Whether you want to create a tropical patchwork of patterns on your porch chairs or set a serene mood in your guest bedroom, fabrics are a shortcut to transforming your home into a waterside oasis.
Let nature be your guide to a palette of sandy neutrals, laid-back blues, refreshing citrus infusions or Caribbean hues.
Not sure what colors would work well together? Borrow a color scheme from a flea market find, such as pottery, a travel poster for a luxury liner or sun-bleached canvas deck chair. A wallpaper book that features coastal themed patterns is another great place to look for inspiration.
For a simple yet no-fail palette choose your favorite color, then add white (see photo left). A bright white will create a crisp fresh look. A creamy ivory will produce a retro time-worn effect.
If you’re looking for a decorating scheme that can be changed — with the season or your mood — consider mainly solid fabrics. This way, adding or subtracting a few patterned accents will completely change the decor.
A solid sofa can go from family-friendly to romantic in a flash. Simply swap a trio of tropical print barkcloth pillows for one long beaded silk bolster when it’s time to dim the lights and pour the wine.
One of the easiest ways to decorate with textiles is to choose one fabric print –or perky cabana stripe –that you can’t live without and use it on one large feature in a room – on a sofa, the windows or the bed, for example.
Next, choose at least one pattern that pairs well with your main print.
The patterns need not match but they do need an obvious excuse for keeping company, such as a color or motif in common.
Unless the motifs on your main pattern are extremely large, use your focal point fabric on a few small accents around the room or in an adjacent one to reinforce its importance.
Keep in mind that not all of your prints must come from a fabric shop. You can find wonderful designs in the aisle of a large antiques mall or secondhand emporium. Vintage tablecloths, bedspreads and aprons and hankies can be re-purposed.
If the motif is too large, use a solid fabric in the motif’s most prominent color for detailing such as piping or borders.
Upholstery and Slipcovers
Duck, twill or muslin make a casual, put-your-feet up statement, while washable linens lend an informal elegance to a room.
White or natural denim slipcovers are more than mere cover-ups; they communicate your philosophy on life!
While some folks swear that white furnishings are practical for large families and pets, if you are the type who frets over every smudge, prints, stripes or checks really are a better choice. Can’t resist summer whites? Using flimsy white cover ups during the hottest months of the year is a good compromise.
Open the windows. Let the curtains blow in the wind. Or better yet leave the windows bare and top them off with a barely-there valance. Hang linen tea towels or pretty napkins as a summery valance.
When shading from the sun or privacy is an issue, gauze panels, airy lace, or other lightweight fabrics are excellent choices. They not only feel cool, they blow appealingly in the breeze.
Mosquito netting and tulle can be draped or twined around a rustic wood pole, boat oar or piece of driftwood.
Plantation shutters paired with sheers –or hidden shades –add Caribbean flair to any space.
Sometimes the smallest details are the most important. Pillows, for example, add instant personality. Look for interesting examples crafted from remnants of bedspread, rugs or tapestries.
To select the perfect pillow for each place, you’ll need to find a balance of texture (rough or smooth) and finish (matte or shiny).
Chenille cushions add softness and feel nostalgic. Toss one on a wicker porch chair or pile a group of these sentimental favorites on a bed.
Newly-made chenille cushions are usually stitched from old bedspreads, but some are reproductions of 40s and 50s florals.
Brushed fabrics, such as flannel, also impart coziness.
Rougher textures, as a rule, feel more casual than smoother ones. They also look right at home on wicker, rattan and teak seating pieces.
Barkcloth (a cotton fabric with a pebbly surface ) is a classic choice for porch pillows. Iconic Hawaiian barkcloth patterns include lush florals and over-sized foliage in slightly muted South Pacific hues.
Loosely woven burlap and crocheted straw cushions have grasshut chic. Look for ones embellished with tiny shells, mother of pearl buttons or coconut fiber tassles.
If a ship shape atmosphere is more what you have in mind, set a course for cushions covered in nautical signaling flags or old sailcloth.
Striped ticking in red and cream or blue and white will also do the trick.
No matter what color palette you choose, it’s easy to go ‘green’.
Look for bed sheets, blankets and duvet covers made from organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and silk or non-chemically treated fabrics.
All are unbelievably soft and many are wrinkle free, too.
These natural choices are good for your health and good for the environment.