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British Colonial Style

This post is inspired by our recent trip to Singapore. Whilst Singapore is now a modern vibrant city, in 1826 it became a British settlement under the control of British India. A walk through Singapore central district reveals plenty of heritage buildings dating back to the British colonial era. These buildings built mainly in the European Neoclassical and Palladian styles are still standing and in use as offices, restaurants and boutique establishments.

Raffles Hotel

So what are the characteristics of the British colonial style?

At its peak the British Empire encompassed parts of Africa, North America, India, Asia and the South Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand) exposing colonists to a wide range of design influences. Elements of these international styles became what we know as British colonial style.......elegantly carved furniture, light and airy atmosphere, comfortably sophisticated spaces with a touch of formality and inviting textures.

Rooms lead to deep open verandahs. These outdoor covered rooms provide a great place to retire out of the sun.

Burkill Hall, Singapore Orchid Garden

Tall rounded windows or garden doors were included.

Seminary, Singapore Central District

Traditional shutters help control the breezes, deal with the tropical heat and shut out storms. Made from local timbers the shutters were left in their natural wood finish or painted.

Residence, Singapore's Chinatown

Light walls (usually white) provide a lovely contrast to the dark wood floors and furniture. This makes the rooms feel light and airy which is important psychologically to counteract the oppressive heat.

Tropical inspired furnishings including solid and formal designs of the Victorian era were adapted to reflect influences of exotic locations. Pieces took on tropical design elements but retained the British formal characteristics of dark carved and turned wood. Carved palm trees and lattice were carved into wood and used alongside rattan, leather and bamboo.

High ceilings were used to dispel heat and keep interiors cool.

Source: Brian Venden Brink Photographer

An eclectic assortment of fine accessories were used such as china, silver and crystal.

Potted palms, ferns and other plants were placed in the interiors and in strategic places on verandahs.

Punkahas and ceiling fans were used to circulate air and cool the interiors.

Source: Architectural Digest

Ceiling pendant lights such as glass bell jars adorned rooms, hallways and verandahs.

Texture was created with the inclusion of baskets for storage, reed and sisal floor mats and cane in furniture pieces.

Dark wood furniture and floors is typical of British colonial style.

Light and eclectic fabrics paisleys, ikats, tropical designs and animal prints complete the look.

This eclectic interior style may be easily adapted and applied to Queenslander architecture found in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

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