Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 Tips for Designing the Perfect Nautical Space for Your Coastal Home

Here are 10 proven winners for creating your very best nautical inspired environment in your coastal home. Any or all of these design ideas will go a long way toward the realization of your space. Give these nautical design ideas a try:
1.  Proper lighting plays a key role in any successful space.  For a nautical inspired space choose table and
Vintage aluminum ships window re-purposed into a
nautical mirror. Aluminum 90 degree passageway
lights light-up the space.

floor lamps that are functional, not just decorative. Place them near the task at hand. One of the best ways to create that old seafaring look is to select ship navigational and space light fixtures re-purposed into functional lighting. Rewired nautical wall sconces positioned on either side of a bathroom mirror can be very effective. Old re-purposed ship lanterns make great table lamps, and ship pennant lights, cage lights and passageway lights are top choices to light both your interior and exterior spaces.
2. Repetition of your theme will enforce your ideas.  If you are working with the idea of ‘sailing’ perhaps, select a piece of wall art featuring classic sailboats, a model of a sailboat on your mantel or table and navigational chart lampshades on your table lamps. Go a step further and include striped sailcloth on a piece of upholstered furniture. Of course not every element should be strictly about sailing but a good rule is to repeat an idea three times in any space.
3. Nautical colors, textures and finishes are typically borrowed from ships and yachts. Colors that associate well are described as sailcloth white,  pitch black, port red and starboard green and navy blue.  Wood selections include teak and mahogany, oak and maple. Brass, bronze, copper, aluminum, tin and galvanized metal, chrome and nickel finishes, both polished to a high shine or left verdigris for a weathered patina.  Use hemp and nylon line for edging surfaces- including black and navy blue nylon for a distinct yachting presence. Try navigational charts for a wall covering, especially in small areas like a bathroom or dressing room.
4. Dress up your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and furniture by selecting brass or nickel-plated cleats as
Nautical brass cleats can be used as cabinet
pulls,  door handles  and for tieing off lines.
handles and pulls. It’s the perfect look for both hardwood and painted cabinet finishes. Hand-tied monkey’s fist or turk’s head knobs are perfect choices too!
5. Antique sea chests and select antique furniture fit well into the traditional New England style nautical environment. You may also want to consider custom made furniture using retired teak ship’s grates or hatch covers as tops for tables. These are both beautiful, functional and add a lot of character to the room. We’ve also used old ship’s doors, brass portholes and windows as tops for occasional and coffee tables too.
6. Nautical art for your walls can be more than just a print or a painting, though the perfect marine painting can be the focal point in your room. Framed black and white photographs of classic yachts and giclee prints after original paintings are usually more affordable ways to add in quality marine art.

An antique ships wheel is hung above a mantel with a 19th century cased
model of a schooner in the foreground.
7. For other wall art forms, consider a beautiful ships wheel, ship’s name, quarter and stern boards, old oars, a collection of half hulls of old sailing ships, folk and sailor marine carvings of whales and mermaids and even harpoons, representing  the days of whaling and seafaring days gone by. Victorian age sailor’s valentines were brought back from the island of Barbados as gifts for loved ones. Contemporary examples with great detail can be a great choice as well. Also, consider adding in the sound of the ringing of a ship’s bell clock.

A carved and painted wood mermaid is in stark contrast to the
navy blue wall, a perfect art form for a nautical designed space.

A collection of ship in bottles
are displayed"en masse"

8. Be selective when accessorizing your nautical room. We recommend using sextants or octants, spyglasses, on a bookshelf, boxed compasses, small scale models, wood blocks and smaller sailor-made carvings on table, desk and chest tops. Small collections work best grouped together in a tight assemblage.  You will make a stronger statement when they appear "en masse" as each one accents the other.  Think of a collection of ship-in-bottles, antique scrimshaw, or a grouping of items like vintage blocks from sailboats, compasses and other small maritime items placed together on a bookshelf or tabletop. Larger ship’s instruments like binnacles, telegraphs and ship wheels on stands are well suited to stand alone placed in a corner or as a centerpiece.  
9. Always select quality over quantity. A few authentic vintage or antique nautical items are better than a room-full of reproductions and nautical nick-knacks. A little can go a long way.
10. Don’t be afraid to take a photo of your space and ask for advice.  A qualified dealer can assist you with finding the right items to create the perfect nautical environment for your home or office.

