Decoding British Colonial Style

Think tropical inspired furnishings, natural textures & materials, a generally light colour palette and a ‘well-travelled’ vibe – you’ve got yourself classic British Colonial style. At its peak in the 19th and 20th centuries, the British Empire encompassed a quarter of the world, including parts of Africa, Asia, India, the South Pacific and North America.

For the lucky ones, the fanciful idea of exotic travel was very much a reality and forged a style that was a hybrid of traditional décor from Britain, with the local influences of new materials and styles. An incredibly elegant yet highly relaxed fusion of styles ultimately created something not seen previously.

An icon of the style, is campaign furniture – pieces that were collapsible and travel-ready, for ease of shipping to the next location. Some of these include folding chairs & writing tables, and bar cabinets that could be quickly stowed as a trunk. Which brings us to the next crucial element of colonial design. Trunks and suitcases instantly evoke the well-travelled look and were pivotal to the era – not so much as a look but more so out of practicality. A trunk, in conjunction with a collection of travel curiosities like maps & telescopes, letter-writing sets, fine china and silverware all embodied the well-travelled look that still remains popular today.

Whilst the homes had neutral bones that were light & airy, it allowed for the furniture to provide a dramatic impression. Dark, carved timber furniture previously associated with the Brits, was seamlessly intertwined with natural textures like rattan, sisal, bamboo and leather trims.

Botanical and tropical prints like paisleys, ikats and animal prints were reimagined into light-weight cottons and linens, to combat the heat of their new surroundings. The style was often characterised by interior greenery, with large potted plants, ferns & palms brought inside to add the drama of the tropics.

It’s safe to say that the British Colonial style is very much suited to the Australian way of life and climate. It was a style that was genteel and sophisticated, yet still incredibly liveable and relaxed. British Colonial style evokes a bygone era; a world untouched by technology, and a time where you could sit back in an armchair on your deep veranda, and watch the afternoon go by. If that’s the only thing we take from this style, then bring it back we say!!

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