Crystal-clear water, soothing waves and breezy palm trees: these are just some of the many reasons why the Caribbean is a go-to destination for those seeking relaxation. Likewise, decorating your home bathroom with Caribbean-inspired décor can bring bring greater peace, calm and culture into your daily life.
From banana print textiles and rattan furniture to bright, high-contrast color schemes, here’s how to get the Carribean coastal look in your bathroom.
Defining Caribbean Style
Caribbean interior design is more nuanced than a general tropical bathroom theme. This is because the Caribbean has a specific blend of traditions and influences that make it truly unique.
For example, consider the fact that British colonialists who landed in the Caribbean were inspired by Africa, India and the Eastern world. The British empire undoubtedly brought devastation and destruction to natives in the Caribbean during this time, as design consultant Kate Walker explains. But she also notes that the period resulted in a rich mix of traditions, cultures and design styles that honor these early lifestyles.
Old world British style also has an undeniable influence in modern Caribbean décor. This type of British colonial style is often marked by stately travel trunks, exotic textiles and lush greenery, designer Samantha Bacon writes. British colonial Caribbean style also tends to make use of soft whites and dark woods and materials found in tropical climates, like teak and rattan.
Elements from Africa and the West Indies have a place in Caribbean interior design, too, as these were places that inspired British settlers. Michael Slenske at Architectural Digest highlights a home in Miami beach featuring a zebra-print rug and African stool. While these two elements are in the living room, they would work equally well in a bathroom. This is especially true because the chair and rug combination is paired with with glitzy, gold details, a color scheme that can easily be recreated with bronze bathroom fixtures.
Caribbean Color Schemes
Many Caribbean homes start with a high contrast base of black and white. Typically, white walls and gauzy fabrics are paired against chocolate brown wooden furniture. Dark wood teak furniture is the most traditional way to create a dramatic impression in such contrast, explains the team at Houston-based interior design company Brown Interiors.
Antique wood furniture like chests, cabinets and trunks can help accessorize the Caribbean bathroom and add dark contrast when desired. Moreover, wood that is carved or adorned with stenciled patterns can help infuse a sense of culture and place into these pieces.
Cherry and mahogany wood tones are used commonly as well. In a British colonial bathroom showcased by the popular luxe bohemian design blog The Rhapsody, an elegant wooden vanity with red undertones helps anchor a bathroom designed with a warm, inviting Carribean look. Dual wood-framed mirrors and stone sinks also help solidify this inviting color scheme, while plants balance out the look to add softness.
After a base of high-contrast colors has been established, be sure to add splashes of color to the bathroom to truly reflect island living.
“Stroll through any port city and you'll find storefronts and cottages playfully painted in jungle green, juicy mango, rich coral, and turquoise blue -- a pure reflection of the island and ocean colours palettes,” digital content creator Julie Balter writes. Since you likely won’t want to paint whole walls in these bright colors, she suggests using the punchy tones for sprucing up vintage furniture. It also looks great when painted on door and window frames in an otherwise white bathroom.
If you do want something other than white on the walls, consider warm golds, creams and whites with yellow undertones to adorn your Caribbean inspired bathroom. These colors evoke of the sand and sun and complement the soft blues and greens often used in such décor. A color like warm ochre, for example, is great for complimenting dark, deep wood tones, Jessica Dodell-Feder explains at This Old House.
Caribbean Textures and Textiles
While a number of modern design styles emphasize minimalism, interior design writer Jamie Wiebe suggests that tropical Caribbean décor requires a maximalist approach. Specifically, she explains how textures and colors can be layered to create a look that’s bursting with culture, style and flair.
Wiebe draws inspiration from tropical gardens to start creating this look, with leafy palms layered over African-inspired tiles. Other greenery and natural elements can also support an inviting outdoor look. Fresh flowers, natural woods and luxuriant plants all have a place in the Caribbean home, Stephanie Watkins at Casa Watkins Living says. Fresh greenery also compliments the sandy golds, dark woods and warm whites of Carribean style.
Natural scents and candles can set the tropical mood required for a caribbean-inspired bathroom, blogger Sophie Prior points out. As a resident of the Cayman Islands, Prior is an expert in Caribbean home style. She suggests scents like coconut, citrus and sea-breeze to echo the fresh island air. Using tea lights and scented white candles on a tray helps beat clutter while adding character.
Amid these Caribbean colors and scents, try your hand at incorporating rattan furniture into the bath. Cane and rattan furniture creates a relaxed and imperfect look, Australian artist Ella Kate Thrupp explains. That’s why it’s important to mix and match upcycled rattan elements.
The best place to find these pieces is at second hand shops, Thrupp says, since the material was especially prevalent in 70’s interior design. The specific placement of rattan furniture also plays a role in your ability to recreate British Caribbean style. Rattan chairs are typically seen on the patio, interior decorator Melanie Langford writes. Placing them indoors is what helps recreate the Caribbean feel, specifically.
Banana leaves are all the rage in modern interior design, and there’s no good reason to leave them out of Carribean coastal bathroom designs. If you’re not sure about keeping a real banana tree alive, there are many banana-print accessories you can use to adorn your bathroom.
The popularity of banana print can be traced back to the 1940’s, interior designer Heather Helms explains. She says that the print first showed up in The Beverly Hills Hotel and was at the time a bold and exotic statement. Today, it remains one of the hallmarks of tropical interior design and, in particular, Caribbean-inspired spaces.
One way incorporate banana leaves in your space is to create a wallpapered accent wall in the bathroom, Alyssa Clough at home decorating magazine Domino points out. She also shows how banana print wallpaper can adorn alcoves, making an especially relaxing and vibrant addition to the walls around a clawfoot tub. Wicker baskets, gold accents and gold-stained wood are particularly important for anchoring banana print in the bathroom, Clough adds.
Banana leaves aside, stenciling hardwood flooring is another creative way to elevate the bathroom with a unique Caribbean touch. Consider how flora and fauna can work in harmony to influence certain stencils and designs. A pattern resembling giant tortoise shells adorns original pine floors in the home of famed interior designer Bunny Williams, for example. A cheetah runner winds up the stairs, echoing the animal-inspired theme and suggesting that multiple animal-inspired elements can work together in harmony in any room in the house.
Images by: shalamov/©123RF Stock Photo, Ibrahim Assad, Michael Ruiter