My children are home on fall break this week so I hope you will enjoy this post on British Colonial Design that originally ran on July 18, 2008. I have updated information and provided a few new photos for Day 8 British Colonial Style.
A reader recently requested a post on British Colonial Style and Decor. She is currently in the midst of redecorating her home and wanted a few ideas.
Day 8 British Colonial Style
If you are a regular reader of my blog you may be aware that I like to provide the history on how styles are created. British Colonial Style and Decor (BCSD) came about in the late 19th century. Under the reign of Queen Victoria, the vast British Empire (shown in red) had reached parts of North and South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
British colonists and military members generally enjoyed the travel. But they often desired to bring the comforts of their homeland with them. They soon found that much of their British furniture warped due to softwood being unable to withstand the humid tropical climates. Native craftsman began to recreate the British designs using local materials such as ebony, teak, mahogany, rattan, wicker, and animal hide. They would often add their own flourishes such as the carved pineapple. The melding of British, Asian, African and Indian motifs resulted in British Colonial Style and Decor.
A home belonging to British designer George Cooper still has 10 acres devoted to the cultivation of tea. The bedroom features wide windows framed with shutters. The ebony bed is draped in mosquito netting. While this is an attractive feature, in this part of the world they are also quite functional. During the colonization period, fear of malaria was a valid concern. The club chairs are made of teak. You can see Turkish and Persian influences in the linens.
Hallmarks of British Colonial Design
High ceilings and fans with wide blades are commonplace in British Colonial decor. Their original purpose was to help keep the open and airy spaces cool. Notice the plantation chairs with their sloped backs and low seats. This design symbolizes West Indies style.
Flora and fauna were enjoyed both indoors and out. Botany was a popular hobby during the time of the Victorians. So it stands to reason that enjoying their tropical surroundings would be quite a prevalent activity in many British Colonial households.
The Montpelier Plantation Inn is located on the island of Nevis. It is a former British colony near Antigua in the West Indies. It was built in the 18th century as a sugar plantation. The pineapple fabric is from Brunschwig & Fils. Sofa cushion fabrics from Verelde Belval.
Flowing drapery, made of a lightweight cotton, linen and occasionally silk, is a hallmark of BCSD. Walls are generally painted in various light neutral colors.
British Colonial Bungalow
This home in Singapore was originally built for senior officials in the British military in the 1940’s. This style of home is aptly named a black and white bungalow. The word “bungalow” incidentally is a Hindu word. British Colonial homes often feature wide verandas and large shuttered windows. Homes were often built on a stilted or raised foundation. This was an effort to make it more difficult for the local wildlife (yes, snakes) to enter the home.
It is not uncommon for windows to have shutters as the only form of window dressing. A light palette of whites, beige’s and browns were used in BCSD which was a sharp contrast to the dark, heavy colors favored back in England. The neutral colors provided a visually cooler appearance that paired well with the dark flooring and furnishings. Also, given the far-off locations, various materials and dyes were not as readily available.
British Colonial Accessories
A much-needed accessory in British Colonial homes were candles. Even after the installation of electricity, power could sometimes be intermittent. Homeowners enjoyed sharing their travel and education through the display of books, globes, telescopes, and framed maps. Decorative items from other cultures were collected and integrated into the decor. Bamboo blinds and sisal rugs worked well in the often harsh conditions.
Once you have an understanding of the elements in British Colonial design you can then incorporate your own preferences (break the rules).
Elements of British Colonial are evident in this space but lighter wood tones are used.
The canopied bed offers a different take from traditional mosquito netting.
A British Colonial Kitchen.
Two bathrooms with touches of British Colonial style.
For additional information on BCSD I recommend the books Island Life and Island Style by India Hicks and her partner, David Flint Wood. Ms. Hicks is the daughter of renowned designer David Hicks. This former bridesmaid of Lady Diana Spencer is also the maternal granddaughter of Lord Mountbatten. He was the last Viceroy of the British Indian Empire. She truly possesses British Colonial design savvy.
Ms. Hicks gorgeous home is located in the Bahamas.
Another great book is The Romance of British Colonial Style by Tricia Foley. It is currently out of print but can be found in second-hand shops as well as numerous online sources.
Several furniture companies have B.C. inspired furniture lines: Ethan Allen, Thomasville, and British Colonial Imports. Lexington carries the Tommy Bahama line. I often also see pieces at thrift stores and discount department stores such as Home Goods.