British Colonial Style – 7 steps to achieve this look

British Colonial Style is a favourite of mine as it is a reminder of a gentler age, without technology, where you are invited to sit in a comfy chair and while away the afternoon.  Read further to see how it is related to current decorating styles and find out my top 7 tips on how to re-create this look for your home.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this
Image – Tom Harper Photography

At its height in the 19th and 20th centuries, the British Empire spanned the globe and the romance of exotic travel was an exciting reality for the lucky few.  Those who established trading posts and tea and coffee plantations in far flung places like India, the Caribbean, Africa and the Far East, brought with them traditional styles from Britain that were translated and successfully adapted locally.  The merging of these varied styles created a look that is still emulated today and evokes a bygone era that was genteel and elegant while at the same time appearing relaxed and comfortable.

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British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this

This is known as British Colonial Style and following are my 7 steps to achieve this look.

1) Well travelled leather trunks

One of the main inspirations behind the style were the beautifully aged and well-travelled rich nut brown and tan leather trunks with brass buckles and clasps, which are still used today in decorating schemes to evoke this look.  Fabulous for storage and/or side tables in small houses they are a mainstay of this scheme.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image – Ralph Lauren

2) Rattan and teak furniture

The soft tonal variation of light rattan and the neutral warm brown of local teak furniture is a classic combination which gives the plantation style chair its unique appeal.

Day beds in the plantation style are also popular and a great place to while away the afternoon.  You don't really have a classic British Colonial Style scheme without one of these.


British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style

3) Exotic textiles

Traditional soft chintz design from England gave way to textiles printed with far more exotic patterns depicting local scenes, flora and fauna.  These were very contemporary at the time and have enjoyed a renaissance recently with the botanical trend taking hold.  Animal prints too are in vogue and evoke this look when introduced as accents.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this
Image – Ernest Hemingway Collections

4) Indoor greenery

Included in the very natural colour palette of browns from leathers, timber, rattan and bamboo were injections of rich dark greens from the large graceful indoor palms that graced the rooms.  Faux greenery is very effective now so you don't even need to worry about remembering to water the plants.  This is another element that has enjoyed a revival and is really integral to the British Colonial Style.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style

5) Soft whites with dark shutters

Soft chalky whites from plastered walls, dark timber panelling and billowing white drapes partnered with rich dark brown shutters created great tonal variation.


British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style

6) The canopy bed

The 4 poster bed was a hallmark of this style.  Not in the old traditional English style but in a more paired back and contemporary (for the era) adaptation.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style
Image – Ralph Lauren

Related: How to choose canopy beds

7) Comfortable places to sit

Oversized comfortable sofas and large rattan chairs with rattan and timber side tables complement the look.

Think this is all a little outdated and stuffy for you?  Look closely at this style tough and you will see that it is also the basis for so many more contemporary styles that we love today.

British Colonial style is the basis for our much loved Hamptons and Caribbean styles.  These styles have their roots in classic British Colonial Style as do the popular Plantation and Island styles.

Many of the elements are the same but the look has been lightened.  In place of some of the rich mahogany and nut brown finishes are fresh whites and soft greys.

Where green plays a large role in the British Colonial Style of decorating, beautiful blue to evoke the ocean, takes its place for the Hamptons style of decorating.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this
Image – Williams Sonoma

Elements like gentle overhead fans, rattan and leather trunks and cases, panelled joinery finishes for walls, occasional chairs in rattan and simple canopy beds are all the same.  Just change the colour palette and update slightly and there you have the Caribbean or Island style of decorating.

It is not surprise that the Caribbean style is similar as of course many of these islands were colonized by the British, so this is to be expected.  One of the main elements that I see the same are the beautiful bamboo tables and chairs and the beauty with Caribbean style too is that you also have the influences of French decorating.  This is certainly a winning combination.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

I also see so many elements of this style generally in contemporary decorating.

The greenery trend which is so popular at the moment and the finishing touches in modern design that are based on the Botanical trend with cushions and artworks all relate back to this original look.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this
Image – India Hicks via Architectural Digest

And of course our love affair with plantation shutters continues to be very strong.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style
Image – Fanimation.com

So if you want to recreate British Colonial Style in its entirety you really need all of the elements in my list, particularly the darker colour palette and a beautiful plantation chair or daybed is a must.  However you can pick and choose some of the styling elements and create a lovely Hamptons, Caribbean, Tropical or contemporary style.

