Caribbean charm

We all have a favourite dream destination where we like to mentally travel when the weather and busy life schedules get the better of us.

Hand-painted details are everywhere from walls to unique pieces of furniture in this entrance hall.

Hand-painted details are everywhere from walls to unique pieces of furniture in this entrance hall.

We all have a favourite dream destination where we like to mentally travel when the weather and busy life schedules get the better of us.

For many, the idea of a tropical isle with visions of calm seas, pristine beaches and the heady scents of salt air combined effortlessly with dazzling shades of blue, green and coral, spell paradise.

The Caribbean is a destination that fulfills all the prerequisites of heaven on earth, and although we cannot import the weather or geography, we can enjoy the joyous sense of design and colour that is synonymous with the Islands’ lifestyle.

The architecture of homes throughout the Caribbean is diverse, determined by colonization from England, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Each culture brought its own criteria for house building and decoration, but these elements were blended with local design to suit the tropical environment.

You’ll find high ceilings, and lots of doors and windows to let in the breezes, but also shutters to protect interiors from the sun. Wide, sweeping verandas connect indoor and outdoor living and provide ample space to eat, sleep and play surrounded by the lush foliage, yet somewhat protected from the powerful sun.

At its heart, Caribbean decoration is simple, somewhat bold and cheerful, design qualities that work well in North American homes and cottages if you so choose.

The room pictured here is from Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean, photographs and writing by Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek.

They capture charming examples of the luscious colours, detailed trimwork and panelling, and heritage-style wood furnishings that make up the style.

The drawing room, part of St. Nicholas Abbey, which was built in 1658 in Barbados, has classic, dark stained hardwood floors, and cedar panelled walls. The moulding and trim are painted bright white to highlight the architectural lines and airy height of the room. Colours mingle and mix hot and cool – a fruity tangerine sofa, sky blue turquoise on the upper walls, and through the wide doorway a glimpse of deep coral red in the dining room.

Brightly tinted walls are often decorated with hand-painted designs and motifs. In the large home built on the Frizers Plantation in the 1920s, now being lovingly renovated by the Loftfield family, there is light and whimsy in every corner.

The homeowner painted a tree on the entrance hall wall to conceal cracks left by a devastating hurricane. Wood floors continue out onto the screened veranda, suiting the casual way of life.

You can opt to design just one room in your home with Island flair. In the bedroom, treat yourself to a magnificent headboard, reminiscent of the exotic hand carved, painted Balinese wood bed heads, or an oversized tooled leather mirror frame. Layer the bed with a colourful batik spread, and swag with panels of white netting.

If you love to cook sweet and spicy, that’s Caribbean style. Why not match up the decor with the cuisine? Paint the walls a bright lime green, add some scallops or gingerbread trim to shelves, look for an old wooden table you can redo with paint. Finish with colourful cotton fabric or ready-made cushions and a table cloth in candy colours that have tropical flowers, sea life or fruit motifs.

Children’s rooms are well suited to the fresh air, fun and fantasy of Island life.

It is an enchanting style that will always mean welcome.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.