Affordable Boat Decor: How to make any boat feel more like a houseboat

Post by - Published on 06/30/21 12:59 PM

Not everyone can take that plunge though. The liveaboard daydream also comes with some very real sacrifices and hard work. But even if you’re not cut out for fully moving to sea, there are elements of style we can borrow from liveaboard life to make any boat feel more like home - even if only for a daytrip. 

Here’s our list of the top design updates to make your boat feel more homey without a huge price tag.

Pick an specific color palate for your boat

Most boat decor comes down to buying whatever object was needed at whatever moment in whatever color they had it.  As a result, your boat can end up looking like sort of a mishmash. Part of what pulls houseboats together is that the designers treat it like they’re designing a home. They establish a color palate and stick to it. And while, yes, it may be tough to find life jackets in magenta or chartreuse (no, wait, I take that back). Having some consistent and complementary colors throughout all your boat accents can really make a difference.  


One way to start choosing your color palette is to use a free tool like this one from Adobe. Though not specifically made for boats, this is pretty much a universal design tool that enables you to upload a photo of your favorite colors - maybe it’s your harbor at sunset, maybe it’s a photo of your actual house - and see that photo transformed into a color set complete with hex codes. From there you can pick a primary color and secondary colors from which to select your decor. 

color theme


Get Mood Lighting

Picture this. You’re sitting on your mooring, the sun has just finished setting and the water has that perfect calmness to it. You can see the shore, but you’re not ready to go in for the day, so you crack open your cooler and flick on a set of string lights. Are you relaxed yet?  The right lighting makes a setting instantly warmer. If lighting is serving a functional purpose and you’re spending a lot of evenings in  your boat, you’ll want to install lighting just as a houseboat would, using LED light fixtures to keep your battery life longer.  If you’re really just looking for lighting as an accent though, and you want to keep your budget small, you can simply add a battery operated string of lights to your interior. The battery life on these are clearly limited, but for the occasional recreational use - you can’t beat the look, simplicity or cost of some warm white or multicolored lights beneath your bimini. These are easy enough to find in your local store or on Amazon or Etsy.


Create a Soundtrack

Ambiance isn’t just about visual details, it’s about the way your boat feels when you’re on it. Maybe you prefer the serenity of the water and wind alone, but if music makes you feel at home, speakers are your next stop in making your everyday boat feel like a houseboat. The decision between installing speakers into your boat vs just bringing on a portable, waterproof bluetooth speaker comes down to sound quality and cost.

Sound quality: Bluetooth speakers are perfect for sitting at dock or mooring relaxing. If you want music while you’re underway however, installed speakers may be better for hearing your music above the water. It’ s less about volume levels than it is about having the speakers integrated through various places in your boat.  

Cost: A waterproof bluetooth speaker is going to cost you between $50 and $150. Having a sound system installed is going to run at a much higher range, at the inexpensive end around $1500 and running up steeply from there. 

Three words: Waterproof Throw Pillows

Okay, I know I just lost about 50 percent of you who don't get the allure of decorative pillows, but if you're looking for something to make your boat feel more like a liveaboard, a couple of thoughtfully selected pillows or outdoor cushions aren't a bad way to go. Plus, they'll keep your kids from snoozing on their lifejackets in the cuddy.  If you're crafty, Sailing Britican provides a good guide here for making your own boat pillows. If not, you can find a range of them in your color palate across Amazon, Etsy, and companies like Seabags of Maine.

Hinckley-on-NantucketPhoto by Stacey Bewkeys 

Get Clever with Boat Organization

Over time, boats get messy. Lines spill out, fishing gear gets left around, and all that clutter can make your boat less a less welcoming place to be. Investing in some organizational and storage gear for your boat can change that around.  

Line Straps like these will keep your lines clean and accessible. ($31)

The "Docktail Bar": This one is a bit pricier, but too clever not to include. This tray will hold all of your guests' drinks, snacks and supplies even in choppy water. ($239)

Stylish waterproof storage bins: These bins have waterproof PE Lining that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth for easy cleaning as needed ($15)blog banner 1

Boat Accents

Relatively small dollar purchases can round out your cozy liveaboard inspired redecoration.  Here are a few more of our favorites from Etsy. 

Fender and Buoy Covers: Customize these to match your color palate and boat name.  ($15)

Welcome Mat:  It doesn't matter if you're driving a 60 ft yacht or a 20 ft center console, a welcome mat will make you smile (and keep you from slipping) every time you set foot on your boat.  ($21)

Boat Grill: So maybe your boat doesn't have a kitchen, but that doesn't mean you can't cook out.  Add this shining grill attachment and you're one step closer to the pseudo-liveaboard life. ($219)Untitled design

This is at least a starting place to help make your boat feel more like a home.  The rest - and the best - of it will come from your own vision and taste.  Have you put your own personal touch on your boat decor? We'd love to see it.  Follow us on instagram and tag us in your comment so we can see your designs! 


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