A new fresh contemporary Tropical Style is currently on trend. Related to the more traditional British Colonial Style, this modern version is fresher and more akin to a breezy coastal look. If you love open plan living, open windows to catch the breeze, fresh clean white with injections of some strong colour, then this may very well be the style for you.
This style is related to British Colonial Style, which I have written about a lot, but it is a fresher and more contemporary take on this look. Let me show you how to achieve it.
7 steps to achieve Tropical Style
1) The Colours
Tropical style is related to those areas and countries that are close to the Equator. Periods of hot sunshine are interspersed with magnificent thunder storms and torrential downpours of rain so the atmosphere is sultry and humid.
In any environment like this, the predominant colour should be light and airy and therefore white interiors work well. These are not rooms to make cosy. The look should create spaces that are cool and light to offset the hot and humid air. Therefore simple white painted walls, trims and ceilings are perfect.
Accessories however should provide injections of rich colour. Green really is the foundation colour for a Tropical Style and it should be introduced in natural greenery and followed through in other finishes. The gorgeous hot accent colours of pink, purple and red can feature too.
2) Furniture for a Tropical style
Seating for this look should be comfortable and informal, inviting you to linger and relax awhile. A hot and humid tropical climate doesn't invite lots of vigorous activity so Plantation chairs, rocking chairs and comfortable over-sized rattan chairs suit this style perfectly.
Side tables should be dotted around for drinks and should be quirky. A ceramic drum or wicker stool can therefore be used as a small table. This look is not about everything matching perfectly, furniture items should introduce personality and interest and therefore items that are picked up on trips to Asia will be perfect. Just remember to keep them as accents so that you don't overwhelm the room.
Bedheads in rattan either in natural or white look great as they are airy and light rather than heavy and solid.
Mix up fresh painted white furniture with the odd antique timber piece to keep the look relaxed and natural.
3) Artwork for the look
Artwork that represents flora and fauna suits this style perfectly. The on-trend Botanical prints and images of brightly coloured birds work well. The odd image of a tiger or leopard is not out of place either.
You need to think of the exotic with this style. This is where it really does relate back to British Colonial Style. The Brits ditched the soft chintz fabrics and delicate pastel pinks and greens in favour of the gutsier, brighter colours and patterns that they came across on their travels and this has endured with this Tropical look.
Related: How to display a statement artwork
4) A Tropical Style garden
The lines between the interior and exterior should be blurred to create a beautiful flow. Where possible, an outdoor room should open up completely to the interior and the furnishings and accessories should be the same.
Tropical palms in large statement pots are a feature, both inside and outside, and no self-respecting Tropical Style would be without them.
Plantings must be lush and dense with lots of rich dark green foliage. Add accents of hot magenta and rich maroon in mass plantings to offset the rich layers of greenery. As Tropical gardens should be densely planted, you need to create layers with different heights.
My favourite plants for a Tropical Style are:
- Bromeliads for exotic colour
- Strelitzias for their height, density and magnificent leaves
- Philodendrons for their rich colour and patterned leaves that create gorgeous hedging
- Banana palms for their height and general Tropical magnificence
- Ornamental Ginger for their green leaves and bursts of colour
- Cycads to provide a statement and to break up the borders.
5) Finishes for a Tropical Style
- Nothing about a Tropical Style should be too shiny or perfect.
- Timbers should be rich in colour but slightly worn and aged.
- Add an organic look with natural rattan which won't be completely perfect.
- Paint finishes should be matt or low sheen to absorb the strong light rather than bounce it around
Related: Which paint finish should I use?
6) Flooring for this look
While the walls, trim and ceiling should be a calming fresh white, timber flooring should be darker to create a contrast. Whitewashed timber floors will give you more of a classic Coastal look but a Tropical Style is less delicate and needs injections of rich colour.
Rather than the on-trend natural oak floors, I prefer richer Australian timbers for this style. Flooring in Spotted Gum or Ironbark look great for this look as they will provide a strong contrast to the white walls.
Terracotta tiles are back on trend and look particularly good in a brick size either laid running bond (as in the image above) or when laid in a herringbone pattern. Great too for outdoor paths and terraces.
