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Exploring British Colonial Styling Pieces of Joy

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Exploring British Colonial StylingHave you ever visited the home of a passionate traveller? You’re likely to have found their collection of décor items to be eclectic, unique, and thought provoking, each one a memento from a far-flung place serving as a reminder of the memories they made on their trips.

British Colonial is a style of interior decorating that takes the concept of bringing your travels home by elevating it to the next level. The basis and forerunner for the much-loved Hamptons style, British Colonial Style is relaxed, genteel and travelled, pairing dark-stained rattan, timber and bamboo furniture with pure white linens and an abundance of indoor greenery to cool and refresh the space.

Design Origins

Exploring British Colonial Styling

During the reign of the British Empire between the late 16th century and the early 18th century, the Empire was one hundred times the size of Great Britain today.  Their territory encompassed trading posts and tea, coffee and rubber plantations in Africa, India, the Far East, the South Pacific and the Caribbean and the result was a melting pot of cultures and a rich mix of traditions that created the new world as we know it today.

It was a time of great adventure for the wealthier members of British society and British Colonial interior styling reflects the tastes of the prominent English citizens who travelled the empire during this time. They brought back furniture and exotic pieces of fabric from their journeys to show off how far they travelled, and these collections contributed to the eclectic look that mingled traditional English interiors with elements from the Caribbean, India, Africa, and the Far East.

Design Hallmarks

Exploring British Colonial Styling

At its heart, British Colonial style contrasts light and dark neutral tones combined with fresh greens and blues. Using a soft white paint for walls and outfitting windows with light, sheer fabrics provide cool toned foundations, then contrasting dark timber floors and wooden furniture and window treatments provides the deep contrasts that are a hallmark of this style.

The influence of Asian, Caribbean, and African design can also be felt in the use of eclectic fabrics, distinctive prints, and unique accessories collected from world travel. While the use of rattan and bamboo furniture provide another dimension of texture that’s quintessentially colonial.

British Colonial decor represents a marriage of traditional approaches from the Western world with stylistic elements borrowed from the nations that were colonized. In these spaces, the decor tends to be airy and light, with billowy fabrics and plantation-style shutters designed to provide a cooling atmosphere in what were usually hot, tropical climates.

Design Appeal

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Where the Hamptons style of decorating is inspired by the relaxed coastal lifestyle in the West, British Colonial style takes inspiration from travelling the East. With similar a focus on light-coloured soft furnishings and relaxed natural materials, British Colonial style is much more contrasted, feeling more tropical than coastal.

With Australians love of outdoor entertaining and alfresco dining, British Colonial styling is very well suited to our lifestyle. And our love of travel and exploration make this interior style one that is very easy to bring into your home.

Bringing British Colonial Styling into your home

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Styling your home with British Colonial flair should focus on some key elements and approaches.

The Colour Palette

The crispness that results from contrasting dark wood with light fabrics is the most significant element in creating an authentic replication of British Colonial style. The colour palette is heavily characterised by combining light neutrals and shades of white, to create a feeling of cooling in any climate.

Dark stained timber floors and furniture provide contrast, while blue and green accents are reflected in the soft furnishings and artworks to freshen and lift the space.

Architectural Features

Exploring British Colonial Styling
High ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and tall reaching marble pillars and arches framing generous porches are foundational architectural elements of British Colonial style.

In addition, backdrops of chalky whitewashed walls can be contrasted with dark timber panelling and rattan screens to add dimension.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are an integral feature of a British Colonial home, allowing cool air to circulate in a room and providing a key decorating accessory in natural materials like timber, rattan and grasses. They contrast beautifully against a high white ceiling or blend comfortably with a thatched roof.

Lighting and Window Treatments

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Interwoven throughout a British Colonial home are a culmination of wall, ceiling and table lights made from brass or glass and natural materials of bamboo, rattan, and woven grass shades.

White or dark timber shutters are a key design element of British Colonial, helping to protect against storms, control the flow of air and filter sunshine. In warm climates simple shutters are functional as well as decorative, allowing you to vary the airflow to suit the weather.

