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Design Diary: How to do a tropical theme right at home

The season’s hottest trend is also one of the most difficult to master. Follow these steps for instant drama

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Amazonian birds with rainbow hued plumage, beautiful foliage from the rainforests and a refreshing palette of teals, greens, and blues — referencing the lush, magical tropics has become quite the go-to when it comes to home and hospitality design.

I can understand why. Not only does it offer a well-deserved break from a world of neutrals and greys that the interiors world has been stuck in for so long, it holds promise for maximum impact with minimum effort, not to mention its instant Instagram appeal. What is there not to like?

“Decorating with colour, flora and fauna is hard — it’s about confidence,” says interior designer Lucinda Sanford, whose lifelong love affair with nature stems from growing up in a house full of flowers. “But once you start, it feels natural being brave and adventurous and seeking inspiration from the past and the present!”

There is a fine line between tropical chic and your granddad’s Hawaiian shirt. This is how you stay on the right side of it.

THE LEAF

Arguably our best friend on this journey, it offers an instant fix of colour, print and pattern. Some of the best names in wallpaper design, Zoffany and Murals Wallpaper have introduced a wealth of prints. Featuring varied patterns, exaggerated scales and often with a textural emboss, these wallcovering will drive out any summer blues. Be it a stylised representation or an authentic study of plants that is meticulously layered with other fantastical creatures, there is a leaf motif for every taste and style. Pair your leafy wall with furniture upholstered in lush fabrics and in colours that echo the tropical palette — emerald greens, peacock blues and canary yellows. For more impact, layer the look with real plants.

SMALL CHANGES

Going all out is not for everyone, and especially if you have already invested in your home, bowing to seasonal trends is not always the wise decision. For those ‘grown-ups’ who can’t commit a theme, or prefer things a bit more classic, you can still update your interiors with a few tricks. First, look at your soft furnishings. Can the cushions, curtains and upholstery be changed to incorporate designs and colours from the jungle? This is the easiest way as you can always revert to your favourites and keep these season prints for when they are back in vogue. Second, appoint a larger than life plant — preferably with wide dramatic leaves and fresh hue of green in a focal area.

ABSTRACTION

If you don’t want to go the obvious route and are after something more contemporary and less fickle, invest in tropical spirit. Think colours, textures and materials. While blues and greens are the obvious choices, oranges and pink offer a refreshing variation to the theme. Inspired by the fantastical birds and flowers of the tropical forest, these colours are light, offering you a vast canvas of prints and textures to explore. Layer the lighter, unexpected shades with more obvious choices. Silks, velvet, jute and linens; bring in the treasures of nature into your space. Mid-Century furniture works wonderfully with the theme — its wooden accents ground the room while lending a connection with nature without actual plants. You can achieve a similar effect with cane furniture and wicker accents as well.

The tropical theme lends itself very easily to accessorising. Chose from an array of decorative objects — from the ubiquitous pineapples and parakeets to the iconic Seletti monkey lamps and golden palm lights — the market is flush with jungle inspiration, big and small. Add delicate plants such as ferns, and throw in an accent furniture piece that begs cuddle into it. Your summer look is ready!

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