Blue walls and a model sailboat equal an instant seafaring theme.

How to Paint a Nautical-Themed Bedroom

by Benna Crawford

You can almost smell the sea air in a nautical-themed bedroom in a vacation cottage or a child's room. A few boating accessories, lots of blue and white with touches of red, and just the right paint job will transform four ordinary walls into "Two Years Before the Mast." Polish the brightwork, swab the decks and stow the lines as you touch up the hull and spars with a coat of fresh paint and a dab of maritime inspiration.

1. Navigational Chart

A kid's bedroom is a pirate's lair for the likes of Blackbeard when you dedicate a wall to a nautical chart or a map to buried treasure. Tape a neat rectangle on the wall with painter's tape and fill it with a parchment or blue background, latitude and longitude lines, an archipelago and a compass rose. Use a real navigational chart or a pretend pirate's map as a model. Trace the map on grid paper, make a proportional grid on the wall in chalk, and fill in the design, matching the elements on the map to the larger grid on the wall. Freehand sketching is fine for the look of a hand-drawn buried treasure map. Be as fanciful as you like with palm trees, coconuts, coves and secret caves, random doubloons, and X marks the spot.

2. The Ocean Blue

Set sail on the briny deep in a blue-walled room that's a backdrop for high-seas adventures. Cerulean is a good color for a deep-water bedroom that's not too dark. Paint a different seafaring token on each wall -- a ship's wheel, a lighthouse, an anchor, a life preserver and braided line. Copy the wall designs on pillow shams for the bed in applique or fabric paint. Hunt for bedside rugs in nautical shapes such as starfish, sailboats, whales or semaphore designs. In a child's bedroom, open the ceiling to the sky with a coat of palest powder blue, covered thickly with sponged-on white clouds.

3. Ship-Shape Stripes

Nothing is as natty as navy-and-white stripes on the wall in a nautical bedroom. Paint the ceiling and crown molding crisp eggshell white and divide the wall into wide, even horizontal stripes, marked off with painter's tape. It's worth taking the time to get the lines straight. Be sure lines match up in the corners if you are striping more than one wall. Paint one alternate set of stripes the same white as the ceiling and allow the paint to dry completely before tackling the blue stripe. Then move the tape to cover the edges of the new paint, exposing the entire stripe for the blue paint. Remove the painter's tape carefully as soon as the wall is finished and the paint dries to avoid smearing colors or pulling off chips of paint with the tape. Balance the striped walls with solid sand or blue carpet, whitewashed furniture and model sailboats on side tables or the dresser.

4. Lend an Oar

Paint the walls as white as sea spray on a windy day, then trace or sketch three or four oars horizontally over the headboard and paint them deep red, battered blue and shabby cream. Edge the ceiling with a border of seafaring pennants -- alternate red and blue pennants stamped with white anchors. Hang a real oar on an open wall, studded with sailboat cleats to serve as clothes hooks. If the oar isn't worn and peeling from hard use, distress it with rubbed-off paint to simulate wear. Crackle glaze will lend your oar an air of aged authenticity by crazing a few streaks of red paint dulled with a drop or two of black.

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