With so many home mortgages underwater, perhaps it's little wonder that interior designers have found inspiration in the murky depths of the sea. Let's call it turning a negative into a positive.
The rustic, woodsy themes of the fall and winter have given way to crisp, blue nautical themes that are expected to dominate home decor for the next few months at national retail outlets like Target as well as small chains and locally owned shops.
"Nautical is super-trendy right now," said Gary Godby, a manager at Trohv, a home store with locations in Hampden and Washington. "It's gotten super-popular. It's cute. It makes people anticipate the warm weather a little more."
At a recent home furnishings trade show in Atlanta, he was struck by all of the water-inspired decor items, including throw pillows adorned by underwater creatures and accent pieces decorated with shells, rope and other objects associated with the sea. Godby said he knew he could have fun with the latest trend, starting with something as simple as a fresh coat of paint.
Godby said colors such as light blue, gray and other "beachier colors" are the way to go.
"It's the easiest way to change a room," he said.
You can commit all the way and transform your room into a sea-inspired getaway. Or you can take a more conservative approach and scatter a few nautical items about.
Stebbins Anderson, located in the Shops at Kenilworth, has gone hook, line and sinker for the trend. The showroom is filled with nautical finds, including seashell lamps and elaborate living room setups that look right out of an issue of Coastal Living.
"We're really doing well with it," said Liz Roberts, buyer for Stebbins Anderson, adding that the nautical trend has been a few years in the making for the home-furnishings and hardware store.
"It's kind of an evolving category for us," she said. "This year, we saw it more than normal. Because of the popularity of the Maryland crab, we set up a display area and kept it."
Roberts recommends that customers take one room and transform it using the nautical theme. In her home, she decorated her bathroom in a beach motif. "Have fun with it," Roberts said. "Treat it like you are on vacation."
If you can't commit fully, Roberts suggested, incorporate accent pieces such as pillows, throws or picture frames. "Complement the furniture and don't overtake it," she said.
Godby suggests using painted furniture to achieve a seaside feel.
"Painted furniture in distressed colors such as white, light blue and yellow give you that beach house look," he said. "In fact, I've had several people use those items [furniture in distressed colors] for their beach house."
Dee Cunningham, owner of Delight Designs, opts for an artistic approach with paint. The Ellicott City-based decorative artist incorporated a custom art piece that included a stylized whale and toy chest for a project she completed recently at a Locust Point home.
Cunningham also recommends focusing on accessories. Add pops of fun and color with whimsical items, keeping the room's larger basic pieces in neutral hues.
"Themed rooms get really old, really quick," she said. "You don't want to be stuck with something."