Carpets must be natural in a hot and humid climate so look for 100% wool carpets or seek out natural fibres of sisal and hemp which repel insects and mould, both of which will be prevalent in a hot and humid climate.
While injections of colour work well for a Tropical Style, flooring should be kept simple so generally rugs should be more textural than colourful.
Related: How to select the right rug
7) The finishing touches for a Tropical Style
These are the finishing touches that will really complete a Tropical Style and set it apart from others:
- A ceiling fan in each room is essential for this look, preferably one in a dark timber.
- Pendants in rattan look great too, particularly if they are over-sized.
- Billowing white simple curtains or shutters for windows. Shutters can be either white or dark timber
- White cotton or linen bedcovers
- Interesting leather trunks that tell a story are great for storage and/or coffee tables
- Baskets are a must-have accessory to complete the look.
- Cushions with Botanical prints
- Finally, greenery, greenery and more greenery!
Related: How to incorporate the Greenery trend
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Don't forget to leave me a comment below.
British Colonial Style is very similar to this style but it is more traditional. If you love this look it would be worth reading this too:
Related: British Colonial Style – 7 steps to achieve this look
As this style depends so heavily on white walls and trim, you may find these articles useful:
Related: How to find the right white
Related: What colour do I paint my skirting boards & architraves?
Related: What colour do I paint my ceiling?
Before starting any scheme it's a good idea to get all of your thoughts together on a mood board. Find out how to do this in my free e-book available from my FREE Resource Library – download here.
6 thoughts on “Tropical Style – 7 steps to achieve this look”
Hi Sam, I just love your blogs and find them very helpful as we navigate the renovation of our home in Darwin. I would say the tropical look yu describe above fits our design aim. My question is around exterior balustrade colour for a tropical home. Currently we have navy which I was looking to change to monument (don’t want white). However, after painting sample areas in ‘monument’ and the blacker ‘night sky’ I much prefer the truer black as it recedes so much more. Now I’m obsessed with finding the blackest black (do you what it is that’s commercially available, I keep coming across black 3.0!). This balustrade choice is confusing because the new roof was going to be shale grey with monument fascia (existing weatherboard is staying, which is white). So if we went with darker black balustrade, what colour would you do the fascia (a true black would be too much contrast?). The window frames are anodised aluminium. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Hi Kayli glad you are enjoying the blog posts! In terms of the blackest of blacks, I am not sure which one this is on a commercial basis. Black 3.0 is supposed to be the blackest available but is an acrylic paint for artists rather than home renovators. I recommend Colorbond Night Sky but in a matt finish. It will be the finish that will make the mainstream black paints different. Matt paints absorb light and once you get any kind of reflective surface, even a satin or low sheen, the black will appear lighter. I’m not sure if you have considered this aspect in your paint selection? For your fascia, it really depends on whether you want to define the edge of the roofline. You could just opt for Shale Grey to keep it simple? But if you did want to use Monument I think you could get away with it but it would depend on the proximity to the balustrades. Hope this helps Samantha
Tropical style is so beautiful and restful to me. Thanks for sharing such lovely photos! Now, I’m going to check out your post on British Colonial style.
Thanks Carrie – glad you enjoyed it!
I commented earlier on your exterior colour post – which grey but now I’ve just read your blog on Tropical Style. Your website is great and wish I had come across it earlier. We are in the process of changing the exterior of our large brick and weatherboard house in Queensland and I was looking to do something between Hamptons and Tropical Style – do you think that is possible? I want to paint the unattractive orange brick and beige weatherboard. I had picked Dulux Grey Pail and White on White for exterior but now think maybe Tranquil Retreat and White on White. Our house is open and light inside – Dulux Natural White with Vivid White trim. Lots and lots of greenery and tropical plants. In your Tropical Style I can see that green is a key colour with whites and accents of pink. I did initially look at Pale Tendril as an exterior colour but I think it will look too green.
Hi Samantha Glad you like the blog! I love the Tropical QLD look of white, very soft grey, timber amongst lots of greenery. Dulux Grey Pail is quite blue so I think that Tranquil Retreat may be better as it is more neutral. Pale Trendril would be too green but if you wanted a soft grey with more of a green base you could test out Dulux Spanish Olive which is a lovely exterior grey. Good luck Samantha