There’s a reason people throng to the tropics—a laid-back, breezy vibe. Bright skies, glorious sunshine and comfortable, easy living are all a part of the package when you think “tropical paradise”!
While relatively few of us are able to actually live in said tropical paradises, does that mean that we have to give up on our dreams of living in beautiful tropical homes? Why not bring the tropics home with your interior decor!
But wait! Doesn’t creating a Tropical feel involve a lot of time and effort? Or can you get away with just painting your wall blue and bringing in plants? Well, tropical interior decor may be easier than you think—or it may be harder. It’s certainly not only about the blues and tropical plants.
We take you from the A to the Z of tropical decor. That you can build your own little tropical paradise right at home!
What is Tropical Interior Design?
The distinguishing elements of tropical decor are its emphasis on nature, from natural materials to patterns to designs. Rooms with tropical decor tend to have wooden furniture. Prints and patterns are commonly leafy, cane motifs, or lattice prints. Not ignoring the fact that palm and banana leaves are favorites!
Another common element of tropical decor is the use of light colors that achieve an open, spacious and breezy look. Such colors will include white and sea-blue, on the walls, curtains, and linens. This is further aided by large windows and plenty of entryways for natural light.
Tropical doesn’t necessarily mean minimal—luxurious tropical rooms do exist, with silk drapes and elegant potted palms. Ultimately, though, a tropically decorated room has a warm, bright feel with tons of natural light and inspiration from natural elements.
What Materials Are Predominantly Used?
As mentioned earlier, nature lies at the heart of this design style. Therefore, decorators try as much as possible to stay away from synthetics and use only natural materials. Generally, those that are ethically and sustainably sourced or sourced from actual tropical locations to achieve an authentic feel.
The decor uses a lot of wood for the furniture and fittings, with minimal metal, and leafy prints/motifs or lattices. Bamboo, teak, rattan and wicker are extremely common. Bamboo, especially, is used to cover the walls, floors or hung from the ceiling as decoration. Plants are very common accessories around the space (real or fake!), including the bathroom and kitchens.
What are Tropical Colors?
The tropical color palette commonly features blue, yellow, white, orange, red and green. Again, inspiration is drawn from Mother Nature’s myriad offerings, such as plants, seas and the sky. The blues come from the sea and the sky, whereas the warm golden hues come from the sand and the sun. The greens and other vibrant colors are drawn from exotic tropical foliage.
Though it is more common to find rooms with light colors, deep and rich shades are also used in this decor, as long as they fall in one of the families mentioned above. Using deep colors serves very well to create accents and focal points in the room, and while not strictly tropical, create a very nice contemporary-tropical-blend aesthetic.
A great idea is to keep the backdrop neutral (such as white and beige) and add accents with bold, bright colors. For a warmer vibe, go with nutmeg and cinnamon hues for the walls and jewel-tone accents.
Furniture Used In the Style
Again, woods such as teak, rattan, wicker and bamboo are the go-to choices for tropical furniture, as they’re natural, add tons of texture and perfectly complement the light airiness of the room and the color palette. Ottomans, armchairs, coffee tables, chairs and tables are made using these woods, though most commonly entirely out of wicker or seagrass.
As opposed to modern or contemporary settings, tropical-decor sofas and beds feature open wooden frames—the frames can be wicker-woven, covered with seagrass fiber or made of rattan. The upholstery features leafy prints and textures, or florals. These patterns can either stand out vibrantly in pink, orange, red and blue hues, or be more subtle and blend in with the rest of the room. Silk is a regular feature in more luxurious tropical rooms, and come in a range of patterns and solid colors, ranging from pale yellow to bright green.
Finishes for the Floors, Walls, and Ceilings
Floors are commonly wooden, with exotic hardwoods, such as bamboo and rosewood, being the most commonly used. The rich colors of these bases complement lighter-colored tropical furniture excellently. Seagrass or sisal rugs finish the look!
