Add warmth and romance to any room with island-inspired ideas.

By Coastal Living
August 12, 2008
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Think Comfortable
Bruce Buck

If you like breezy, dreamy interiors, you’ll love French West Indies design. In recent years the tropical style once unique to these Caribbean islands has grown increasingly popular everywhere. Learn about its hallmarks, and see how you can bring it home—no matter where you live.

Think shade: If you live someplace warm, try time-proven island solutions: Create shade on balconies with awnings or overhangs, add louvered shutters to keep rooms cool, and install gauzy draperies to filter sunlight.

Think breeze: Rooms in West Indian homes have as many doors and windows as possible to keep interiors cool. Poster beds, long popular here, have mattresses even higher than windowsills to benefit from tropical breezes. You can use an extra-high bed in any room for a classy look, and add mosquito netting for instant island style. Woven cane and rattan furnishings, which promote the flow of air, will enhance the sense of romance.

Think tropical: Island craftsmen often worked tropical motifs into locally made furniture. Look for antiques or reproductions that have intricate designs featuring palm fronds, pineapples, and other flora.

Think durable: Imposing tables, chairs, and sideboards, distinguished by fine joinery and solid construction, are signature West Indies furnishings. (Pieces made of ultra-heavy wood hold up especially well in tropical weather.) Hunt for pieces in teak, mahogany, and ebony for authentic style.

Think comfortable: Iconic West Indian lolling chairs sit low to the ground and have steeply raked backs and caned insets for ultimate comfort. Their close cousins, plantation chairs, have wooden extenders that act as footrests. For additional information about West Indies furniture and homes, peruse Michael Connors’ book French Island Elegance (Abrams, 2006).

To get the island look in your own home, check out some of the Caribbean-inspired reproductions currently on the market: Baker Home Furnishings, 800/592-2537 or Bauer International, Viceroy Collection, 800/582-7690 or Century Furniture, Camden Passage Collection, 828/328-1851 or Lane Home Furnishings, National Geographic Collection, West Indies, Ralph Lauren, Bellacor Lighting & Home Furnishings,