Written by Joe Elder of Skipjack Nautical Wares & Rebecca T Larys Interior Design, IIDA located in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. You can visit Skipjack Nautical Wares website at  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Steampunk Nautical

A customer recently visited our gallery searching for items to use in a house that he was in the process of remodeling. The theme of the interior he said was "steampunk" and he was searching for items that related to the Victorian era, the days of steam power and industrial technology.
Authentic 19th century  ship's binnacle in steampunk interior.
"You're in the right place, I said. That would certainly include the age of steam powered ships and that is the type of items that we carry." It didn't take long for him to grasp what I was talking about. 

I left him to browse around and I could tell that he was quite excited about his discovery and started taking pictures of items of interest. He left an hour later with numerous ideas and images of items well suited for his new interior. 

Not knowing much about the design concept steampunk, I decided to do a little research to become familiar with what it is. I looked up the word on Wikipedia and the short definition is: "Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery." The longer version stated "Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk may, therefore, be described as neo-Victorian. Steampunk ... is rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne."
Steampunk interior using a porthole and door wheel
creating an old steamship feel to the space.

Movies such as Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and the Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline demonstrate steampunk design and technology in that fantastic world as described above. I researched further and Googled steampunk interiors that led to completed steampunk designed rooms using all types of gears, tubes, and gizmos of various types, all from old steam engines and salvaged from closed factories. Then I found photos of maritime ship parts and instruments salvaged from ships of the past. Perfect! Now I know why our customer left our showroom with such excitement. He had discovered a gold mine of nautical steampunk!

Nautical brass porthole re-purposed
into an end table.
There are numerous nautical items that can be incorporated into a steampunk room. Ship's binnacles and telegraphs, early ship's lamps and lighting, compasses, portholes and windows made of brass, old brass steam whistles, brass or bronze steering stations, old blocks and bells, steam gauges, sextants and octants, marine clocks and barometers are all good choices to use in the steampunk environment. Furniture can be produced using old hatch covers with metal banded ends, teak grates, portholes and windows re-purposed into coffee and end tables. Spot lights, cage lights, passageway lights and fox lights suspended on metal poles or chains for overhead lighting. These are all perfect items for creating a beautiful steampunk nautical interior! 

Images below are just a few of the many authentic old maritime items that would be great choices for creating a magnificent steampunk interior. You may want to bookmark the NEW! Just In! section of our web store to be the first to see our latest arrivals as they come available. Cheers!
Copper and brass ship's spotlight.

Brass ship's porthole with battle cover would be a super item for a steampunk room.
Old ships steering station with brass wheel

Late 19th century ships binnacle.

Hatch cover coffee table with metal banded ends.
90 degree nautical passageway or engine room light.
Ships window re-purposed in to a mirror.

Teak ships grate table.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Maritime Carvers- The Art of the Tiller

Carved oak tiller, England or NW Europe, late 17th-early 18th century. A fine oak tiller arm carved with the head of a sea serpent and ball terminus. 45 1/2 inches in length.

As a maritime dealer and collector, I am always seeking to acquire exceptional examples of wood carvings that were produced during the "Age of Sail."  Wood carvings which decorated ships during the 17th, 18th and 19th century are sometimes all that remain from the vessels built during that time.  We know that ship carvers specialized in producing quality decorative work for maritime environments on ships, boats and yachts were a trade in to itself and different from those that built ships.Typical examples of their work would include figureheads, nameboards, trailboards for boats and unique yacht interiors out of wood.

