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Home   »   Articles   »   Tropical Interiors : Living Harmoniously With Nature
Tropical Interiors : Living Harmoniously With Nature
by Tamara J. Archer  |  28th Oct 2012  |  Interior Design

Nestled among soaring palms, overlooking crystal clear turquoise waters, set atop a majestic hill or situated in luxuriantly vegetated countryside, the tropical home is an intrinsic element of its geographical region.

Seamlessly integrating with the aesthetic beauty of their surroundings, proper attention to interior detail and finishes is essential, in order to enjoy the full advantages of tropical living.

Careful selection of interior finishes, providing quality indoor air and allowing for energy conservation must be incorporated into the design of the tropical home to ensure optimal living conditions.

Tropical Interiors = Palm Trees

The Caribbean can offer tropical living at its best. A history of colonization in the Caribbean reveals a diverse unity of architectural characteristics. Each Caribbean island has its own unique personality and characteristics that distinguishes it from the rest.

Georgian and Jacobean architectural styles are dominant in Barbados; Dutch Colonial in Curacao; French Colonial in Haiti and Martinique, and Spanish Colonial in Trinidad and Jamaica are among some of the distinguishing styles.

Tropical living is easy-going and focuses on comfort that is low maintenance. The colours are influenced by palm trees, sunny skies, tropical surroundings, or deeper richer hues that reflect the regional culture.

Natural materials like bamboo, banana leaf, rattan, cane, and seagrass are woven to form tables, sofas and chairs upholstered with cotton and linen;  providing natural beauty, comfort and durability that withstand the tropical heat and humidity.

Tropical Interiors - Banana Leaf

Keeping heat out while making the best use of natural light can be challenging when designing homes in the Caribbean. Trade winds that blow for much of the year from the east, provide natural airflow through the home, making air conditioning unnecessary, but homes must be appropriately designed to utilize this system.

Minimizing windows on the east and west walls eliminates the low angle of the sun. Keeping the north and south walls open allows for cross-ventilation. Using decorative trims, louvered wood shutters and doors, the cool breeze of the Trades, is allowed to enter and flow through the home as well as filter bright sunlight. 

Large overhanging eaves can be used to protect the interior of the home from direct sunlight during the day.  Using simple window treatments like shutters and shades will help block the afternoon heat.

Tropical Interiors - Caribbean Bedroom Interior

Creating a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces is important in Caribbean home design. The verandah blends elements of both and can be lavishly furnished, becoming the decorative showcase of the house.

The verandah is where visitors are met and often entertained. On Spanish and French influenced islands like Trinidad and St. Vincent, the verandah overlooks the street, whereas on English influenced islands like Barbados, it is often more enclosed and located at the side or rear of the house.

The verandah is like an outdoor living room that provides shading and cooling of the indoors with tropical views, sounds and smells of the outdoors.  It is a place where families gather to relax, eat and drink, friends are entertained and kids play.

Tropical Interiors - Caribbean Bedroom Interior

At first glance tropical design may seem to be just simply decorative and colourful but every element of tropical design aside from its aesthetic qualities has a purpose which focuses on comfort, well-being and protection from climatic elements. Brightly coloured façades protect from heat while decorative finishes filter sun and allow air to circulate.

Warm sunny weather, breathtaking views, oceans, sandy beaches, and tropical vegetation makes it easier for people in the tropics to live a much simpler and more relaxing life that is closer to nature than their northern counterparts. Safely and effectively bringing the outdoors inside, is the key to tropical design.

The best tropical design is one that is well thought-out and maximizes the positive aspects of tropical living and minimizes the negative ones, making life in the tropics comfortable, healthy and enjoyable.


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