Remember, there are very few new ideas but updated versions or elements used from earlier styles are just as effective as this modern adaptation pictured below of British Colonial Style shows.


British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this

I'm off to Singapore soon wo will call in to Raffles Hotel to get my injection of British Colonial Style and grab a Singapore Sling or two while sitting in a comfortable rattan chair and being kept cool by an overhead fan – bliss!

If you love elements of this style you will enjoy the inspiration on my Pinterest boards – I have one dedicated to this look –  and I would love to hear from you if you have used any of these decorating elements in your recent projects or have plans to – just leave me a comment below.

Do you love the idea of putting together a scheme like this but don't know where to start?  Then you should download my free guide on how to put together a mood board.  This is a great starting point to get organised and focus your ideas.  I have this and other checklists and e-books in my Free Resource Library – you can sign up here.

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this style

Want to read more about the greenery trend and see how it relates to these gorgeous styles?

Related: How to incorporate the greenery trend

Related: Hamptons Style – 7 steps to achieve this look


British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this look

Shop the British Colonial Style look

British Colonial Style - 7 Steps to achieve this look British Colonial Style - 7 Steps to achieve this look British Colonial Style - 7 Steps to achieve this look British Colonial Style - 7 Steps to achieve this look

 

British Colonial Style - 7 Steps to achieve this lookBritish Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this lookBritish Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this lookRattan Ceiling fan

Palm Tree Artwork

Rattan outdoor setting

Plantation style cabinet

Rattan bedhead

Large outdoor lantern

Artificial Palm 

 

British Colonial Style - 7 steps to achieve this look
Image: Miss Amara

60 thoughts on “British Colonial Style – 7 steps to achieve this look

  1. Avatar
    Anita East says:

    Hi Samantha, I loved your article on British Colonial style. Thank you. I’m trying desperately to recreate the British Colonial style in our century old Queenslander in the Bayside Suburb of Sandgate. Can you suggest where I might find the classic furniture of this era? I’m having no luck as all suppliers seem to be in Europe or USA. Thanks so much.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Anita I’m glad you enjoyed the article – this style is a particular favourite of mine too. You should look at Sentosa Design – they are based in Sydney but have their products on the internet and also Xavier Furniture who only sell to trade but they will give you details of a supplier near you. These are my two favourites for this style. Good luck! Samantha PS: I would love an old Queenslander – I hope you enjoy living there.

    • Avatar
      Tori says:

      Hi Anita
      I’m also from Brisbane Norman park I have found the best homewares shop!!! in Bulimba called Perfect Living 41 Oxford Street. They have a great selection of British colonial at good prices not like pottery barn.
      Tori

    • Avatar
      Susan says:

      Hi Tori

      Sometimes you can find rattan furniture in Batubulan in Bali Indonesia. I have bought pieces there.
      Also the Philippines produces rattan furniture and you can also befriend on Face Book an old and dear Indonesian Designer and Furniture Designer Mr Eko Prabowo
      He just recently posted a marvelous rattan chair he designed some years ago in a fabulous red while it’s not very British Colonial in style it’s a wonderful chair and can be produced in several darker velours Eko can also make up what you need or design pieces for you
      Thanks
      You can mention my name if you communicate with him
      It’s Susan Taylor 😌💐

    • Avatar
      Gina Clare says:

      The Australian company based in Melbourne called Naturally Cane has a good range of furniture to suit the British Colonial style ( check out their web-site you can purchase on line)- I have bought just on chair from them which is lovely and am keen to purchase some more for my Ashgrovian Queenslander

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Karen I’m glad you enjoyed the article – thanks for getting in touch. Ralph Lauren in the US will be a good place to start but I don’t know of any other specific suppliers in the US for this style but I am sure there are many as it crosses over with the Hamptons and Caribbean style that is so popular and so well executed on America’s East coast. You should also browse sites like Houzz for the style as they have suppliers on there for a wide range of products and you will probably find a local interior designer who specialises in this look. I hope you find what you are looking for and that you get to relax in a beautiful Plantation chair! Good luck Samantha

      • Avatar
        Danays says:

        Pier One has lots of interesting pieces and Arhaus. I enjoyed the article too, and will follow the steps starting with the trunk. I saw the perfect one at an antique shop in Cape May, NJ, USA