Eclectic Fabrics

Exploring British Colonial Styling

The softness and lightness of whites and sheers are beautifully highlighted with an eclectic blend of lightweight fabrics to create a classic British Colonial feel. Layer textures and colours with a mix of cushions and throws – botanical prints, paisleys, ikats, batiks and animal prints create an interesting story.

Traditional Furniture

Exploring British Colonial Styling

The exotic British Colonial interiors feature dark stained teak, mahogany or bamboo chairs and tables, often with cream or white soft furnishing bases. For a softer version of this style, pair cream or off white couches with bolder patterned cushions, rugs made of natural fibres and exotic decorator accents.

Leather trunks, bar carts, 4-poster and canopy beds, cane bed heads and daybeds are all common features of this style, displayed within indoor and outdoor living spaces.

Campaign Furniture

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Designed to suit a traveller’s lifestyle, Campaign Furniture was specifically designed to collapse into manageable, travel-ready pieces. These exotic pieces of furniture from a bygone time are ideal for creating a British Colonial look.  Look for folding mahogany chairs and writing tables with classic criss-cross legs in clean lines and dark woods and old suitcases and trunks.

Texture & Materials

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Layering different textures is at the heart of British colonial style. Dark timber floorboards are given a lift with light weight Turkish or Persian rugs, animal hides or natural fibre seagrass, sisal, and jute rugs.

Using texture to add contrast against darker furniture is one of the key signifiers of this style. Tan tones helped integrate the light walls and dark floor and furniture and accents of vibrant tropical, animal or floral prints great soft furnishing choices.

Woven window shades, baskets, rugs and wallpapers can all add depth, interest and texture

Artwork Choices

Exploring British Colonial Styling

British Colonial style took the heavy and formal designs of the Victorian era and modified them with fresh, bold prints inspired by local flora and fauna like tropical birds, palms and ferns. Vintage maps and panoramic wallpapers create a fresh and stylish look throughout the home and handwoven and natural artworks like shell art evoke a feeling of travel and adventure.

Decorative Accessories

Exploring British Colonial Styling

A colonial lifestyle was a globe-trotting lifestyle, and the collection of items from exotic locations helped to create the layered look of a British Colonial style. Decorating in the British colonial style offers an opportunity to tell stories from your travels, your family history and your interests by having your favourite mismatched collectables on display.

When displaying your collection, it’s important to mix together a wealth of eclectic accessories like classic English fine china, crystal and silver alongside carved pieces, globes, maps, telescopes, letter-writing boxes and memorabilia.   Vignettes of books topped with candles, magnifying glasses and other accessories that look like a collection of trips and experiences help to create an old-world travel-inspired look.

Further decoration can be added with tropical decorative pieces like coral, shells and wood carvings with bamboo, rattan and leather accents. And bar carts and high tea decorative trays can be added to display bar tools and glassware.

Plants, real and faux

Exploring British Colonial Styling

Plants belong everywhere in a British Colonial home. In the garden, on the verandah, and in every room of the house. They create a bold, fresh contrast to dark wood and white.  Choose the right type of plants though – think tropical. Big green leaves like palms and ferns are important – steer away from soft English florals. Palm fronds, whole palm plants, orchids and hibiscus flowers freshen up a space and help to bring it to life. The rich dark greens from large graceful indoor palms grace the British Colonial rooms.

Exploring British Colonial Styling

British Colonial is a design style rich in diversity, history, light and shade.  It is a soothing, classic aesthetic at once bold and soft. The contrast of white against dark timbers, highlighted with greenery from plants and prints, is a striking decor choice, one that resonates around the world with those who have an eclectic nature and an adventurous heart.  To explore our range of British Colonial furniture and décor items, we invite you to visit our online store at


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Cheri Kaps - October 18, 2023

Love this blog. Very helpful in determining my style. Doing my living room in British Colonial decor. Ty.

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