House Tours: Decorating with a Nautical Theme

Brenda Eastman is an interior designer and a partner with Susie Mitchell in Les Interieurs, a design firm and shop in Newport Beach. For this home, they launched a nautical theme that is child- and budget-friendly, smart, stylish, functional, and, most of all, comfortable.

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    Color with Style

    The designers maintained a simple palette, drawing in navy as a dashing companion to white and tempering it with khaki, which is echoed in natural materials such as sea-grass rugs, woven window shades, raffia pillows, and wicker chairs.

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    Accent with Color

    Touches of red keep the color scheme from being too predictable and boring.

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    Go High, Go Low

    Vary the height of objects in a display to add interest and keep the eye moving.

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    Texture Rules

    Lots of textures -- old wood chest, vintage suitcases, bamboo frame, and sea-grass chairs -- give a neutral corner depth and dimension.

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    Blue and White

    Traditional Chinese export porcelain in blue and white is paired with a shell-framed mirror against walls of midnight blue.

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    Formal and Casual

    As casual as the furnishings are, the house takes a surprisingly dressed-up turn in its art and accessories, including a few English and Asian pieces. The formal style of the dining room table and chairs contrast comfortably with the more casual-looking Capiz shell chandelier and bordered linen draperies.

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    Go Easy on the Boats

    The sea is elegant, not cliche, thanks to the duo's choice of sophisticated accessories. There's but one boat model -- an antique -- in the house, and it's an important piece. Not only is it beautiful sculpturally, but it was a special gift from Brenda Eastman to symbolize the family's connection to the boat business they own.

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    Use Art Prints Wisely

    The designers gathered vintage and new prints of shells, coral, and sea life, then unified each grouping with matching frames. The images appear fresh in each room because every grouping features a different context, size, and scale.

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    Punctuate the Theme with Pillows

    Look for accent pillows that take a classic, elegant approach to sea-theme design. The Eastmans' pillows are patterned with boats, fish, and shells and include motif embroidery.

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    Integrate Collections

    Shells and coral gathered from a nearby beach are decorative when displayed on the coffee table or in silver trophy cups and glass urns on end tables, bureaus, and bookcases.

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    Trim Accessories with Shells

    Mirrors, lamps, and boxes are candidates for application if you're handy with a hot-glue gun.

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    Use a Buffer

    Marrying high-contrast elements can be a powerful design tool. "It places the emphasis more on accessories than it does on any piece of furniture," says designer Susie Mitchell. In this house, khaki is a neutral bridge between navy and white. It appears on walls and area rugs and in accessories.

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    Vary Proportions of Color Usage

    For example, a navy pillow punches up a white slipcover in the living room, while navy walls create a rich envelope in the master bedroom.

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    Mix Up Finishes

    Set off matte painted walls with high-gloss trim. Wainscoting and beaded-board ceilings contribute depth as well as sheen.

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    Stripe It Up

    Whether thin pinstripes or wide railroad ones, contrasting bands add pizzazz.

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    Contrast Upholstery with Frames

    White slipcovers against ebony wood, or navy teamed with natural wicker, make a dramatic combination.

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    Embellish with Details

    Fabric elements were accentuated with dressmaker details, such as piping and monograms. This plain white slipcover has been given a dash of style with crisp navy details.

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