The trend: It’s an oldie but a goodie. Vintage ship wheels as well as those made just for decorating purposes add nautical style to coastal and coastal-style homes.

The problem: The style is great for getting a nautical look, but once you add a ship wheel, you may not know when to say when and go over the top. Think of the style of a restaurant with “Captain” in the name, where one expects to see Homer Simpson eating his way through the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

The solution: Let the ship wheel be a focal point but don’t let it dictate a bunch of nautical flags, anchors and other ship details. It can still add a touch of kitsch without making your room kitschy

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Thorson Restoration & Construction, original photo on Houzz


Why it works here: White walls. One often thinks of ship wheels as part of decor that includes dated 1970s paneling, captain’s chairs and lots of other dark wood furniture. Drywall or light-colored painted planks let the wheel stand out as a sculptural object.


Theresa Fine, original photo on Houzz

Why it works here: Restraint. The ship wheel will always work well in a child’s room, where you can go very theme-y if you want. This nursery is crisp and well edited, which keeps the look fresh.

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Barclay Butera Living on the Coast, original photo on Houzz

Why it works here: Symmetry. Instead of the wheels being the focal point, they embellish the centered window.


Christian Rice Architects, Inc., original photo on Houzz

Why it works here: Industrial chic. The reclaimed accent wall, factory table and metal cage pendant lights work well with the wheel’s weathered finish.


Landing Design, original photo on Houzz

Why it works here: The mix. The oversize wheel’s brass and carved details work well in this eclectic mix of modern elements, antiques and exposed brick.


Penguin Random House, LLC, original photo on Houzz

Why it works here: Clever arranging. The tiny decorative ship wheel is part of a well-curated coastal modern composition.


Where to find ship wheels. If you don’t have the time to scour coastal antiques shops, shop for wheels in the Houzz Products section. Or search online for “antique maritime wheel,” “captain’s wheel” and “ship wheel.” Nautical sellers and eBay are chock-full of beautiful vintage wheels.

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