Nautical antiques like sea charts and navigation equipment make ideal decorations for a fireplace mantel.

Nautical Fireplace Themes

by Jennifer Blair

As a prominent architectural feature, your fireplace may require extra attention when it comes to choosing its decor. Selecting a theme for your fireplace design helps narrow the focus and create a cohesive look. If you're a fan of coastal and beach decor, a nautical display may be the right option for your fireplace. A nautical theme allows for plenty of creativity since you can choose from several sub-themes, or mix and match, to craft the perfect display for your home.


One of the more obvious choices for a nautical-themed fireplace is a ship or boat motif. A large model ship makes a striking centerpiece on the mantel as does a large painting or drawing of a ship hanging over the fireplace. For the fireplace itself, add anchor-shaped andirons to hold your logs or a fireplace screen with a ship or sailboat design. To play up the maritime theme, consider painting the wall behind the fireplace or even the fireplace itself with blue and white nautical stripes. Opt for red accent pieces like candlesticks or pottery to finish off the look.


For an authentic collector's feel for your fireplace design, select a nautical antiques theme. Crisscross vintage boat oars on the wall above the fireplace or rest an antique captain’s wheel on the mantel. A vintage life preserver and signal flags also make ideal wall decorations for your fireplace display. You can even arrange these items inside a fireplace when it's not in use for an unexpected presentation. If you prefer framed items, hunt down some vintage sea charts and maps to display on the wall above the mantel. Create a vignette on the mantel itself with antique navigation tools like a compass, telescope and sextant. Antique ship lights, lanterns or an old diver's helmet can be displayed on the mantel or on either side of the fireplace. If the fireplace is not in use, consider displaying antique lanterns inside and adding candles for soft lighting.

Under the Sea

If watercraft is not to your taste, create a fireplace display that celebrates life under the sea. Above the fireplace, hang a model of a large fish like a marlin or swordfish or display artwork depicting fish or other sea creatures like whales and dolphins. For a more whimsical design, look for artwork featuring mermaids or Poseidon himself. On the mantel, opt for sea creature-shaped items such as a ceramic crab sculpture or a piece of coral. Down below, line the bottom of a nonworking fireplace with shells or starfish to create an underwater scene. Commit to the theme by painting or tiling the fireplace in shades of blue and green to mimic the look of ocean water.


Draw inspiration for your nautical fireplace display from walks you’ve taken along the seashore. Hang a painting or drawing featuring seashells or create a shadow box with actual shells you’ve collected along the beach to hang above the mantel. Fill large glass vases or bowls with seashells, adding a layer of sand to mimic the look of the beach. Sea glass and driftwood pieces make easy and inexpensive decorations for a seashore-inspired fireplace display. If you have a nonworking fireplace, place one or more oversize glass vases inside with sand and sea grass for a dunes-inspired arrangement.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

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