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British Colonial Style for your Living Space

  Black Island TV Stand

At the height of her reign (from 1887 to 1901), Queen Victoria ruled over the British Empire which spanned several continents. Because of the infusion of Middle Eastern and Asian cultural influences, Victorian style was extremely eclectic, displaying the elegance, opulence, drama and romance of these other more exotic cultures. By the same token, those British subjects stationed in the British Colonial outposts of the Empire that included Singapore, East Africa, India and the British West Indies, brought with them their language, principles of government, architecture and furniture. 

But because they were so far from their beloved Isle, when new furniture was needed, the styles and designs that reminded them of home were adapted to reflect life in the tropics. Furniture in the British colonies of Asia and Africa sported traditional tribal motifs and animal prints like leopard and zebra. In the British colonies of the West Indies, beds, sideboards, tables and chairs often incorporated local materials including rattan and leather. Motifs, particularly floral ones, and even some of the furniture pieces themselves, took on fanciful aspects and elements. The British Colonial Style that emerged from the habit of British Colonials adapting the comforts of home to their new surroundings is richly traditional, with touches of whimsy and the exotic. 

British Colonial Style for the Bedroom 

3 Piece Bedroom Set

When decorating a bedroom, the bed is the natural focal point of the room’s interior design. Start with the Tommy Bahama Home Island Estate West Indies Poster Bed 3 Piece Bedroom Set in Plantation. The canopy bed in the middle of the room will command attention, especially if draped with mosquito netting-like canopy top and side curtains. Traditional arrow feet and finials are paired with simulated bamboo posts and cane panels, perfectly illustrating classic British Colonial design. 

Especially in the colonies of the British West Indies, color palettes for walls and window treatments typically reflected the lush colors found in nature: the vivid blues of the ocean and sky; the deeper greens of tree foliage and the rich pastels of flowering plants; and the varied yellows of sand and sun. Botanical prints are common fabrics for bed benches, curtains, bedding sets and upholstered occasional chairs. 

British Colonial Style for the Dining Room 

Rectangular Dining Table

When British Colonial officials of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria entertained head of state or the officials of local government, the meals were naturally lavish and the surroundings sumptuous and luxuriant. 

Wall colors are muted jewel or earth tones to provide a suitable canvas for the richness of traditional teak and mahogany dining room furniture. 

Swag curtains with ornate valances were commonly used window treatments. The heavy fabrics used for curtains often included gold thread and tie-backs were made of braided and/or tasseled cords. 

The matching dining chairs to the Tommy Bahama Home Island Estate Grenadine Rectangular Dining Table in Plantation are elegant and refined, incorporating organic elements such as rattan for the frame and abaca for the backrest. 

British Colonial Style for the Living Room 

boca coffee table

Living room furniture British possesses substantial profiles but with lines and curves that are relaxed by tropical and native influences. 

Arms of chairs and legs of tables were carved, often with motifs that reflected the region such as palm leaves or pineapple tops. Shutters, which kept rooms cool, were integrated into furniture designs as doors or side panels to keep the interiors of cabinets fresh and ventilated. 

In addition to curtains, window treatments also incorporated louvered shutters to keep out the noon heat. 

Living room accessories could include heavy candlesticks made of wood or porcelain; sisal area rugs; hurricane lamps; potted plants in oversized pots; and trunk style tables. 

British Colonial style has an appeal and allure that stems from adventure in exotic lands. While still retaining the dignity of Victorian style, British Colonial furnishings branch out into brave new territory; a reflection of British subjects recreating the comforts of home in unfamiliar lands.

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4 Responses to “British Colonial Style for your Living Space”

  1. Stacey says:

    Hello…I like the “Black Island TV Stand” you have featured — it’s the first photo on your site. But I cannot find this item by searching online. Can you please share the maker and style details please? I’m seeking a coordinating piece for my Tommy Bahama Sunset dining table (and related pieces are discontinued) Thanks! -Stacey

  2. furnituredesign says:

    Hi Stacey,

    Somehow the product was misnamed. It is actually called Tommy Bahama Home Island Estate Blake Island TV Stand in Plantation and can be found here at

    Hope this is helpful – Heather

  3. michelle says:

    Hello from Australia,

    I love the British colonial style. I accent mostly with Eastern and Pacific pieces. Searching and saving photos from the web for several years has given me a great data base of the look I like. As I have become more informed I have been frustrated by many ‘experts’ inaccurate photos of the BC style. Thankyou so much for being so accurate – it makes such a difference to read information from a site where care and intelligence has been exercised to get it truly right for yourself and your readers. Michelle

  4. Heather B says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Michelle. British Colonial style is one of my favorite traditional sub styles. I hope you will come back on Friday (here but Saturday in Australia!) when I begin a new 3-part style series all about British Colonial interior design. Thanks again. Heather

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