Ultimately, though, anything that can be easily cleaned is favored in tropical decor, due to the convenience that such floors bring to actual tropical households located in humid, sandy, windy locales. Therefore, brick and tile floors are also used.
For the walls and ceilings, light shades of paint with a matte finish add to the aesthetic. You could also use wallpapers with tropical, botanical or floral prints and motifs (you can also use grasscloth for a unique, textural finish).
Palm frond patterns, tropical flora and fauna, oversized prints for some drama and heavy patterns that remind of lush foliage are also options worth considering.
Remember, don’t go overboard as heavy or busy, colorful patterns can overwhelm the space. For a small space or heavily decorated room, stick to one wall accented with such wallpaper.
When it comes to finishes, though, stay away from the gloss and stick to subtle shades! Additionally, white ceilings are the most common; a white ceiling goes perfectly with the rest of the room’s elements.
Tropical Accessories to Use
The right accessories can add superbly to your room’s tropical aesthetic. Plants are the most common accessories; many folks love plants like orchids, banana trees, palm trees, Bird of Paradise, plumeria, caladium, hibiscus, protea, dracaena, and of course, bamboo! Whether faux or alive, plants such as these can really enhance the look of the room, especially with rattan, wicker or bamboo containers to house them in.
If you’re sorely missing the water part of the tropics, decor elements such as indoor water fountains will be an excellent addition, serving to bring in the water element as well as create a soothing environment.
Other objects you can consider adding include wooden statues and carvings, rocks, shells, corals, coconuts and driftwood—basically, whatever comes to mind when you think “beaches” and “tropics”!
To up the romance and drama (though that’s hardly the reason they feature in the actual tropics!), consider a wispy mosquito net over your bed, too!
You could also invest in a tropical-design ceiling fan, featuring woven panels or blades that look like banana leaves. For a bit of fun, consider getting pineapple-shaped table lamps to create some accent lighting. A flat wooden trunk will serve excellently as your coffee table on sisal, jute or seagrass rugs.
You could also consider adding hammocks and tiki torches, whereas for a more classy look, consider oil paintings and burnished metal statues.
Remember, before you go overboard and splurge on the accessories, take into account what the theme of your room is. Where your room is mostly neutral, bold accent pieces in bright colors will create nice focal points. If there’s enough going on with the walls and furniture, choose simple objects and keep the number to a minimum. Should you already have a color scheme in place, use that to choose accessories, whether you want them to coordinate with the scheme or serve as a contrast.
The Layering of Colors and Textures
If “subtle” is more your cup of rum punch than “bold”, bring color to the fore instead of prints. Layer with blues, greens and yellows, such as a yellow chair and a turquoise sofa for the bolder of heart, or a turquoise sofa and a white chair for those who like it muted.
Don’t be shy to mix and match—after all, a large part of going tropical is adopting a carefree, laidback and colorful vibe!
Introduce textures to the space with materials like wicker in the furniture and accessories. These can include wooden bowls, baskets and your walls, too. Consider getting a textured wall, such as one that feels like tree bark. You could go completely ‘au natural’ in your texture introduction and get lampshades of woven palm fronds, too. Sky’s the limit, but try not to have too many different textures. Three or four, at most, should do it.
Achieving a Modern Tropical Interior Design
Is a tropical-design-inspired room hard to achieve? How complex is the design?
Well, as we told you in the beginning, tropical decor isn’t all that hard, but it’s more than just about sunshine and flowers.
To achieve a truly tropical vibe, all you have to do is think back to beaches you’ve visited and turn towards Mother Nature. Tropical decor is all about simple yet elegant, even if you want a luxurious result.
The style is easily achievable, especially now that the style has become all the rage. All major furniture brands sell tropical decor as a separate aesthetic, while many professional decorators also recognize the style as a separate, distinct one.
Therefore, neither is the style itself complex (simple furniture, a wide color palette, and simple, natural accessories) nor is achieving it difficult or impractical.
All it takes is some research and a lot of heart, fun and colors!
Why not have fun checking out other Interior Design Styles? We have a whole long list for you to peruse.
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