Although the British Empire is no more, British Colonial style lives on. It originated from design elements common in the former colonies, which once encompassed large parts of Africa, India, Asia, North America, and the South Pacific. This iconic style began by combining traditional, elegantly carved British furniture with local motifs and textiles and still resonates today because it blends comfortable, well-traveled sophistication with a touch of formality.
Five Hallmarks of British Colonial Style
Lightweight and Eclectic Fabrics
Flowing cotton and linen in botanical prints, paisleys, ikats and animal prints were used not only to decorate but also block some of the sun’s intensity. One way to get this look outdoors is to mix and match throw pillows and use linen-like fabric the way our designers did in the Palmetto Collection,
available at The Home Depot.
Tropical Inspired Furnishings
British Colonial style took the heavy and formal designs of the Victorian era and modified them. While still maintaining aspects of British formality, artisans took inspiration from local flora and fauna and used bamboo, rattan, and leather accents.
The picture below on the right features products from Bombay Company and shows an interior room with a modern British Colonial vibe. But it’s also easy to use British Colonial style outdoors.
Take our Glenburn Collection, pictured below and available at Kohl’s.com. Resin wicker in a traditional caning pattern, turned legs, and an aluminum frame in a dark espresso finish give this furniture its classic look.
Another element, neutral cushions with the contrasting welt cord, were also inspired by British Colonial style.
Using texture to add contrast against darker furniture is one of the signifiers of this style. Traditionally, rattan, reed and sisal were often used; today’s designers have added raffia to the mix.
To get this look inside your home, you’ll need to add depth along with texture. Look for rugs and window treatments in natural fibers like jute and rattan. In addition, remember that lighter colored accessories and walls should contrast with the darker furniture.
Of course, using British Colonial style works outdoors too. Concentrate on subtle shades inspired by the tropics. Pale greens, blues, tans, creams and whites will contrast beautifully against darker furnishings.
This is why we say our Palmetto Collection in the first picture “takes classic British Colonial elegance and reinvigorates it for today.”
In addition to furniture and fabric, try displaying eclectic accessories from your trips. The traveling Brits who helped create this design style enjoyed pairing locally carved pieces, maps, and colored glass next to fine china and crystal for the interesting contrast.
If you haven’t picked up many things form your travels yet, try shopping at your local flea market or thrift shop and look for vintage pieces with a travel-inspired look. Additionally, the items pictured on the right will give your home a “well-traveled appearance” and are available on-line at BombayCompany.com.
Green is Good
Don’t forget the green! Outdoors is the perfect place for the dramatic plants so often used in this style. Take a trip to your local nursery or home improvement store for some palms or ferns and then plant them in containers to complement your furniture and accessories.
As you can see, both the Assam Elephant and Jardin Lattice planters (the Jardin Lattice planter can be seen in the Glenburn Collection picture) seamlessly blend with other design elements used in British Colonial style outdoors and if you add a liner to the bottom, you can safely move them indoors when the weather changes without damaging your floors.
So now you have it, five hallmarks of British Colonial style and the ways you can incorporate all or some of them into your own backyard. If you like this style and have used it outdoors, send us a picture or post it to our Facebook page!