The British Empire encompassed areas of Africa, Asia, America and the South Pacific, which led to explorers and travellers being exposed to many different cultures and design influences and these have been integrated into what is often referred to as British colonial style. A British colonial furniture and interior style with its travel inspiration is a look growing in popularity and one that is not hard to achieve. Colour is important factor for colonial interiors as light colours helped keep interiors cool in the tropical heat, so any colonial inspired space should use creams, whites, pale greens and blues, which when paired with darker colonial furniture gives a wonderful contrast.
Colonial furniture takes it roots from the formal Victorian styles of the 1800s, but were influenced and adapted to incorporate rattan, bamboo, leather and inspiration from tropical fruit like pineapples and birds like peacocks, but still keep their dark wood colours and turned features. This look can be reproduced with cane chairs, cupboards and cabinets and old wooden chests made from teak, camphorwood and other tropical hardwoods. Original antique teak furniture can be bought for the same price as repoduction vintage and antique furniture. Old armoires can be bought from as little as £500
Campaign furniture was made to be easily transported, so were collapsible, easily separated and built for the rigours of long-haul transportation. So folding tables, chairs and beds were made to be easily stored and transported by rail and steamer ship. So look for pieces with criss-crossed legs and metal edges. Of course vintage travel trunks, vintage suitcases and antique chests give a space a well-travelled feel.
Fabrics were inspired by botanical, animal, paisley and were made from readily available locally made cotton and linen. So long flowing light coloured cotton fabric will give a room soft filtered light. Mixing throw cushions and tropical printed bedcovers or traditional vintage covers will give an eclectic travel look.
Tropical plants such as palms and ferns in simple terracotta pots will transform spaces into dramatic pattern rich areas reminiscent of British colonial clubs.
Colonial architecture: thick framed wooden windows and shutters were used to keep the heat and Monsoon rains out, while giving a wonderful diffused light. Today authentic wooden frames are repurposed and used as vintage mirrors and cupboard doors.
British colonialists loved to collect items from their travels. So unusual curios fit in well with vintage maps, antique cameras, globes, travel bags, old books and china to create finishing touches in a colonial inspired space.
Have a good idea of what pieces and items you are looking to buy along with their size, colour, style and shape. Keep a scrapbook or lookbook to hand, whether on your phone or in a notebook, of what you are looking to buy. Buy from reputable and knowledgeable stores. British era colonial furniture and interiors can be bought in antique shops, where they will be able to help with giving infomation about their stock’s history, style and use. Speak to the store owners about what you are looking for as they may not display everything they ave available or they might be able to source the items for you. Buying from specialists allows you to buy from a knowlwdgeable source. They are very likely to know a piece’s history: where it is from, what is is made from and how it ended up in their store. Of course auctions and eBay are a great place to find well priced antique colonial furniture particularly as many antique dealers have eBay stores, but do check descriptions throughly, ask questions and get a quotation for delivery before you get into the excitement of bidding. As it is very easy to buy something and then discover it not what you were expecting! Of course markets and street fairs are also a good place to source old furniture especailly if you have bought from them before. If you would like to know more about interior stying we would recommend read interior designer Sooz Gordon’s blog on How To Make A House A Home she shares some simple tips on starting an interior design project. At Scaramanga we only buy antique and old furniture and we regularly visit India where we source furniture from antique dealers we have been. We carefully select each piece indivdually and oversee its the restoration (where it has not been restored already). Each piece is unique, was handmade by skilled woodworking artisans and built to last several lifetimes, from quality hardwoods like teak and most importantly each piece has a story and a history of its own.