Perhaps you love all things nautical, especially the simple and sophisticated, but you have been there, done that, with anchor motifs and stripes. How else can you get that seafaring look? Enter nautical charts and boat schematics, whose subtle coloring and fine lines evoke the fair-winded intersection of human engineering and nature’s supremacy. One of the most popular ways to incorporate navigation charts is through wallcoverings of both the pasted and framed variety. But there are other things you can do too.

Style a Sideboard With Rolled Up Charts


Burnham Design, original photo on Houzz


Frame of Reference

Nautical charts are appealing as decor because their functional use as genuine navigation aids makes them affordable and easily acquired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Although most boats are outfitted with electronic GPS nowadays, displaying charts in the home keeps recreational sailors in touch with the history of their sport and harks back to a time when manual navigation brought us deeply in tune with the geography of the places we visited.

Custom framing isn’t cheap. My first year out of school, I spent my entire tax refund framing two large nautical charts of the Straits of Florida and Long Island Sound. But guess what? It’s one of those purchases I’ve never regretted and probably never will. Now that I live a thousand miles from my family and friends on those waterways, the charts that hang proudly as my main living room decor always remind me of where I come from and put a smile on my face.

Framing isn’t always necessary, though, if you’re going for that no-frills, rustic look in which authenticity and simple, straightforward materials are prized.

Make a Custom Nautical Mirror for Less Than $30


Walls of Wonder

My, what a wonderful time it is to be decorating! With so many innovative companies and products waiting to transform your dream into reality, virtually anything is possible these days. We’ve seen family photos turned into wallpaper, and now nautical charts too. Some companies will take a nautical chart and blow it up 400 percent or more to cover a large expanse of wall or ceiling. For example, Nautical Chart Wallpaper will fashion a wallcovering out of anything from scenic photos to road maps to topographic maps.

As you may imagine, nautical chart wallpaper mixes well with other maritime paraphernalia. Since it’s so easy to go overboard with a theme, especially such a perennial favorite among home decor retailers, a sophisticated approach is to take two or three overscale elements and let them be the focal points, keeping everything else in the room relatively simple.


MAC Custom Homes, original photo on Houzz


The wallcovering here is made from actual nautical charts cut to showcase the homeowner’s favorite ports of call. While this wall was created by an expert well-trained in fitting the multiple pieces into a cohesive whole, this is theoretically a DIY project for the paper savvy.


Taylor & Taylor, Inc., original photo on Houzz


Here, a hand-painted map by artist Joel Blanco graces the wall of this nautically themed office. Other seafaring references abound in the form of a ship’s ladder shelving unit, snap ties on the roller shades, and seating that looks to be borrowed from a ship’s pilothouse, complete with inlaid compass.

Nautical charts work well anywhere you’d normally consider putting wallpaper, especially in small spaces like a powder room or entry vestibule, where it can really make a statement.

Indeed, nautical charts can be adhered to any surface that will accept wallpaper, but many of us forget that this includes the ceiling. If you’re feeling as if your room could use a bit more drama, look up and see whether an ancient chart might solve the problem.

Stencil in a Nautical Wall Pattern


Gale Ray, original photo on Houzz


Land Ahoy!

One of the more fascinating, and adventurous, ways that people are using nautical maps in their decor is as a floor treatment. Here, we see a wood floor painted with the location of the property. This approach works well for refreshing worn wood floors whose replacement is financially out of reach, or for keeping building costs down by specifying cheaper paint-grade wood floors and then styling them with references to your favorite coast.

Note: This effect could also be achieved more abstractly through stained concrete.


Screencraft Tileworks, original photo on Houzz


Territorial Tile

Tile backsplash murals of local waterways work well for those who want to do a little something different above their range but are wary of choosing a tile that will eventually date the kitchen. The good news is that representing your home turf will always be current, relevant and site-appropriate.


Siemasko + Verbridge, original photo on Houzz


Uncharted Waters

Not quite a nautical chart but certainly an important navigational tool, the compass is a natural motif for ocean-facing properties. The one shown here connects bystanders even more deeply to their surroundings by pointing out the cardinal direction of their vantage point. If paving a compass into your lawn is cost-prohibitive, mounting a compass to your balustrade will give you and your guests that same biophilic intimacy.