Designing A Tropical Dream Home Part 2: How to Achieve a Stylish Decorative Scheme

How to Achieve a Stylish Decorative Scheme
We don’t simply give lists of stockists and examples of homewares in this book. Rather, there are plenty of tips and ideas about a variety of decorative styles. Dividing the book into six chapters the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, the bathroom, the tropical pool and the tropical garden we showcase successful decorative schemes in all six. We discuss color, texture, combinations of objects, materials, forms and more, all the while giving you examples of various regional and national styles too.

tropical dining room
Manila-based design firm Celestina is known for taking local materials and producing modern wares with a Western aesthetic. Its abalone shell table and kamagong wood dining chairs are a case in point.

tropical bathroom
Orienting the glass walls of this Bangkok bathroom to the east ensures that the room is drenched in natural light every morning. A pair of Tibetan rugs adds an injection of color into the white marble interior.

Because designing a home is such an individual process, we don’t dictate. Rather we give examples, offer advice, comment and talk about trends, all the while showcasing homes and villas, as well as some hotels and resorts, from countries as diverse as China and the Philippines in the north, to Indonesia in the south, and India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the west. The tropics cover a vast area as well as a vast diversity of geography: there are homes in the hills, misty mountain environments, as well as dusty plains and hot, humid sea-level scenarios. Of course, there are apartments in the city as well as dream homes in the rice fields, so many of the ideas can be adapted and adopted in other areas of the world.

Many designers advocate starting with a blank canvas, a neutral scheme, and building layer upon layer on top of this. In the living room, for example, Zabihi advocates using shades of white, beige and creams to create the perfect minimalist backdrop for showcasing artwork or displaying favorite pieces. “Rich colors are so much more emphatic against a white background,” she declares, “and even though this can be a bold, difficult look to pull off especially in the tropics where the colors are generally so robust and vibrant the contrast between a neutral space and flamboyant Asian colors works a treat.”

Apart from color, there are many other ways in which to add character and visual interest to spaces. Playing with size, for example: placing a tall thin object next to a long, horizontal one or teaming a group of identical objects next to a different sized one stimulates the senses and pulls the eye. Playing symmetry against asymmetry, using reflective surfaces such as mirrors and water are two others. Layering with textures teaming soft materials with hard ones, organics with man-made adds tactility on a more subtle level. And don’t forget the lighting: study how natural light enters a room at different times of the day, and plan the artificial lighting carefully. Many of these ideas are technical, and even if it is difficult to imagine getting carried away by geometry and positioning of objects, we shouldn’t get too bogged down in following formula. Our advice? Get the basics right, then experiment. The home should be more than “a machine for living in”, something that Le Corbusier in his business-like way once declared. It should reflect the owner’s personality.
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