Looking back at British Colonial Style...

The British Empire during the 19th century.

The British Empire during the 19th century.

Now that we are all over the shock of Brexit and are wondering how it will impact us in the near future I wanted to take look back at the positive design influences that Britain left behind in the past and in particular British Colonial style.


British Colonial style was developed during the 19th century under the reign of Queen Victoria when the British Empire was at its peak and stretching as far as North and South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa. As members of the British military travelled throughout the colonies they liked to bring elements of home for comfort for the duration of their stay in a foreign country. It was quickly realised that British materials couldn’t withstand the tropical conditions and so local crafts men were employed to make replicas of British furniture out of native materials. The furniture would often have been made from local mahogany, teak, wicker, rattan and animal hide but the craftsmen often added their own design elements such as carved pineapples or florals. This marriage of influences between the British and Asian, African and Indian influences resulted in British Colonial style.

The interiors were designed bright and airy with high ceilings in an attempt to keep them as cool as possible within topical temperatures. The furniture was sophisticated and beautifully carved with a touch of formality. Many of the pieces were collapsible to make them easier to transport and these were called campaign furniture. Campaign furniture included writing tables, mahogany chairs, beds and liquor cabinets and were most notable for the use of their dark woods and criss-crossed legs. Large travel trunks and suitcases were used to transport clothes and possessions.

Patterns that were very popular of the time consisted of botanical prints, paisleys, Ikat and animal prints in light weight fabrics such as cotton and linen. Window shutters and celling fans had practical uses in controlling breezes. As the British travelled they collected numerous accessories which they displayed proudly on shelves and in cabinets. These consisted of China, crystal, carvings, maps, magnifying glasses, telescopes and letter writing sets.

Probably the most instantly recognisable feature of British Colonial style is the use of large tropical plants indoors. Potted plants, ferns and large palms adorned the rooms giving a sense of grandeur and bringing the essence tropics inside. 


Images Via  Houzz