What Are the Different Types of Pirate Decor?

Eugene P.

There are different types of pirate decor used in interior design, based on the perceived views — either real or fictional — of what seafaring pirates used, wore and created during their travels. The most commonly seen types of pirate decor are based on a fictitious ideal — mostly created by popular culture and novels — of how pirates behaved. These can include items such as hooks, swords and placards adorned with skulls or made from fake bones. Other types of decor take a more nautical tack, sometimes using salvaged pieces of ships, such as wheels, mastheads, nets or ropes. Whichever type of pirate decor is preferred, it can stand out from more traditional furnishings and help to define a unique style and space.

Printed red bandanas may be used as pirate decor.
Printed red bandanas may be used as pirate decor.

Many elements of nautical pirate decor are actually fairly large and can really dominate a room. Sets of carved wooden oars or entire skiffs, rowboats and anchors used on larger ships can be mounted on a high wall. Complete sets of sail riggings, rudders or barrels also have made their way into the pirate style.

Ship wheels are often featured as part of pirate decor.
Ship wheels are often featured as part of pirate decor.

More distinct types of pirate decor straddle a line between fact and cultural stereotypes. These can include swords such as cutlasses, three-pointed hats and even ornately decorated bottles of rum that are made to look old and sea-worn. The use of flags, either black or printed with a skull and crossbones pattern, is popular because they can coexist with other design elements.

Distressed relics from areas where pirates were known to operate can be used as accents to larger features. Examples include small, carved wooden idols or decorated coconuts made to look like native artifacts. For a more formal setting, framed maps of the islands and waters off North and Central America may be displayed, especially if the maps are historical and show political borders from the age of pirates. Scrimshaw also can be displayed, either framed or on a small stand.

In settings that are public spaces or commercial establishments, the types of pirate decor used can be more colorful, depending on the desired effect. Printed red bandanas can be hung alongside metal hooks and wooden pegs designed to look like prosthetic hands or legs. Fake tropical birds or parrots can be set on top of tall fixtures. Old oil lamps, such as those used on actual sailing vessels, can be refitted with electric lights and hung like sconces. One item that can be used as storage in areas with a large amount of space is a wooden chest made to resemble the treasure chests seen in many movies.

Authentic, historical pirate decor can actually be very elegant, but it also is expensive. The pages from a ship’s logbook can be framed and used in sequence along a wall. Items such as telescopes and other navigational aids can be compact and sophisticated without dominating a room. Historically, letters of marque blurred the line between pirates and honest sailors, so some pirate decor overlaps with classical nautical decor from the same era.

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