In this article we will take a look at the art of the carved tiller arm that sometimes embellished great yachts and naval gigs that carried wealthy merchants and ship captains from  sea to shore. These were at times garnished with carvings of figures such as animal heads, folded hands and monkeys fist in terminus. Sometimes the length of the tiller was carved with elaborate rope turnings, snake bodies and end with rectangular panels with stylized acanthus leaves and other foliation, stars and other favored decorations of the period carved inside.  Among the works produced by marine carvers throughout the centuries, authentic carvings off of actual ships continue to be highly prized and sought after and becoming increasingly more difficult to find.

Here's a selection of exceptionally carved tiller arms made during the 19th century by those that specialized in maritime carvings.

 A carved mahogany and brass small yacht or launch tiller, probably English, circa 1880.  The tiller has a monkey fist end followed by a multi strand rope carved shaft which transcends into a four sided rectangular shape with carved flags on the top and sides.  The rear section of the tiller is rectangular in shape with a curved end.  There is a slot at the center where the tiller slipped over the rudder.  The rear section is wrapped with brass around its outside surface.  Dimension:  Length 26 1/2 inches. Hyland Granby, Hyannisport, MA.

A carved mahogany and brass small yacht or launch tiller, probably English, circa 1880.

A 19th century carved tiller handle with rope-turned center, pointed finger terminus and carved foliate panels at other end. Measures slightly over 22 inches in length. Kahn Fine Antiques, Chatham, Massachusetts.

A 19th century carved tiller handle with rope-turned center, pointed finger terminus and carved foliate panels at other end.
Tiller handle hand with finger terminus.

A 19th century carved yacht tiller. This exceptional tiller was made in mahogany and elaborately carved in a rope-work pattern with a monkey fist at the head, a brass collar forming the grip, a Turk's Head closing off the rope work which continues down the entire length to the squared off post end, with panels carved in relief decorated with carved ribbons. The end in the form of a wedge to fit in the rudder post. 85 in. (215.9 cm.) length. Sold for $17,500.00 at Christie's Auction 15 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

This exceptional tiller was made in mahogany and elaborately carved in a rope-work pattern with a monkey fist at the head.

A finely carved oak and brass yacht  tiller arm, British Isles, mid to late 19th century. Elaborately carved and has the typical reverse curved shape.The end of the tiller features a carved dolphin with a brass collar just below forming the grip. The turned post transcends into an octagonal length which continues and curves down to a blocked section to the squared off post end. The end in the form of a wedge to fit in the rudder post. Survives in good condition with a wonderful old patina and original surface. Measures 58 inches in overall length. A rare tiller and an exceptional example of maritime artistry. Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery, Portsmouth, Virginia.

The end of the tiller features a carved dolphin with a brass collar just below forming the grip. 
The turned post transcends into an octagonal length which continues and curves down to a blocked section to the squared off post end. 

 A carved wood tiller in tapered form with a turned top half ending in a carved animal head with wide gaping mouth holding a ball with five pointed star. Bronze hardware is present. All in a very nice old dark patina. SIZE: 59."  James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, Maine.

A carved wood tiller in tapered form with a turned top half ending in a carved animal head with wide gaping mouth.

A rare carved snake form boat tiller.  This example was described to be a late 19th century American tiller,  carved out of maple or birch. This carving is finely executed while evoking a whimsical and folky feeling in the snake's face. This is a wonderful example of how a utilitarian object can transcend into a work of art. Condition: Retaining original varnish finish and brass mounts. Dimensions:  32 1/2."  Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, Litchfield, Connecticut.

A rare carved American snake form boat tiller, late 19th century.
Side view of a carved American snake form boat tiller, late 19th century.

Celtic Cat Ship's Tiller Arm. The last example is a rudder arm with such fine detailed carving would have stood out from the more mundane examples, and offers lasting appreciation as both a valuable maritime antique and as a fine example of the carver’s art. Due to wood’s inability to hold up against years of exposure to salt water and weather, only a very small percentage of the decorative ships’ carvings survive into the 21st Century.

