Defining Your Tropical Style

From bright Key West tropical to moody West Indies, there’s more than one kind of tropical style. Here’s how to pick your style and incorporate unique elements to make it your own:

Key West
Key West style was handed down by the island’s Bahamanian immigrants and there’s no tropical style more laid back or carefree. Decorating with Key West flair means bright colors, whimsical touches, comfortable, eclectic furnishings and easy-care fabrics. If you love Key West, paint reclaimed furniture, combine colors with abandon and, like a true member of the Conch Republic, feel free to break all the traditional rules.

West Indies
If your tastes run more toward exotic elegance, West Indies style is for you. Look for dark, rich woods, indigenous, and handmade accent pieces and textiles in the colors of spice. West Indies decor features heirloom pieces such as lightweight white quilts, creamy linens, and sheer curtains. Bring in plenty of tropical greenery and flowers, and keep your rooms minimal, understated and natural.

If you’re a salty dog at heart, you’d probably rather be living on a sailboat than on land. Until you can make that dream a reality, bring boat living indoors with lots of crisp white and navy blue textiles, teak, walnut or white furniture, and brass lamps and accessories. Nautical style is preppy, slightly scientific and isn’t afraid to include a carved wooden whale or cast off boat oars in the mix. You’ll get extra points for anything made of rope. Ship living means everything is high and tight—so this decor works well in small spaces.


Sunsets, surfers, and pineapples. What’s not to love about Hawaiian decor? Think big, tropical prints, surfboards, vintage ocean-themed signs and sturdy furniture in dark woods. Don’t hold back on the orchids, miniature fruit trees or palm tree print textiles. Best colors are citrusy oranges, yellows, and lime greens anchored by natural woods and grass rugs. Splurge on a handmade Hawaiian quilt and you’ll enjoy a real slice of tradition for many years.

Coastal decor is nothing if not fun and functional. The staple aesthetic of summer beach houses everywhere, enjoy combing through salvage stores for reclaimed wood and vintage furniture. Linens and textiles are light, basic and bright with splashes of bright accent colors. Keep a basket by the front door for flipflops and space on a table or shelf for an ever-rotating collection of found objects such as sea glass, shells and driftwood. Make sure there is plenty of shelving for games, books, and light blankets for chilly evenings. Coastal decor says nothing is precious and everyone is welcome.

Old Florida
Old Florida has a look all it’s own. Part Spanish, part Art Deco, and part 1950s Americana, this look is dignified and colorful—without venturing into the splashy free-for-all of Key West. Think watery blues and greens with crisp white accents, Cyprus, cedar, oak, and pine floors and furniture. You’ll want to incorporate lots of black iron and terra cotta or brick plus vintage pieces with clean lines and solid, functional design.

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