I’m busy reading E.M Forster’s A Passage to India and find myself day dreaming of balmy days & breezy nights, sipping G&T’s on checkered floor verandas filled with & big potted palms and deep comfy cane sofas…. Just a perfect setting for another post on our ‘Decoding’ instalments. This time up: Colonial Style.
Seeing this is quite a hefty topic to tackle, I’ll be breaking it down into the relevant Colonial Styles, ie. Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch. But first up, we’ll be ‘de-coding’ British Colonial Style. Where did Colonial style originate? Colonists of course, are to be thanked for this style and it all starts with where their flag gets planted!
Colonial architecture is an architectural style from a mother country that has been incorporated into the buildings of settlements or colonies in distant locations. The colonists built a settlement that synthesised the architecture of their countries of origin with the design characteristics of their new lands, creating a hybrid designs.
But of course, it is much more than that. It is the fusion of food, fashion, lifestyle and sometimes love, that brings forth something beautiful and unique but always with a little mystique and a touch of the exotic….
British Colonial Style
So as we know, the Brits were quite good at the flag planting game, and can possibly considered the leaders of the pack, whilst gathering some exotic jewels in their crown such as South Africa, India, Jamaica, Kenya, West Indies, Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and Singapore. Although all of these countries have since received independence, the colonial influence still lingers and makes for something really special.
What is find specifically interesting, is the blending of British influence of the coastal- and island colonies, compared to that of the inland colonies, in terms of colour treatment and furniture choices – it always seems to be ever so subtle and never forced, just the perfect mixture of formal Britishness and with an air of relaxedness the relevant colony brings to the party. A true match made in heaven.
Coastal British Colonial Style
As with all of the Colonial styles, most were born out of a sense of practicality, rather than aiming for a certain style. Weather conditions played a big part in forming the style, taking in consideration that these exotic coastal regions had their fair share of extreme weather conditions – torrential rain storms, typhoons, humidity & heat waves that would make many a pinkish Brit want to hitch a boat ride back to the Big Smoke.
What elements can we consider to be traditional for describing this style?
Dark Floors & -Furniture
Of course it makes more sense to use locally available wood, such as teak & mahogany, to manufacture furniture, but still paying homage to its traditional British roots – furniture was still fairly formal & traditional in style, but carried elements in the form of carvings of the colony of origin.
Also aptly called ‘hurricane shutters’, something the colonists adopted from the locals. Not only brilliant for privacy, but also for controlling harsh sunlight, but still allowing a natural breeze, definitely required for those stifling hot days and nights. And they are on permanent storm duty, for when required. Not to mention the architectural value they add to any house – always beautiful.
High rafter ceilings – to help combat the heat!
Wide porticos/verandas – no other way the pinkish Brits could cope – always dotted with locally manufactured cane furniture, mostly painted white, or otherwise left untreated.
Cool flooring – think screed floors, beautiful mosaic or classic black & white checkered tile flooring on verandas.
Dealing with the heat
White on White
Wall treatment, linen, slipcovered furniture, you’ll find mostly in white or shade thereof. Another way of helping with the stifling heat and to keep rooms feeling light, airy & ‘breathing’ – and to keep mozzies at bay. What is prettier than a mozzie net draped bed? Also of course plays off lovely against the dark floors and furniture. How gorgeous are these candlewick covered bed throws and Mosquito nets by Thom Sheerer?
Beautiful to look at and what better way to fall asleep, with that ‘swoosh swoosh’- sound above your head. You’ll love it, the mozzies not.
source: hibiscushillharbour island
Bring the Outside In
Potted plants, ferns, a lovely orchid or bowl of local fruit, can be even prettier than a bouquet of flowers – and way more fitting in its environment – and will last longer. Promise you, your rose bowl would not live through the afternoon, but your curated bowl of pineapples, will definitely see you through the next days’ lunch – before it gets chomped up and becomes lunch.
Embrace Natural Textures
Think baskets, woven grass carpets (perfect for dealing with sea sand) and cane furniture. Grasscloth-covered walls – just the best! Get the beach on your walls, without the hassle of dealing with the sand.
Its these elements, that truly brings this style to life for me. And the most obvious – readily available, cheap and practical. Ever tried getting sea sand off a persian carpet – I’m just saying….
How gorgeous are these grass baskets used as lampshades? Danish fashion designer, Marlene Birger’s beach house on St. Barth’s.
Cabinet of Curiosities
Set your inner Jacques Cousteau free – collect interesting found items – shells, driftwood, momentos – anything that tells your story. It not only creates interest, but makes the most beautiful ‘tablescapes’. Or try it as a wallpaper in a guest cloakroom. Anything flotsam and jetsam would work! And we all sometimes get stuck with the odd-no-talking-dinner-guest – at least you’ll have something to talk about – or pour yourself another Gin, if all else fails……
Take your Colour Queue from Nature
What shade of blue there is not to like? Don’t forget about the sorbet colours – love the coral pinks, and any, any shade of teal. Use it in unexpected places – soft coral on walls in a dining room, or a strong teal in a guest cloakroom. Always makes for a lovely surprise and contracts beautifully with all the white-on-white shades.
source: apartment theraphy
source: the glam pad
Plant your Flag
I just love any old flag, the more tattered, the better. Display it somewhere unexpected – in a nice frame in a bathroom, on a scatter pillow…… set your inner-colonist free – planting that flag lends character and charm and the more unexpected its place, the better.
source: the dust jacket attic
Well you got there by boat after all? Bring some nautical elements inside – rope, ships window as a bathroom mirror, mounted antique telescopes, model boats – anything that says ship and sea.
Next post up: I’ll be taking you an a tour of a colonial that managed to tick all of these style boxes…..in bucket loads!
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