 An extremely well preserved and presented hardwood tiller arm features a Celtic Cat laying ‘couchant’, its heraldic pose completed with the imaginary continuation the cat’s body as the full length of the wood artifact. The cat is aggressively showing its teeth in fierce armament. Deeply grained and expertly shaped with consideration for the grain pattern, the wood resembles English Oak, but is quite light in weight and of extreme age. The well-preserved tiller has a leather covered neck grip showing visible signs of the wear caused by tied lines to keep the rudder on a straight course. The grip is bounded with knot-work ring collars. The curvature of the rudder-steering device would allow for a captain to navigate from the stern cockpit of what was undoubtedly a decent sized sailing ship. The length is carved in a quite nice stylized rope braid, and the "klick board" has a floral design motif carved just forward of where the arm would mount into the rudder head. Vallejo Gallery, Newport Beach, California.

Celtic Cat Ship's Tiller Arm.

The "klick board" has a floral design motif carved just forward of where the arm would mount into the rudder.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Skipjack Nautical Wares and Marine Art Gallery Relocates to 620 High Street

Recently moved from the riverfront, Skipjack Nautical Wares new showroom is larger and features a more visible storefront. Referred to by our customers as Skipjack 4.0, this is the fourth store location in Coastal Virginia and is now located at 620 High Street in historic downtown (Olde Towne) Portsmouth, Virginia. 

Skipjack Nautical Wares previous riverfront store located at 1 High Street
adjacent to the High Street basin and the Hog Island Lighthouse Lens Pavilion
in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.
The number one question asked today by visitors and customers alike is "Why did you move from your riverfront location?" For those that are knowledgeable of our history, it does make sense to wonder why. The simple answer is, the building was sold and the new owners are renovating the building and converting into luxury apartments. Our lease was until the end of September 2015 which gave us 6 months from time of notice to find a new location and move.

With numerous trips north up as far as Massachusetts and south through florida, we visited many coastal seaport towns in search for a new viable location to relocate the store. There were many location opportunities of which we considered and one we would have leased on the spot in Savannah Georgia. This was a large riverfront warehouse just outside of the historic district that featured wide open spaces with yellow pine beamed ceilings and old brick walls, but we missed leasing it by a few weeks! The other was a smaller store in St. Augustine in the heart of the shopping/tourist district, but again was just leased prior to our arrival. Other potential locations that we liked were Beaufort, SC, Charleston, SC, Annapolis, MD and Alexandria,Virginia, Norfolk, VA and areas around coastal Massachusetts and Rhode Island. All of these were good choices for Skipjack, but most offered but a few locations to look at and all came with considerably higher per sq. ft. pricing. So we once again chose to stay local and focus on potential spaces located here in the Olde Towne Portsmouth area.

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery's
new Olde Towne Portsmouth location at
620 High Street.
It was now early summer and time was running out. We previewed a dozen locations, some with great potential, but none of them truly met our needs and most with rental limitations that made them undesirable.

A close friend and associate called and informed us of a property that would be perfect, but the problem was that it was already occupied. But, discussions led to an opportunity that could work for both parties. The owners and business that occupied the building was Way Back Yonder Antiques, and after nearly 20 years of operation at 620 High Street, they considering downsizing the operation and moving to a smaller building that they owned a block away. After rounds of negotiating, we struck a deal and leased the building. The challenge now was for the owners of Way Back Yonder Antiques to reduce their inventory and clear the space in time for us to take possession and move in. Thankfully, we worked together and with considerable help from friends here in the Olde Towne community were able to make the transition from the riverfront to our new home, now referred to as Skipjack 4.0!

Dealers of authentic nautical antiques and collectibles, Skipjack Nautical Wares is also known for it's fine collection of maritime lamps, lighting, furniture, and decor. Skipjack also buys and sells genuine navigational instruments, clocks and barometers, telescopes, compasses, binnacles and telegraphs (E.O.T.'s) and US Navy and Coast Guard collectibles. Our maritime ship and yacht salvage includes ship wheels, portholes and windows, doors, ship lights, anchors, brass signs, builders plates, nameboards, marine hardware, glass floats, flags, life rings, buoys, boarding ladders and much more.

