship.

Salvaged portholes can be repurposed as unique vintage nautical wall decor, or even as windows. Sure, this may require a lot more work than just placing an item on a desk or mantel, but just imagine looking out that round window and feeling like you’re on a ship! 

9. Anchor⚓

A dark wooden anchor with an old clock in the middle hanging on a red wood paneled wall.

If there’s one classic nautical symbol, it is the anchor. It can be incorporated into decor in a variety of ways, such as wall hangings, as bookends in the case of smaller items, or simply decorative statues like this 8.5-inch resin anchor figurine. Also, when it comes to decorating in the vintage nautical style, there can never be enough anchors. Apart from serving as a decorative table piece, the anchor symbol can also be used on textiles, posters, and more.

10. Painting/Artwork🖼️ 

A painting of a white lighthouse with stormy clouds and sea. 

Whether original paintings or high-quality reproduction posters, artwork always unifies an interior. The same goes for vintage nautical wall decor. Choose a painting or poster of maritime scenery, such as an old lighthouse, ships docking at sea, or my own personal favorite – a portrait of an old lighthouse keeper or fisherman. I personally really like this reprint of the 1890s Old Salt lithograph

11. An Old Compass🧭 

A vintage compass propped against a wooden-framed window.

Another signature nautical piece – a compass. And in our case – a vintage compass. To use it as a decorative piece, display it in a prominent location such as on a bookshelf, coffee table, or mantel. You can also place it in a shadow box or a glass jar, or mount it on a wooden plaque to create a more focal point.

12. Ship’s Bell🔔 

A vintage ship’s bell with rope mounted on a cream-colored wooden paneled wall.

A vintage ship’s bell is a quick and easy way to instantly add a vintage nautical feel to an interior. One way to incorporate it is to hang it on a wall as a decorative piece. Another idea is to display it on a bookshelf alongside other previously mentioned nautical items like a compass or a sextant. It could also be repurposed as a doorbell, using a rope to ring the bell instead of an electric button. Alternatively, you could use it as a centerpiece for a nautical-themed tablescape or anchor it in a garden as an outdoor decoration.

13. Vintage Nautical Textiles

A square pillowcase with a fish against blue and white designs, a with red background and gold-tone tassels.

Vintage nautical textiles can act as a wonderful complement to the entire nautical-themed space. And here the possibilities are endless: we can go for pillowcases, rugs, curtains, or tablecloths (preferably made from natural fabrics like linen or cotton) featuring maritime-inspired designs. I myself absolutely fell in love with this Hedon silk and velvet fish print tasseled cushion by Bivain. This throw pillow can be used in the living room or bedroom, or even serve as vintage nautical dining room decor (placed on a chair or sofa). 

14. Smoking Pipe

A wooden vintage pipe on a seagrass container.

When I (or anyone else for that matter, I am sure) think of an old-time fisherman or sailor, I picture a man with a beard and a wooden smoking pipe. No wonder, since smoking pipes were once a common accessory used by old fishermen while out at sea. The calming ritual of smoking a pipe provided a moment of relaxation during long and often dangerous fishing trips, and the pipe’s aroma could also mask the smell of fish and seawater. Today, vintage smoking pipes can serve as a nostalgic nod to this tradition and can be displayed as decorative pieces in a nautical-themed room.

14 Must-Have Vintage Nautical Items: FAQ

To recap, I want to answer some commonly asked questions regarding decorating with vintage nautical objects.  

What are some of the most popular vintage nautical decor items?

Some of the most popular vintage nautical items include an anchor, a compass, a wooden ship model, a life ring buoy, a ship’s wheel, a porthole, and an oil lamp. 

Where to find authentic vintage nautical decor pieces?

Authentic vintage nautical pieces can be found on Etsy, Everything Nautical, and Chairish, and at flea markets, antique stores, specialty stores, or online auction sites like eBay or LiveAuctioneers. 

What are some DIY projects I can do to create my own vintage nautical decor pieces?

Some DIY projects to try on your own are painting a life buoy or creating a rope-wrapped mirror. You can also take an old wooden rowboat and convert it into a nautical shelf by cutting it in half and adding shelves to each half. You can paint the boat or leave it natural for a rustic look.


I hope that all vintage maritime fans enjoyed this post and that the items listed here have been inspiring in achieving a vintage nautical interior. Remember – you don’t need to be limited to these objects. There are plenty of other items that can be used, such as vintage books or vintage glass nautical wall decor. I encourage all of you to browse the Internet as much as you can for all the inspiration you need.😀

Similar Posts