  2. Avatar
    Lori says:

    Hi Karen,love yr article,I have just purchased a Queenslander,which I intend to do in this style,unfortunately people have put plasterboard over the ceiling and painted it with wall paint,nightmare!!!!!!not sure how to find out what condition the ceiling will be in,I useally use antique white for my walls,there are so many whites,and lots of shadows in qlders,6 inch hoop pine floors,yummy,hardwood veranda floors,yummy,love the bedroom in white,so nice and simply ,any ideas,thanks

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Lori it sounds like you have an interesting time ahead with a voyage of discovery! If you have used Antique White before with success this is probably the way to go with your beautiful timber floors and being a Queenslander you will have less natural light than some houses so you will benefit from a little creaminess in the white. I also like soft greys and grey pastels on lined walls but you can’t go wrong with white and some timber furniture to tie in your hardwood floors. I love the white bedroom too – beautiful Caribbean style. Hope the renovation goes well – keep in touch! Samantha

    • Avatar
      Danays says:

      So now that I know what a queenslander is– I want one too. Beautiful style and this look is perfect for it. I have a simple american style rancher in a little town in New Jersey, USA. This style mskes me feel like im coming home to a vacation everyday

  3. Avatar
    Pao says:

    Hi, lovely article. I have British Colonial decor currently in a modern mediterranean house and am moving to a Spanish Revival home. I ran into your article as I was researching Spanish and British Colonial decor. I want to keep most of my furniture because I love it. I have antique British Colonial furniture in the formal living room (cane chairs and loveseat, gold side tables) and contemporary seagrass furniture in the family room. Any ideas how to incorporate Spanish Colonial style of the home like wrought iron and wood chandeliers and red salttillo floors with British Colonial furniture? Some elements are common to both styles like dark woods, plantation shutters, white walls, neutral textiles, lots of greenery and palms. Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Great to hear from you – I love Spanish Revival. There is a bit of a crossover which I think you see more in Caribbean style rather than the British Colonial style of the Far East so if you look at images of how the British adapted their look in the Caribbean you may find that sits with your Spanish Revival look. At the end of the day, they are different styles but as you say the blending will work because of the dark timber, plantation shutters, white walls etc. I think that you can use all of your furniture but keep things like gold side tables in a separate area to those places that have a predominance of Spanish Colonial elements like wrought iron etc. I am sure it will come together well but perhaps follow the lead from a Caribbean look for inspiration. I hope you are happy in your new home! Samantha

  4. Avatar
    Lauree says:

    Hi Samantha
    I am renovating a qlder with wrap around verandahs and lots of cedar doors & windows and shutters.
    I am very keen to do the British colonial/Caribbean style & wondering if you can recommend a particular colour of white for the walls. I find Antique a white USA a bit too warm, and maybe whisper white would be a bit too cool?
    Appreciate any recommendations
    Thanks

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Lauree I wondered whether you have considered Dulux White Cloak Quarter for your walls – I find this is a modern version of Antique White USA. They are similar but with a touch more grey to make it more modern and less warm but it is still in the warm group. It will really come down to the amount of natural light which with a Queenslander can be limited so you will need to try a couple of options. Paint a large board with two coats and move it around the house, next to the cedar trim and look at it through the day to really get a handle on whether it works before you commit. I love the sound of your project – very jealous! Samantha

  5. Avatar
    Leviticus Bennett says:

    I like your tip to use four poster beds to achieve this style. I think it’s also a good idea to get the right lighting fixtures. You can even get some neat colonial candle lamps to really emphasize the colonial style.

  6. Avatar
    Becky says:

    Hi! Love the look. How can I do this with a little white dog with dirty feet. It has to be fabrics that can be easily touched up-spot cleaned-like micro fiber. Could I use a print or darker color to get the same effect?

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Becky Ha Ha! Yes – dogs and children usually need to be taken into consideration! You definitely need a washable fabric and my advice would be to use slip covers that can be removed and put in the washing machine. Mokum has a beautiful fabric called Urban in colour Snow which is washable but heavy duty in terms of its weight and I love to use this on upholstery. But you can also use something with a small print – perhaps a small geometric that you don’t even notice the design from a distance. These fabrics are great for hiding the odd mark or two and would mean less washing! You can of course also use a darker fabric – traditional green and olive tones work well with this style as it links with the natural greenery that is so prevalent. Hope this gives you some ideas! thanks for getting in touch Samantha

  7. Avatar
    Carolyn A says:

    Hi Samantha!

    I enjoyed your article very much. I’ll be moving in a few months and I’m excited to style my living and dining room in the West Indie / Hampton colonial style.

