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Making The Boat Interiors Look Good

Making The Boat Interiors Look Good

Boats provide many options for decorating, especially those with interior cabins. These spaces can be decorated with your own personal style, much like a room of a house. With many options and small details to consider, having prior experience designing the interior of a boat is invaluable. Dianne Katra of Classic Marine Trimming offer basic general advice in this two-part series about decorating the boat interiors. This second part focuses on the specific aspects and materials.

Marine-quality materials are essential for anyone considering upgrades to their boat. A damp, salty and hot environment puts a strain on materials, even those that are already marine quality. Fabrics must be chosen carefully to ensure they are not likely to rot, and are capable of withstanding the unrelenting sun, especially when positioned behind glass windscreens. Materials generally do not last as well on a boat as a house, so it is important to keep costs in mind.



Walls in boats are generally timber, laminate, foam-backed vinyl, or wallpapered. Keeping the colour scheme light is important, as spaces are often small. Whatever wall coverings you consider, make sure they are easy to clean and not likely to be affected by dampness. If you do look into wallpaper, make sure it is commercial-grade vinyl wallpaper, as traditional wallpaper will not last on a boat.



Boats are a very harsh environment for any material. When choosing boat furniture, I recommend items made out of material that are suited for the marine environment. Natural fibre, such as cotton, will not stand up to the sun and humidity in a marine setting. You need to look for man-made fibre, aluminium, 316 stainless steel, and marine grade timber.



In houses, there will generally be enough space to pull the curtains right back away from the window and blockout fabrics are not always needed. This is not necessarily the case on a boat where usually curtains are the only thing between you and the glaring sun. Look for triple-weave fabrics, where possible; they have the block-out lining built into them and therefore do not need a separate lining that make the curtains bulky. (This is an issue when there may not be much space to pull the curtains back to.) It is advised to consider tiebacks to keep them in place when open.

Remember to choose the right curtain material. Curtains that would last 10 years in a house would possibly need replacing on a boat in five years.



Throws, pillows and cushions are a great way to liven up the look of your boat, without making any major changes. It is very important to choose materials that will stand up to a boat environment, keeping away from natural fibres, like wool (that smells when damp) and cotton (that will rot). That, in conjunction with new curtains, can go a long way to updating your vessel without spending too much money.

If you have space on a boat for decorative baskets, they can be very handy if used correctly. A nice basket with rolled-up coloured beach towels can look great, and the towels can be easily accessed. Other items to place in a basket are colourful fruit, toys (think bucket and spades, Frisbees, etc), and books.



There are aspects of interior design that can be undertaken by the boat owner. But aspects that require large-scale design alterations should be entrusted to an expert. Deciding on a new material to re-cover your saloon lounge is one thing, but doing that in conjunction with new bedding, curtains and carpets, is another. The more you want changed on your boat, the more you need expert advice to make sure it all combines successfully and contributes to increasing the value of your vessel.

Often, when boat owners undertake their own interior design, they will only be looking at changing a few things at a time, overlooking the complete package. This can result in an inconsistent design throughout the boat. Professional designers will keep an eye on the future “saleability” of the boat. Strong colour statements (unless made in items easily changed, like cushions) or not taking advantage of improvements to sleeping capabilities, are things boat owners often do not think about when undertaking their own designing projects.

Most designers will have plenty of photos of their work, so look through them to gain an understanding of whether their previous designs are something you like. Interior designers who work on houses will often not understand the extreme environment that exists on a boat, and may specify materials that are not marine-grade or are not easily cleaned. Designers who have experience with boats are more likely to be able to optimise the space on board and keep clutter to a minimum.

Choosing the right interior designer for your boat is very important. Look for someone that you are comfortable with, and that you feel takes on board your personal wants and needs. After all, the only person who knows how you use your boat is yourself, and the design should reflect your personality and what your boat means to you.

Done well, an interior makeover will not only increase the value of your boat but make it easier to sell, too. Buyers can easily be put off by shabby lounges and disintegrating curtains, especially if they are not seasoned boaties, and are not sure of the costs of replacement or refurbishment. If you are looking to sell in the foreseeable future, try to be budget-conscious, and make improvements to things that have the biggest impact on the look of your boat.


The first part of this series was published in the Sep-Dec 2017 print edition, and posted online Designing Boat Interiors

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