Bring charm of Caribbean into your home

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - DEBBIE TRAVIS

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 ful­fils 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 Nether- lands. 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 rooms pic­tured here are 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 trim work 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, sky­blue 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 dé­cor 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 table­cloth 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.

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