    I’m a graphic designer myself researching and learning about interior design. This article is one of the best and most helpful.

    I’ll be working on styling the room with turn of the century antiques from 1900-1940.

    Thank you very much for the help and advice!

    Carolyn

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Louise I’m sorry I don’t know the artist – I suspect it is a print and these are on trend at the moment so if you hunt around on the web you should be able to find something similar. Sorry not to be any more definite! Samantha

  8. Avatar
    LizzieB says:

    Hi there, if you are looking for a great shop that has British Colonial furniture and decor and you live in South East Queensland, you can’t go past the Alfresco Emporium at Bundall Gold Coast. They have a fantastic range

  9. Avatar
    Theresa says:

    Hi. Thank you for the article. I love British Colonial style but I have a question. I currently have dark floors but the maintenance is very time consuming. Can I put a beautiful light travertine or light tile with grey and keep with the white wall and dark furniture? I’m really struggling with what kind of floor to use.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Theresa You certainly don’t have to have the traditional dark timber floor for this look – remember that so many of today’s popular styles are based on this look so you can adapt it. I like the idea of a light limestone floor as you get the simplicity and lovely tonal contrast and you can then use rugs to zone spaces to prevent the look from being too hard and cold. A pale travertine could also work – just ensure the pattern is not too rich or busy. Samantha

  10. Avatar
    Jenn says:

    Hi, Samantha, I’m also from Brisbane Queensland. Our houses and climate are perfect for the Colonial Style. One of the best interior design shops with beautiful imported furniture and homewares is Magnolia Interiors in Albion. Robyn sources from around the world. You will find her on Instagram. St Barts in New Farm is perfect for this style and Caribbean. Coco Republic is worth a visit in Fortitude Valley. You can safely recommend these two stores.

  11. Avatar
    Rosie says:

    Hola Samantha, very good article. I love British Colonial style. Do you think I can combine an upholstered headboard with that style? I was thinking of putting some night tables with a bamboo/rattan look and some Ralph Lauren white and blue lamps. Love to hear your opinion.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Rosie glad you enjoyed the article – I love this style too and I think it fits so well with other styles today like the Hamptons look, so I definitely feel that you can introduce an upholstered bedhead in your scheme. My advice would be to stick to a plainer style that does not have buttons etc. Keep it simple with perhaps just a piped edging and consider the colour in your scheme – possibly the navy blue from your lamps? I have also written a post on here about selecting an upholstered bedhead which you can find in the interior section – this may help you to choose. Good luck! Samantha

  12. Avatar
    richard stevens says:

    Where can I get that daybed? I love it! Currently in a remodeling process in Honolulu and going with the Brittish Colonial style throughout.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      It is gorgeous isn’t it? These are usually sold in shops that cater to the Tropical/Balinese style so you will need to find a supplier who specialises in this look. I don’t know where in Hawaii you could get this unfortunately but if you research Tropical style/Balinese furniture then you may find somewhere locally. Good luck! Samantha

  13. Avatar
    Nicole says:

    I loved the article ! I grew up in the Caribbean with British colonial /Plantation style furniture all around me. Now that I am living in the US, I am trying to recreate that style in my Florida home and your article helped to keep me focused on finding just the right pieces. Thank you

  14. Avatar
    Wendy Walton says:

    I loced the article but noticed it had been written a couple of years ago. I am wondering if you are planning on updating this particular article ? I am very interested in what you may add.
    Wendy Walton

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Wendy This article has proved very popular and it is one that I think I should update. It is such a classical look though and timeless that it probably wouldn’t change (that’s the beauty of the style) but I would like to add some more info – just need to find that extra time…..thanks for your interest Samantha

  15. Avatar
    Cathy says:

    Hello. I absolutely loved your article. I will shortly be reassigned to Pretoria in South Africa. Would you have any advice on places I can purchase items to achieve this look there?

