Skies are grey, and you’ve used up the last of your vacation days mending from New Year’s festivities. Instead of sitting around feeling gloomy, revitalize your apartment and bring a little of the island lifestyle inside. Before you start buying plastic pineapples, create a plan for your space. The easy luxury of a beach bungalow is easier to live with than the bikini bright kitsch of a theme restaurant. Think sun-bleached shades and whitewashed wood, accented with small souvenirs of the tropics.
For the look of a weathered hideaway, start with a dramatically bright floral wallpaper. After hanging, use a large, flat bristle brush to apply a coat of beige interior paint to the entire surface. Before each section dries, use a soft cloth to wipe off excess paint. Smear in small circles to avoid stripes. The result: sun-faded subtle floral walls. If you can’t make the commitment to paper, try painting the living area in soft shades of mango or blue. For texture, stipple a second darker shade with a large sea sponge.
Sisal mats with twill borders are an inexpensive floor fix. Keep windows inviting with simple sheers, floor length in cream or white. Ideally, they will billow with the breeze like an ocean dream. If you already have wood floors and ceiling fans, you’re halfway there. Introduce a dresser, bar cart, and other home accessories in bamboo, wicker, and rattan. Find great deals on island-style chairs and sofas at outdoor furniture stores’ end of the season sales. Make comfort key in choosing fabrics. Khaki or beige combed cotton for the sofa, or large floor pillows, feels like a well-loved beach house porch.
Layers of all white bed linens have the look of a Jamaican resort. Use tourist t-shirts as front panels for bedroom throw pillows. Keep colors light and rooms open. Also invest in plenty of mirrors to keep the space feeling boundless. Indulge in the spirit of travel with leather bound trunks as end tables or storage. An old shuttered door in distressed pastel makes a great coffee table top. Though there are many fun South Pacific-inspired lamps, let most of your lighting come from a flame. Group a few glass and brass lanterns or iron candlesticks, and fill with candles in delicious scents of Mai Tai and Pineapple Cilantro. Complete the ambiance with potted orchids and small palms and soothing music.
If you’re fortunate enough to have experienced a tropical getaway, mat and frame enlarged vacation photos. Don’t fret if you have to co-opt others’ images, though. Seek art that you can relax into just as you would a picture window onto the sea: endless waves, Caribbean sunset, pristine sands, blushing hibiscus. For wanderlust style, frame vintage cigar labels, maps, and botanical etchings.
Use considerate details to reflect personal style. Are you attracted more to cigars and Tiki bars or all things nautical? Choose a secondary specific theme to support your look, lest you collect everything with a palm tree on it. For the wannabe sailor, try brass hurricanes and hourglasses, leather-bound journals, grommeted canvas curtains and slipcovers, and model ships for the mantel. For the bartender in paradise, collect silver swizzle sticks, mojito glasses, crocodile barware, and oceans of rum. For the Polynesian princess, stock the bath with luxurious salts and soaps and beach-size bath towels. To play the early retiree, choose a quality poker set, humidor, and indoor putting practice green. Stretch your budget with bottles of assorted shells or beach glass or travel labels from sunny climes. Though I advise against flamingo-festooned accessories, do introduce unique pieces just for fun. “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys, a lifeguard chair, silly coconut crafts from tourist traps, even a mounted marlin – choose one or two conversation starters.
Make your home as close as possible to the place you would choose to be if away. Then just sit back and relax with a couple of mint muddled mojitos, a basket of conch fritters, and pretend that you’re in paradise.