DSCN7216_2“The Caribbean interior design style is a potent mix of European and African cultures, exotic tropical atmosphere and relaxed, away from it all informality. The feel is sun-drenched, breezy and clean, the perfect style for a getaway vacation home, preferably near a white sandy beach, where the temperature is always in the mid 70s.

“When the imperial powers of Europe settled the many islands that dot the Caribbean Sea, they did their best to bring their culture with them, including architecture and interior design. The Africans slaves they transported to the islands made an equally dramatic contribution to the cultural mix. And, of course, the climate was a strong influence. Out of this stew emerged what we now call Caribbean style.

“Light, bright colors feature the turquoise blue of the sea and sky, the vivid green of lush foliage, the reds and yellows of tropical fruit, and the whites of the ubiquitous beaches. Natural tropical woods like bamboo, teak, rosewood, and mahogany predominate. Furniture is be made of woven materials like wicker, rattan, cane and seagrass. Oversize coffee tables are covered in raffia. Highlighting the dining room is a large refrectory table with benches for an informal feel. The table can also be sectional so that it can be used for more practical entertaining. Floors are made of the aforementioned indigenous woods, or terracotta tile or stone, and are covered by sisal or jute rugs. Lighting is provided by floor lamps and sconces constructed of metal or frosted glass.

“Stucco walls are painted in bright colors or, for a more colonial style, wood paneled. Architectural wood ceilings add a more formal look, and large, open verandas bring the beautiful outside environment into the living space. The windows are shuttered on the outside and covered in simple sheer fabrics on the inside, and there must be ceilings fans gently washing the rooms in a light breeze. Fabrics emphasize the tropical flora, with brightly colored patterns of orchids, hibiscus and palm.

“Accessorizing in the Caribbean style means an abundance of large terracotta or stone planters with palm or other oversize tropical plants, large glass jars with shell collections and oversize candlesticks. Accessories featuring fish, coral, tropical birds and animals are also popular.

“When I’m designing vacation homes in the Caribbean style three attributes are paramount. The space must be especially comfortable, to ensure that the relaxation promised by the getaway is complete. It must be designed for entertaining, so that when friends and family arrive the space is open and the layout encourages large groups to gather. And it must be practical; easy to use and easy to keep clean, because a holiday is not meant to be spent worrying about breakages or stains. This is one reason I tend to use Sunbrella fabrics, which prevent sun fading and clean easily.

“The goal is for the homeowner to be able to sit on the veranda, sipping a tall tropical drink, sitting on a comfortably oversize wicker chair with deep, soft cushions, reading a trashy novel without a care in the world.”

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