8 Chic Island Style Decorating Tips
Manhattan-based designer Lien Luu does her homework. Case in point: When her client wanted his Anguilla beach home to feel like a Moorish-style oasis, she went straight to the source, embarking on a two-week research and buying trip in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. "It's nearly impossible not to be inspired by the whitewashed, centuries-old aesthetic," says Luu, who returned with heaps of hand-carved antiques and embroidered textiles.
"The native style can be a little ornate and heavy, so my formula for making the Moroccan goods work in an island setting is to go as light as possible with the palette and really focus on a feeling of serenity." This meant leaning heavily on romantic pastels and organic materials, such as natural woods and metals, and balancing the elaborate patterns with large swaths of white. The result is a retreat that feels both remote and beautifully refined.
In this guest bedroom, the carved detailing on an antique bedside table layers in three-dimensional pattern alongside a Bergamo silk headboard and stenciled dressing panel.
Next: Luu's eight great tips for bringing global flourish and a faraway spirit to your beach house without disrupting its easygoing island style.
1. Simplify the Outdoors
Against a killer ocean view, outdoor living spaces don't need a heavy decorating hand. Luu furnished the outdoor dining room with synthetic wicker chairs and a mahogany table. With the smoky taupe tile flooring, the shades of camel warm the poolside pavilion.
2. Skip the Chandeliers
Luu bypassed overhead lighting in most rooms in favor of antique lamps, like vintage candelabras (left), and plaster wall sconces handcrafted using local shells as molds (opposite). The ambient lighting dials up the romance of Luu's soft pastel palette. "If you study Anguilla closely," she notes, "you'll find an entire pastel rainbow—golden sand, pink shells, even hints of purple in the water."
3. Don’t Fear White Walls
More: Gorgeous White Rooms
"In a modern house with so many interesting patterns and colors, bright white walls are the key to a breezy, cohesive look," says Luu, who used Extra White by Sherwin-Williams for the entire 5,000-square-foot home. "Pure whites can come off cold in homes without a lot of sunlight, but here, where natural light is so plentiful, the shade really allows rooms to shine."
4. Create Tiny Escapes
Luu designed in-suite lounge areas for each bedroom. In these guest quarters, dubbed "The Pink Room," Luu outfitted the built-in seating nook with a custom tufted cushion made from Italian cotton and an assortment of embroidered pillows from Morocco. (The tables were also custom made there.) Bergamo linen curtains trimmed in vintage silk frame the alcove.
5. Bring Back Ancient Designs
The most prized items from Luu's Marrakesh expedition are vintage pattern books filled with Moorish motifs, which she used to inspire floor-to-ceiling stenciled geometrics in a powder room (top left), a stenciled dressing panel in a guest room (top right), and a bedroom wall pattern (bottom row). "The patterns read like a wallpaper, but with more softness and subtle variation," Luu says.
6. Reflect Celestial Symbols
Luu had this mirror custom made to depict the ancient star-and-crescent design that has long been a symbol of sun, moon, and sky worship in central Asian and north African countries (like Morocco). Luu paired the celestial design with a vintage table in the same shade of pink and a collection of old vase paintings she found at the Paris Flea Market.’
7. Go Light on the Window Treatments
"In the islands you want to show off the scenery, so I try to forgo heavy window treatments in favor of more lightweight fabrics—if I use them at all!" says Luu. In fact, the only places she hung draperies are the bedrooms, where sheer linen panels serve as a beautiful filter for the Anguilla sunlight and afford just the right amount of privacy.
8. Roll Out a Subtle Rug
More: Coastal Dining Rooms
To complement the stone floor tile, Luu chose light rugs with muted color gradients. "They have a softness to them, both in design and feel," Luu says. In the dining room, for example, a blue wool rug is layered atop the earthy floors and also forms a soft foundation for natural Holly Hunt oak chairs and a sideboard—the combo, notes the designer, is reminiscent of a pool of water amid the sand. The Pollack upholstery fabric echoes that same watery sense of serenity. The table lamp and 60-inch brass tray are vintage, and the silk pendant light is by Fortuny.