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery features nautical antiques,
original marine art, marine lamps and lighting, ship salvage and re-purposed
maritime items for the coastal homeowner.

Skipjack's Marine Gallery features antique, vintage and contemporary art specializing in maritime and marine subjects. Our gallery includes works in bronze and ceramic and wood sculpture, scrimshaw, folk and sailor art, oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings and giclee prints. Our ship model gallery features both antique and handcrafted scaled models, half hulls and ship-in-bottles of exceptional quality from artists around the globe.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sophisticated Nautical Design at Home in the Hamptons

Recently, I was hunting around on Pinterest (nautical furnishings and furniture) and came across an image of an aluminum ship's window re-purposed into a nautical mirror. This picture was linked to a blog written by Courtney Price titled "The Hampton Designer Show-house"  where top interior designers turn a New England home into a, as the author describes it, "decorating masterpiece." The house located in Bridgehampton, New York was certainly dressed up in top fashion.

Authentic ship fixtures re-purposed and used to create this beautiful nautical bathroom.
By New York design company Melanie Roy Design.

Part of the first floor (bath and mudroom) was designed by New York designer Melanie Roy of  Melanie Roy Design  selecting a strong blue and white striped wall covering and navy blue walls contrasting white painted wood trim and bathroom cabinet with polished steel drawer pulls and bath fixtures. The mirror and lights above the bathroom sink were re-purposed ship salvage items including a ship's window converted into a mirror (could also be the front of a medicine cabinet) flanked on both sides with 90 degree aluminum caged passageway lights. (see below).

This is a beautiful example of utilizing authentic, high quality nautical fixtures, re-purposed and used once again as part of creating a very attractive nautical inspired bathroom. Kudos to designer Melanie Roy!

An authentic ship's porthole window recycled from the shipping industry that we've re-purposed into an impressive nautical mirror. These 2 dog porthole frames are made out of ALUMINUM and to the highest marine specifications, salvaged from British and European ships built in the 1970's/ 80's. Aluminum portholes are much lighter than their brass and bronze predecessors which makes them usable as a wall hanging in any nautical/coastal interior. Aluminum portholes are also a perfect choice for bathrooms with brushed nickel and stainless steel fixtures! The overall diameter of the porthole measures 16 X 20 inches and the mirror measures 12 X 16 inches. The projection from the wall including the dogs is 5 1/2 inches. The weight is approximately 16 pounds. Here's the link:  Aluminum nautical mirror

Another appropriate choice would have been one of our authentic large opening ship's aluminum porthole with 2 dogs recycled from the shipping industry that we've re-purposed into an impressive nautical mirror. These portholes are made from aluminum and to the highest marine specifications, salvaged from British and European ships built in the 1970's/ 80's. Aluminum portholes are much lighter than their brass and bronze predecessors which makes them usable as a wall hanging in any nautical/coastal interior. The overall diameter of the porthole measures 19 1/2 inches and the mirror measures 13 3/4 inches. The weight is approximately 18 pounds.
Here's the link:  Aluminum porthole mirror

Shown here is our high quality cast aluminum 90 degree bulkhead (passageway) lights are designed after vintage ship lights. Features an aluminum screw-bezel style cage and clear glass cover. We recommend a fluorescent or LED type bulb for long life and minimal heat build-up inside the fixture. This is an aluminum version of our cast brass bulkhead light -- it weighs less than the brass and is perfect for installations where weight is a concern. Measures 4.5" wide, 11.5" long and projects about 7.5". Here's the link:  90 degree aluminum passageway light

A smaller version of our aluminum passageway light is our new, high quality, cast aluminum 90 degree bulkhead (passageway) lights designed after the larger, vintage ship lights. Features a polished aluminum screw-bezel style cage with clear glass insert. The light measures 3 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches tall not including the round back plate. The back plate is designed to cover a standard round electrical box and measures 4 inches in diameter. Mounts using two screws 3 1/2 inches apart. UL rated 75 W 125V socket for candelabra style bulbs. Highest quality light of it's type on the market!  Here's the link: Small 90 degree passageway light

