When the British were in India, they had to deal with the hottest months of summer. In the desert sun or in soupy, humid coastal cities, we naturally seek ways to cool not only our bodies, but also our surroundings. One way to deal with it is to retreat to mountainous hill towns like Darjeeling, which the British did. Another way is to design your dwelling to either truly cool the air or create a feeling of coolness.
Image: Jim Thompson Tea Room at the Cameron Highlands Resort in Malaysia
When I see British Colonial and Anglo-Indian decor, I see the rooms of people trying to keep cool, as there are some tropical elements to the look. The style draws influences from India, Africa as well as Asia, with a personal twist given by the British.
Here’s an example of British Colonial style in an Indian safari lodge hotel:
Images: Baghvan in Madhya Pradesh, India from Architectural Digest
Key elements of the style include:
- Light cream or white walls
- Very dark woods in furniture and architectural accents
- Tall ceilings
- Huge open windows, doors and hallways
- Glass lanterns
- Mosquito netting
- Deep verandahs
- Tall potted tropical plants
Images: Glass Anglo-Indian hundi bell lantern from 1stdibs; Anglo-Indian plantation chair from One Kings Lane; British Colonial palm print from Fulcrum Gallery; Minwax wood stain; Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan in Old White
The light walls and dark woods create a stark contrast that actually feels cool when spaces are big and open with tall ceilings. To get the look, you can decorate a room with:
- Dark wood stains like Minwax Jacobean
- Light cream paint on walls
- Four poster beds
- Wicker, rattan or cane in chairs and benches
- Rattan window shades
- Glass “hundi lanterns” hanging from ceilings
- Tall palm plants in wicker planters
- Ceiling fans (yes, I know not everyone is a “fan” but they do cool a room and add tropical style)
The British Colonial and Anglo-Indian styles are both dependent on natural colors and textures. If you want to add spicier colors, you can add a dash of India’s colors like saffron red, turmeric yellow and indigo blue in combination with Indian patterns. Add some painted stencil patterns to fabrics like chair cushions, pillows and curtains. These patterned fabrics will soften the dark wood furniture of British Colonial designs.
Image: British Colonial influence with printed fabric from Phoebe Howard
Royal Design Studio has a large offering of Indian stencils. A few that would look good with Anglo-Indian styles are the Jaipur Flower Garden Allover Stencil, Gota Embroidery Indian Border Stencil, Kamal Lotus Indian Stencil, and the Rani Paisley Damask Allover Stencil.
Image: Anglo-Indian caned daybed from 1stdibs
You could also add a tropical touch by painting rattan and wicker patterns on various surfaces. Try the Wicker Stencil or modellos in patterns EasAll124a or EasAll124b from Modello Designs that you can order in the exact size to fit your project. Modellos are a little different than stencils because they are one-time use, so consider that in your project planning.
The British Colonial and Anglo-Indian styles are so popular, they spread way beyond India to Malaysia, Kenya, the West Indies and the Caribbean. You will find this style adopted in all those places where you might seek cool, breezy rooms! If summer gets warm where you are, try bringing these elements into your home.