The British Colonial style has always been a favorite of mine, but as with everything, a little context is sometimes needed to really understand its origins and evolution of a style. Ready for a little history? Let’s do this!
The British were forerunners of the Colonial, also called Plantation, style where they left many of their interior decorating influences in their colonies around the world from Calcutta (then Fort William), India, to the West Indies, Singapore, and Caribbean islands such as Barbados, Turks & Caicos, Trinidad & Tobago, and the British Virgin Islands. Mixing in with the local aesthetics and needs that were guided by the tropical climate, the style that resulted was a blend of island style and English sophistication.
Here are 7 of the hallmarks of this unique style that can be replicated, and updated, to then be brought into your decor.
Since wood expands and contracts with temperature changes, much of the furniture is made from natural grasses, bamboo and rattan to allow for such movement. For an updated look, look for oversized straw suspensions and bamboo chairs with a woven plastic seat instead of the traditional caning and weaving. On that subject, I love the Riviera chairs from Serena & Lily that epitomize the British Colonial style with a healthy dose of French bistro too. Also, introduce a ton woven grass baskets for storage and texture and natural sisal to cover the bare floors.
Animal print fabrics
“Collectors who helped create this style traveled all around the world, bringing back authentic textiles from Asia, India, Africa and the Caribbean. Botanical prints, paisleys, ikats and animal prints in lighter weight cottons and linens were in heavy demand. ” – Houzz.
Make these prints modern and fresh by introducing them in small quantities on throw pillows and accents that you can sprinkle throughout the room on solid colours furniture.
Ceiling fans, mosquito nets, and shutters
Probably the most ubiquitous elements of island style decor, these items are not the surest of bets for our North American homes built on deeply frozen land four to five months of the year. Put a twist on those staple with variations that bring in the same visual value with more adaptability to local climate.
Instead of shutters, go for airy white (or cream) curtains hung from the ceiling to increase the height of the ceiling. Mosquito nets are super cool but maybe instead of shrouding your nordic bed in them, how about creating a mesh canopy in the playroom or bedroom of your little ones? As for ceiling fans, well they are what they are, a bit of an eyesore in a decor. Unless your home is an oven in the summer, remove them completely and replace them instead with an original, and ideally large, suspension or chandelier. Spheres add a lot of softness to a room while filling the negative space left between the furnishings and the ceiling.
“The Brits were fascinated with the local flora and fauna in their new surroundings, and often brought them into their houses. Potted plants, ferns and palms added the incredible drama of the tropics to these elegant homes.” – Houzz
For a taste of the tropics into your home, bring in some large size potted plants such as: a Fiddle-leaf fig tree ficus (a bloggers favorite), an Areca palm, a Jade plant, or even a Philodendron that is both common to find, fairly inexpensive to acquire and super hard to kill. Forego the traditional terracotta planter and opt instead for a basket which adds more texture and casualness to the room.
Life flows at a slower pace in the islands, with less formalities and covenants. To embrace fully the plantation style and yet bring it into the twenty first century, invest in sure fire materials and shapes in the kitchen and let the room breathe instead by keeping it open and accessible.
Case in point: a black and white palette is both graphic and current and yet is the perfect vehicle to showcase the open shelves filled with artfully displayed white dishes and serving plates. The subway tiles are inexpensive and readily available and yet pack a tried and true punch in terms of design. Finally, a “kick ass” kitchen island is a must for casual Al Fresco dinners and cooking sessions with friends and family.
In true English tradition, abundant decorative adornments are a staple of English architecture. If you have them, keep ’em! They are hard to replicate, expensive to purchase and they elevate any room from ordinary to elegant and memorable. For a fresher, more current look, paint them white and glossy. You can even dare (I strongly encourage you to) to paint the ceiling a contrasting moody colour such as black, anthracite, navy, or espresso.
Light and airy colours
Light and neutral shades adorned the walls of a traditional British Colonial interior. These airy hues helped colonial house-dwellers psychologically combat the overwhelming tropical heat. Bringing it back to 2016, focus on subtle shades inspired by the tropics such as: pale greens, blues (always, everywhere!), tans (ideally not so much on walls but rather on flooring, furnishings and accents, creams and whites (loads of them!) will contrast beautifully against darker furnishings.
source: Micasa Revista1