    Thank you

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Cathy I am so glad you loved the article and I can imagine this style suiting a South African house really well. I am sorry to say though that I have no contacts for suppliers there but hopefully by posting here someone else may be able to offer some advice? Good luck with your move Samantha

  16. Avatar
    Alex Neville says:

    Hi Samantha, Beautiful styling! The walls in the last image of your article appear to be a grey/green….can you suggest a good paint to get this sort of look? It is for a large bedroom with wood skirts/window frames, and will probably go for a white for picture rails, above and ceiling (vivid white?). I would like it to be a warm grey/green, not cold, as this room doesn’t get much sun during winter. With much thanks,
    Alex

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Alex I think you could achieve a similar look with Dulux Tame Thyme but you must paint a sample board and place it next to your timber finish and the Vivid White to make sure you like it with both as each will make it appear different. The image shown in the blog is all with white trim. This green is closer to the yellow side of the spectrum rather than blue so although green is always a cooler colour this one is to the warmer end of the scale, if that makes sense. I hope this gives you a starting point good luck Samantha

      • Avatar
        Alex Neville says:

        Thank you Samantha. I’ll certainly go to Dulux and take a look. I was in there today (before I saw your very quick reply!) looking at a swatch of oyster linen, stone, and also putty, deciding which to get sample pots to try.
        So appreciate your generous advice, thanks.

  17. Avatar
    JanKenney says:

    Enjoyed your article as I love this somewhat unusual style. I have injected some antique pieces into my decor -just purchased an antique campaign chest and have many wicker/ leather suitcases but would love some newer pieces too! I have a few other antique pieces I would love your opinion as to whether they are B.C. or not. I can send some photos
    Thanks

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Jan yes of course send through some photos and I will let you know what I think – there really is quite a broad range as you get pieces from the Caribbean and the Far East and Sub Continent that all have unique features. What I love about incorporating this style is that you can mix it so well with more modern pieces – hence the success of the classic Hamptons look. Samantha@samanthabacon.com.au Samantha

  18. Avatar
    Carmel Daveson says:

    Thank you for this article. I always wondered about what I called weaving and I now know the correct terminology. I inherited some small side tables and two chairs from my aunt (who died at 96 years of age and I am now 80) in a Sydney unit she left me in the 1990s.. The unit is since sold I am really do not know how to incorporate the items into a unit I am remodelling in Brisbane.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Carmel I find that occasional antique pieces, whatever their style, can work with more contemporary interiors and particularly with the tropical look that Queenslanders do so well, these tables and chairs should fit in well. Thanks for getting in touch Samantha

  19. Avatar
    Menti Aier says:

    Hi Samantha! I absolutely loved your article, it is a brief yet detailed write up. I found this while hunting for some inspiration on this specific design for my boutique hotel theme! And I’ve noted down some of the points! 😉
    Thank you!

  20. Avatar
    Jill Wan says:

    Hello Samantha! I came across your article and saw that you were still responding to queries in 2019! Great piece indeed! I loved the India Hicks pic one and am also renovating at the moment and was wondering if you could help me on what has been troubling me for months.

    I am aiming for a british colonial botanica theme and i am hesitating on the choice of colours for the openings (windows specifically) as there would be 3-4 layers:
    (aluminium window facing outdoor, wrought iron burglar bar in the middle, optional mosquito frame and plantation shutters inward , and not to forget the architrave.)

    More specifically deciding between what should be white, black or in wood to acieve the best effect :(.

    Do i go for Option 1)
    Aluminium white
    Burglar bars black
    Mosquito white or wood
    Plantation shutters white or black
    Architrave wood or white

    or Option 2)
    Aluminium black
    Burglar bars white
    Mosquito net white or wood
    Plantation shutters white
    Architrave white or wood

    I have looked at thousands of pins but it is still hard to decide. One minute the black seems ok but then other times white seems more appropriate for the aluminium.

    Would be most grateful for your insight. And there is a website called Harolds Finishing Touches in au which also stocks on this theme.

    Thank you
    J

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Jill thanks for your comment and the advice re Harolds Finishing Touches – looks good. I have been deliberating about your windows. I think you really need to consider them together with your entire exterior scheme. Often windows in white will suit a coastal home well but black can look better on an urban home, particularly a heritage terrace etc. so it is difficult to say for sure. However I do like burglar bars in black as you look through and past dark colours and they are less noticeable. The bars in white will be very dominant and could spoil your outlook. My feeling without knowing much about your home is black bars and aluminium with mosquito net in timber, shutters in white and architraves in white but it is a stab in the dark! I hope at least that this has helped with your months of deliberations! Samantha

  21. Avatar
    Emil says:

    I’m loving this style right now & considering incorporating some elements into my home 😊 could you suggest some ideas for wall art that would suit? Thanks!

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Emil Artworks with images of exotic animals or palms look great with this style or imagery of the gorgeous Colonial style buildings would work too. Good luck Samantha

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