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Weathered to Polished – Reproduction or Authentic – How Would You Use Nautical Style Lighting Outdoors?

What is it about the nautical decor style that so many of us simply love? The nautical style is certainly charming, to say the least, and lucky for those of us who adore it, it never goes out of style. The style has a range of occasion – from a weathered fishing boat to the polish of a yacht. That’s inspiration for all sorts of creative outdoor lighting ideas.


If you love nautical decor, you know that the style isn’t just about the coast, whether it’s ocean or lake. It’s all of the little everyday things that make up an iconic seaside, or lakeside, life and home, that endears itself to those who love all things nautical.




Picture yourself standing on the shore at dusk, watching passing ships on the horizon with their lights warmly emanating from the ship’s housing. Or, perhaps it’s the lanterns hanging from a fishing boat making its way in to the dock at the end of the day. It’s those lights that have navigated their way into becoming one of the eye-catching elements of the nautical decor style, both indoor and out. And just to keep it interesting, there are  many different types of nautical lights.


Nautical style lighting is perfect for certain architectural house styles, including a cape, a saltbox, a beach or lake cottage, or the shingle style. Using nautical lighting really adds an immediate charm to the various parts of a home’s outdoors – entry ways, lamp posts, fence posts, porches, or on a dock pier.


nautical-porch light-oldhousejournal

Source: Old House Journal


We think you will enjoy our findings here – some are nautical-inspired reproductions, and some are authentic seafaring nautical light fixtures once used aboard a ship. You can find an amazing selection of finishes to fit your decorating style when you’re hunting for a nautical light – bronze, nickel, gun metal, copper, copper with a patina, darkened brass, polished brass, and so on.


Tip: Make sure any light fixture you’re thinking of buying for outdoor use is actually UL-listed for outdoor use.


Nautical Lighting Reproductions

There are lighting manufacturers that have taken the time to design outdoor, and indoor, reproductions of authentic nautical lights, creating fixtures brimming with detail, like this bulb onion style light –



Source: Potterybarn



This is a nautical pendant light reproduction, created in a bronze finish – the design of the glass globe gives it the look of that thick, old glass of maritime lights, a charming nautical welcome for a front porch, don’t you think? –



Source: Walpole Woodworkers



This landscape path light has a similar appearance with it’s thicker glass and cage –




True nautical lighting reproductions will replicate the designs that were once used aboard ships and other various size boats. All those years ago before maritime vessels were equipped with electrical power, whale oil was burned to provide the needed light, and the light fixture designs had to take the use of oil into consideration.


There’s a timeless saying in the world of design that goes – ‘Form follows function’, and that is evident in authentic nautical light design. The glass globes protected the flame from rain and wind aboard ship or boat, but one of the unique parts of these nautical designs was the metal cage framework which guarded the glass to prevent it from getting broke, thus keeping the oil and fire from spilling out.


The popular onion light fixture reflects the metal cage design. This side-mounted onion lantern can be wall mounted next to an entry door, or installed on the side of a wood lamp post or fence post  –



Source: Walpole Woodworkers



Interestingly, light fixtures were designed for different areas of the ship, too. A particular design was used for passageways or the engine room. This fixture from Restoration Hardware attractively replicates an original passageway light  –



Source: Restoration Hardware



The bulkhead light was originally placed on the inner walls (bulkheads) of a ship. The shapes of this style are rounded or oval, and the style is sometimes referred to as 4-bar or clamshell. Bulkhead lights can be installed alongside a entry door, or as a ceiling porch light, depending on the fixture’s size (we have seen them about 8” to 14” wide). This interesting reproduction is from Our Boathouse –



Source: Our Boathouse



How about a nautical-inspired outdoor ceiling light/fan like this one for a backyard pergola, a screened porch, or a covered outdoor living room, with a light that mimics a ship’s passageway light –



Source: Minka Aire



One of the most interesting nautical light fixtures we came across is the convoy sconce. Its history, relayed by Restoration Hardware, is that the convoy sconce was at one time color-coded and was used to convey important messages and signals to “Allied ships and aircraft during wartime”. This convoy sconce light fixture by Restoration Hardware is just gorgeous  –



Source: Restoration Hardware



We couldn’t find what purpose the chain link at the bottom of the fixture was used for – perhaps to ‘anchor’ it to a chain so it wouldn’t sway?



Authentic Nautical Lighting Salvaged From Ships


Did you know that there are ship salvage businesses that buy authentic parts of ships when the ship goes to salvage? Many nautical enthusiasts love owning authentic maritime items, and would likely love perusing through the pages of these businesses’ websites.


These companies typically offer numerous types and designs of nautical lighting, and some may be a-one-of-a-kind item, or an item that sells out of their current salvaged stock.

This passageway light is creatively used here as a landscape light –



Source: Skip Jack Nautical Wares



Some of these fixtures may not have electrical wiring since they may have originally used oil, but many of the dealers offer wire installation (typically for an extra charge), and sometimes they recondition the fixture for a more polished look. The re-wiring should be UL listed, and, if the fixture will be used outdoors, it should be UL approved for wet and damp locations. If the fixture has old wiring in it, it really isn’t safe to use and should be professionally re-wired for safe use.


It would be amazing to have one of these authentic ship lights as an entry light, or used on a deck post or a dock piling, like this passageway light –



Source: DockLights



You can get very creative with how you use authentic nautical lighting. This convoy sconce (see brief history on this type of light above) would be perfect used at any entry door of the house.



Source: Our Boathouse



The anchor light, also know as a masthead light, was used to signal that the ship or boat was in anchor – this be great on top of a deck post –



Source: Skip Jack Nautical Wares



This bulkhead light could be mounted on a porch ceiling, and as a wall mounted light –



Source: Skip Jack Nautical Wares



Do you like the weathered or polished nautical decor look? If you didn’t know about the authentic nautical salvage businesses, we think you’ll have fun looking through their stock on their websites, and you’ll discover even more nautical salvage dealers than those we mentioned here in your search .





Kichler Seaside 9023 Outdoor Wall Lantern



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