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery is a major supplier of authentic nautical  lighting, ship salvage, custom furniture and furnishings, decor and marine art to the interior design trade. Visit our web store at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery or stop by our riverfront showroom located in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery
1 High Street, suite #3 Portsmouth, VA. 23704   757-399-5012

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 25th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

October 13-19, 2014
 From Baltimore, Maryland, to Portsmouth, Virginia

Schooners underway at the beginning of the
Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
There are schooners here, there and just about everywhere participating in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (GCBSR). The 25th annual race begins Thursday, October 16th on the south side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, Maryland. The schooners race throughout the afternoon and night into the next day to their designated finish line. For classes A and AA, the finish is an east-west line at Thimble Shoal Light and classes B and C finish at Windmill Point. Then they proceed on to docking in Portsmouth, Virginia along the quaint historic seaport's basins and seawall.

Schooners rafted together at the High Street Landing at the end
of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Photo by Joe Elder.
With 34 entries in this year's race represented from all around the Chesapeake Bay and as far away as Key West, Florida, they'll be schooners of all types and sizes for you to view. The schooners will be on view in Portsmouth's North and High Street Landings as well as along the Olde Towne riverfront. Some may be available at times for boarding and tours. Make sure to bring your camera along for this is surely a  great photographic opportunity.

A. J. Meerwald under sail during the
Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Photo by Allen Graves.

Plan to spend the day and take in all that Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia has to offer. This is a great time to stroll along our historic High Street corridor and visit our exceptional antique shops, art galleries and unique specialty stores found in Olde Towne. Have a great lunch or dinner in one of our chef and family owned restaurants, sports bars and pubs...there's plenty to choose from and you'll definitely find one to your liking.

Figurehead of the Schooner "Lady Maryland." Photo by Joe Elder.

Schooner racing on the Chesapeake Bay is rooted in the trade rivalry between Baltimore, Maryland, at the northern end of the Bay, and Portsmouth/Norfolk, Virginia, at the southern end. The fastest sailing vessels delivered goods and people to their destinations and often garnered the best price for their cargo by beating slower schooners into port. Over the years, commercial schooner designs evolved for the bay's routes — taking into consideration shallow waters, local crops and regional needs, with speed being a primary concern to beat competitively loaded vessels into port. These schooners also played a critical role in our nation's early wars. While there are no cargo-hauling schooners now working the Bay, there are a considerable number of schooners still in use as cruising vessels and privately owned boats.

Schooners and rigging dominate the view at the High Street Landing,
 Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. Photo by Joe Elder.

In 1988, when the City of Baltimore launched her flagship modeled on those earlier vessels, Captain Lane Briggs of the Tugantine Norfolk Rebel — the world's only sail-powered schooner-rigged tugboat — challenged the Pride of Baltimore II to a race from Baltimore to Norfolk, reviving an historic rivalry between schooners, captains and cities on the Bay. With the challenge accepted, the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (GCBSR) was born.

In 1990, a weekend in October was set aside for what had become an annual event, and yacht clubs at the northern and southern ends of the race volunteered to support the schooners and crews in their efforts.

"Mystic Whaler" sails into Baltimore before the race begins. Photo by Joe Elder.

Over the 25 years of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, there have been some incredible races with schooners going to the wire to win. Harsh weather conditions in some of the races have tested the mettle of the vessels, crews and captains. As many as 56 schooners have signed up for a single race, and more than 150 — with vessels from as far away as California - have enjoyed the fall race on the Bay. The 2007 race was the fastest race in this long series. With strong following winds, several schooners set new records for both elapsed and corrected time. The schooner Virginia set a new time to beat of 11 hours, 18 minutes and 53 seconds, beating the previous record of 12 hours, 57 minutes and 51 seconds set by Imagine...! in the 2005 GCBSR.