British Colonial Style Bedroom Decorating Tips

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British colonization of tropical areas including India, Africa and the Caribbean islands resulted in a unique decorating style that blends traditional British decorating design with the influences of many diverse cultures.

Understanding British Colonial Colors and Textures

The British colonial color palette is inspired by the gentle shades of the sea, forest, sun and desert found in colonized regions. To achieve this effect, combine:

  • Neutral shades: Start with a base of neutral colors including shades of warm white and subdued blues, beiges, greens and yellow tones.
  • Dark accents: Supplement this neutral foundation with some dark tones by adding rich tropical woods or paint in shades of dark chocolate or coffee.
  • Bright touches: If you are aiming for a Caribbean, Central American or South Indian influenced British colonial bedroom, you can also introduce some bursts of bright color. Vibrant pink or yellow accents work well for this look.

Keep in mind that British colonial design in other regions didn't include bright colored accents.

Fabrics and textures characteristic of British colonial design reflect local available materials. Here are a few you may want to use to give your bedroom an authentic British colonial feel:

Themes that commonly appear in British colonial design include pineapples, palm leaves and seashell patterns.

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Working with Walls and Floors

Many of the areas colonized by the British had humid, tropical climates. To stay comfortable, colonists often painted walls in light colors to keep rooms bright and cool.

For your British colonial bedroom, start by painting walls in creamy white or a pale neutral color. These wall decorations will enhance your bedroom's British colonial design:

  • Regional framed prints and paintings: Some great choices include exotic birds, palm trees, monkeys, tropical flowers and foliage.
  • Wall hangings: Reed wall hangings or tapestries made in colonized areas offer a dramatic touch.

Dark tropical hardwoods are ideal for British colonial bedroom floors, and were used by the British to keep rooms cool. Decorate deep wood floors with finely crafted area rugs such as Indian and Oriental carpets, faux zebra skin rugs and woven sisal rugs.

Window treatments should be simple and airy so your bedroom will be filled with natural light and you have a good view of your surrounding landscape. Consider simple sheer or semi sheer curtains, or rattan shades.

British Colonial Bedroom Furniture

British colonial bedroom furniture made use of traditional British design; however, the pieces were generally smaller and lighter in weight. Construction of dressers, nightstands armoires and other bedroom essentials took advantage of locally available materials including:

  • Mahogany or teak wood with dark, rich finishes
  • Wicker
  • Rattan.

Cane insets, louvered doors and bamboo accents are popular features of this furniture style. You may also want to include other classic British colonial elements such as botanical fabrics, animal skin prints or leather for any upholstered chairs or benches in your bedroom.

For a sophisticated British colonial bed, try some of these easy design ideas:

  • A rattan headboard
  • Thick cotton bedspreads
  • Bedding with light flowing fabrics and botanical prints
  • Sheer curtains surrounding the bed
  • Decorative pillows or blanket throws with animal prints.

Accessories and Accents for Your British Colonial Bedroom

Final decorative touches help complete a cohesive design for your British colonial bedroom. You may want to enhance the look of your bedroom with some of these accessories:

  • Travel related items: Frame and hang a vintage map of an exotic destination on your wall, use an antique steamer trunk for seating or storage, or display antique suitcases in a corner.
  • Photos: Stay true to this historic decorating style by choosing sepia toned photos framed in cast iron or other metals.
  • Nautical accents: An authentic wooden ship's wheel or some framed paintings of sailing ships incorporate the history of sea journeys to the colonies.
  • Vintage touches: Add some relics from the British colonial era such as leather bound books, hurricane lamps, well-worn wooden items or antique glass bottles.
  • British elegance: Display some fancy English items the British colonists would have traveled with such as fine English crystal decanters or china tea sets.
  • Regional themes: Include lamps and accessories with pineapple, palm or seashell motifs.
  • Overhead fans: Before the days of air conditioning, bedrooms were cooled with overhead fans using wicker, rattan or palm leaf design blades.
  • Tropical plants: Bring some exotic life and color to your bedroom with tropical flowers and green plants for your dresser, nightstand or floor.
  • Other regional accents: Include some accessories from India, Africa or the Caribbean islands such as handmade drums, pottery, wooden or faux ivory animal carvings, wicker sconces and baskets, wicker or carved wood three-panel dressing screens and ornate Indian decorations.

You'll have sweet dreams of stately travels to exotic destinations in a British colonial bedroom that blends the best aspects of many varied traditions.

Last Updated: January 4, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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