If you like to achieve the tropic vibe but you’re not inclined to the South Beach pastels, the plantation style of interior decoration might be perfect for you. This style blends the traditional, heavier colonial elements and the lightness of the island and seaside elements. It is rooted in the 17th and 18th century British, French and Dutch colonial plantations in the Caribbean and tropical locations in Southeast Asia.
The plantation style developed when the English, French, and Dutch colonists settled in the West and East Indies and in African and Southeast Asian territories. They brought their formal, European furnishing designs with them, but the woods that are used to create them were either unavailable or undesirable because they don’t hold up in the humidity of the tropics. The colonists began to craft their traditional-style furniture using locally sourced woods, and the residents added their own carvings to the pieces to create items that combine traditional European design and tropical motifs.
If you’re renovating your home or building a new home and you would like to adopt this interior style, here are some design tips to help you achieve that:
1. Keep the walls cool
The exterior of a plantation style home is typically (and originally) made of white-washed stucco, but there are also some that are made of brick. For the interior walls, white is the traditional color used, but you can also use pale cool colors such as light shades of blue and green. These colors also work for your ceilings.
2. Get some dark and sophisticated furniture
Plantation-style furniture pieces are sophisticated and rich, and they are typically in dark wood colors to serve as an anchor for the cool and light backdrop. Dark tropical woods like mahogany, teak, ebony, and rattan are used in making furniture pieces. Popular furniture styles used in plantation homes include traditional designs like Chippendale, Queen Anne, Hepplewhite, and Empire. These styles feature carved English styles, ornate detailing, fluted columns, elegant and slender curves, cabriole legs and traditional craftings like mortise-and-tenon joinery, which are mixed with native tropical motifs like flowers, sunbursts, and fruits carved on furniture. Common furnishings in plantation style homes include four-poster beds, wing-back chairs, oversized chairs, and vintage steamer trunks.
3. Adapt a color scheme inspired by nature, flowers and beach-inspired items
Once you have found a perfect wall color, work with a neutral color scheme inspired by the colors of nature. Using your upholstery, fabrics or other accessories, incorporate colors like deep ocean blue, light sky blue, forest green, emerald green, deep rose, pale mauve, velvet purple, and pale lavender. Add some accents in sunny yellow, mustard yellow, poppy red or coral. Don’t forget to incorporate earthy browns, beige and tan by using organic materials like woven shades, sisal mats, and grasscloth wallpaper. Then, add natural greenery by using indoor palms and ferns.
4. Get some cozy upholstery
Upholstery for plantation style houses tends to be cozy and overstuffed. They feature curvy lines, just like that of traditional décor pieces. Damask is the preferred fabric for the chairs, though sometimes velvet, French tapestries, and English Chintz were used. Rattan accent chairs with white cushions are very much welcome, especially for balconies and porches. On the floor below the couch, place cool sisal rugs, then install breezy sheer curtains on the windows around.
5. Install hardwood flooring
The most common type of floors in plantation style homes is hardwood floors. They can be made of oak or pine, as these trees are abundant on plantation lands. These are either covered in expensive wool rugs like Aubusson rugs or local sisal rugs. This adds a sense of warmth and homey vibe to the interiors. For entrance halls, it is common to feature Italian marble floors that continue up to the main staircase.
6. Keep your entrance hall grand
Because plantation owners are wealthy, their homes are quite large and are typically grand. The entrance hall was very important because it serves as a reception area where guests are greeted and entertained, as well as to make an impression of wealth. The spacious entrance hall was also part of the design of the homes to provide natural ventilation. One major focal point in this area was the curved staircase leading to the second floor. This is typically placed opposite the double door entrance to make a grand visual effect. This helps the owners make a grand entrance as they greet their guests to start the party they are hosting.
If you’re building a plantation style home, pay extra attention to your entrance hall. Make sure you have a curving staircase with wrought iron or baluster railing. Hang an elegant crystal or wrought iron chandelier in your ceiling.
7. Keep ceilings high (with a ceiling fan) and coffered
Ceilings of a plantation style home must be high, with no less than 12 feet. This is a way for plantation homeowners to stay cool during the summer. Ceilings are typically coffered or feature gorgeous detailing, so if your existing ceiling isn’t coffered, you can still install some details. Also, ceiling fans are a must-have for plantation-style home. Choose those with palm or paddle style blades to blend with the tropical vibe.
8. Use granite or marble for your countertops
Your plantation kitchen must look traditional, classic and quietly luxurious. To achieve this, install granite or marble countertops, then use dark wood for your kitchen cabinets. Choose facets and other fixtures that have elegant handles.
9. Place some plantation shutters for your windows
A plantation house begs for classic plantation shutters. It’s also one of the signatures looks for this decorating style. These provide privacy and cross ventilation with the drapes open, and can easily blend in any room.
10. Hang lanterns
Large, stunning lantern sconces and pendant lights are the perfect lighting fixtures for a plantation home, especially in porches and dining areas. Pick one in dark colors like black, gray or dark brown.
11. Add accessories that depict natural tropical scenes
In decorating a plantation style home, think natural. Look for table lamps with a pineapple or pine tree in its design or a rope wrapped around the base. Hang framed wall art that features beaches, ocean scenes, birds, fish, palm trees or tropical flowers. Display vintage tribal masks, rattan baskets with tropical fruits, and silk version of tropical flowers like hibiscus, orchids, and bromeliads. It’s best to display these items on top of your European traditional or antique furniture for contrast.