1000s of Items In-Stock Now. Looking for Inspiration? Browse our Latest Catalogs Here.
Blog home >
By Leah A. Zeldes, Tribune Brand Publishing
Nothing says "tropical" like palm trees, white wicker furniture and bright, splashy floral prints, right?
That's one kind of tropical style, but there are many others. "If you travel to the British West Indies, you're going to see tropical furniture with a dark finish and a more formal
look," said Syril Lebbad, a designer with Baer's, a collection of fine furniture stores with locations throughout Florida. "Tropical happens all over the world."
The "tropics" isn't just one country or even one era, and tropical decor can range from comfy and casual to sophisticated and elegant. Formal British and Spanish colonial styles can be just as tropical as the barefoot beach look,
surfer chic and kitschy tiki designs.
When "the sun never set on the British Empire," English-style furnishings were adapted for tropical conditions and native materials around the world: the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, India, Hong Kong, Ceylon, the Middle East and more.
The wide-ranging Britons carried their home style as they traveled. Classic campaign chests and lightweight expeditionary items went with them, and they picked out what they liked from wherever they landed.
"British colonists and military members enjoyed the travel but often desired to bring the comforts of their homeland with them," writes designer Laura Ingalls Gunn, author of "Decor to Adore." However, the woods native to Britain
used in the furnishings did not stand up well to the tropical weather.
"Native craftsman began to recreate the British designs using local materials such as ebony, teak, mahogany, rattan, wicker, and animal hide. They would often add their flourishes such as the carved pineapple. The melding of British,
Asian, African and Indian motifs resulted in British Colonial style and d?cor," said Gunn.
Spain and France also had had colonies in the tropics and brought their influences to furnishings there. These colonial forms were further refined as the colonies grew and became vacation destinations. The historical designs have been
continually adapted to meet modern tastes and needs. The steampunk trend – design influenced by the look of steam-powered machinery with a hint of science fiction – has influenced home design as well, prompting a new interest in Victoriana
and British Colonial decor.
You don't have to stick to a particular geographic theme, advised Lebbad. You can mix and match, as long as you stick to similar colors and finishes. "The whole idea is a related look. The pieces should look as if they were acquired
through travel," she says. "A little eclectic."
Creating a geographical theme goes beyond picking out furniture and includes layout, lighting and accessories. A room in Hawaii would not be arranged the same as one in Singapore. You might evoke a distant climate with framed maps
, photos and other artifacts from a region.
Today's furniture manufacturers use mahogany, bamboo, rattan, woven wicker and raffia (and durable synthetic lookalikes), among other materials, to recreate retro looks, as well as furniture with internationally influenced contemporary
designs. Lebbad said the Tommy Bahama line from Lexington Brands, which offers 17 collections of indoor and outdoor ensembles, is based on
different historical and geographic styles from Hawaii to Kilimanjaro.
If you’re looking for Tommy Bahama furnishings, all paths should lead to Baer’s, which is the largest dealer of
Tommy Bahama furniture in the world, offering an A-to-Z collection of Tommy Bahama items all in one place.
Nothing on this page may be copied or reproduced without explicit permission.