The Art of Caribbean Design

By Stephanie Tyler
CJ Contributor

When people envision the Caribbean, they think of nature at its best—sparkling waters, white sand beaches, lush tropical forests, and sunny weather for days. Whether venturing off to a resort suite or luxurious vacation home, vacationers flock toward fresh, radiant spaces that allow the main attraction—nature—to take center stage.

Over the past 18 years, my company, International Design Concepts (IDC), has worked on numerous hospitality and residential projects throughout the Caribbean. Whether designing estate homes in the private island of Jumby Bay or upscale wellness retreats in St. Lucia, IDC has a few guidelines we keep top-of-mind — ones that can easily be translated and worked into your next island-inspired space.

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Set Goals for Your Interior Experience

Always keep the goals for the space in mind when designing. Is it a romantic getaway? A family oriented retreat? Like a storyteller, you should use a space to construct a meaningful dialogue. Designing with purpose and vision creates the best results.

Keep Your Design Concept Fresh and Simple

The famous quote by Mies van der Rohe “ less is more” can be applied to design in the Caribbean. Vacation should be about escaping the chaos of daily life, so don’t clutter interior spaces with unnecessary furnishings. For one of our projects, the BodyHoliday LeSport in St. Lucia, we renovated the guestroom-style to create clean, sophisticated areas where guests could rejuvenate their bodies and spirits. We opted for furnishings in natural shades with simple silhouettes, ultimately brightening the suites. By keeping furnishings minimal and colors light, you can open up even the most cramped of spaces. Be sure to respect the architecture and do not let your interiors overtake the structure.

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Select the Right Materials

While the climate of the Caribbean is perfect for sunbathing, the natural elements of sun and salt can often be harsh on traditional building and interior materials. Select outdoor furnishings made from weather-resistant elements like teak, aluminum, resin, and stainless steel. Also, consider synthetic fabrics like Sunbrella. Durable finishes that mimic nature can create the look and provide the endurance to withstand the elements. At the BodyHoliday LeSport suites, we chose porcelain tile that mimics soft driftwood, visually creating a bleached driftwood effect, while ensuring the durability of a beachfront resort.

Infuse Nature and Local Arts

The colors and textures of the natural surroundings are always an inspiration. Flora and fauna can provide ideas for vivid bold accents of color while sandy beaches and organic shapes can inspire soft, soothing palettes. Each island also has its own culture with diversified backgrounds and influences, that can play a role in your interiors. We are currently designing the new Habitation Jouissant, in Cap Haitien, which will become part of the celebrated Marriott Autograph Collection. Autograph is known for its “like nothing else” brand, which exemplifies local living. The interiors are designed to create a curated art experience. Local artisans and craftsmen will be integrated in the interiors; from the mosaic columns of the porte-cochere, original street paintings in guest rooms, and the fine art gallery with rotating exhibitions for local artists. Embracing the local artists in each island, albeit wood workers, watercolor artists, or ceramists, provides you with indigenous inspiration.

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Allow the Outside In

Key to the island lifestyle is the blurred line between indoor and outdoor living. Nothing can trump the natural beauty of the islands, so rather than compete with it, welcome it. If you can, maximize sightlines with an open-concept design, making every point of the space one with a view. Our recent design of the estate home Evangeline in Jumby Bay, where the great room is open without walls to the outdoor verandahs, encourages the movement between spaces.

By following these simple guidelines you can turn any space into a Caribbean paradise. Happy designing!

Stephanie Tyler is president of International Design Concepts (IDC).