Those of us of a certain age know that tropical interior design is not a new notion (remember when The Golden Girls’ Miami Beach home was everything?). However, like all trends that come and go, today’s iteration of tropical modernism has a fresh spin.
Derived from modernism, the modern tropical decor movement takes cues from homes in humid tropical climates designed for indoor-outdoor living. Clean lined, wood-framed furniture meets organic materials and vibrant colors inspired by lush island environments.
“I love the modern tropical decor and am so happy it is such a huge trend,” comments interior designer Jennifer Burt of the staging and design firm Mississippi Maximalism. “It looks like a vacation and I love evoking that feeling.”
And in light of a year of sheltering indoors from COVID-19, who wouldn’t want a staycation-worthy interior? We’ll walk you through how to style a personal paradise with these eight tropical modern decor tips.
1. Potted plants and organic materials
As you might expect, no tropical modern interior is complete without a curation of palms, banana plants, and other tropical flora. Our designers report that houseplants are currently one of the top decor trends. Many thank (or blame) Millennials for the recent rise in biophilia, and the increase in time spent indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly perpetuated the trend.
“Even before the pandemic, the fiddle leaf plant was the ‘it’ plant for any nook in a room and succulents were everywhere,” notes Marielle Shortell, co-founder of the decor, and rental company Hestia Harlow.
“But with people moving indoors and bringing the outside in, the need for fresh greenery and life in your home almost became a necessity.”
Burt agrees that the rise of tropical modern coincides with the circumstances of the pandemic: “The modern tropical trend continues to grow because with all of the travel restrictions, creating a sense of vacation while at home is very appealing.”
She recommends bringing life to your interior with potted plants, exotic orchids, and vases full of seashells.
Get the look: Live Majesty Palm plant, $40 at West Elm
2. Rattan, wicker, and bamboo accents
For a modern tropical interior, rattan, wicker, and bamboo furnishings are a must. Stylish, comfortable, and sustainable, these organic materials feel as good as they look.
To ensure you’re purchasing eco-friendly designs, search for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified pieces at retailers like West Elm, or shop Etsy for upcycled or reclaimed options.
Burt recommends painting some of these furniture pieces shades like crisp white, cobalt blue, or kelly green for a modern twist. A splash of color enlivens your space, especially if the color coordinates with artwork and other decor items.
Get the look: West Indies rattan armchair, $975 at American Rattan
3. Palm motifs
Palm motifs are one of the most iconic components of tropical modern design. Make a statement with a palm pattern print, room divider, rug, or wallpaper. Decorate with natural palm fans on the wall or in a glazed ceramic pot. And if you’re ready to splurge, Burt advises investing in new upholstery:
“Choosing a vibrant palm leaf or ikat print for throw pillows and curtains instantly updates the tropical trend.”
Just remember to limit the palm motif to a couple of items — a room full of palm prints can appear overthemed.
Get the look: Martha Stewart by Safavieh Tropic Palm indoor/outdoor rug, $250 at Overstock
4. A palette inspired by nature
“I always say that nature creates the most pleasing color schemes, and that is so true if you want to decorate with a modern tropical vibe,” Burt shares.
She suggests using a nature photo as the basis for your color scheme. Search for tropical pictures like “exotic flowers” or “tropical bird,” then plug your photo of choice into Adobe Color for a customized palette.
Maintain a modern look by styling your interior with 60% neutral colors and wood finishes, 30% green, and 10% vibrant colors from your inspo pic.
Get the look: Parrots of Brasil wallpaper pattern, $223 at Etoffe
5. Golden accents
As the finish of the moment, gold contributes to the “modern” half of tropical modern decor. Choose brushed brass lamps and gold cabinet hardware to brighten your interior. A sleek gold and entry table perfectly balances natural wood furniture.
For a more subtle look, mix gold with a secondary finish, such as matte black or stainless steel.
Get the look: Textured Green Glass and Vintage Brass Pendant Light, $64.93 at Litfad
6. Unexpected prints
Tropical modern design is all about playfulness — don’t be shy when it comes to incorporating prints. When done right, overlaying multiple patterns and textures can create a chaotic harmony akin to a jungle.
“We loved the layering of different fauna as well as the introduction of woven materials, mixed metals, and an unexpected pairing of animal prints with stripes,” Shortell shares, encouraging homeowners to experiment with their table settings and throw pillows.
Get the look: “Wild Child” tabletop decor, from $80 at Hestia Harlow
7. Sleek wood-framed furniture
While the tropical modern decor trend embraces retro decor accents, you’ll want to keep your primary furnishings modern to keep this look youthful and contemporary.
Burt explains that wood-framed furniture can impart an instant dose of the modern tropical trend within a space. “The natural tone and clean lines work perfectly with tropical-print cushions,” she says. “If you don’t want to commit to the tropical trend, pick a neutral cushion color and just add tropical throw pillows.”
Get the look: Twist Modern mid-century lounge chair, $1,699 at Houzz
8. Global styling inspiration
Interior designers often draw inspiration from island environments and historical references when styling a tropical modern home. Hone your design with notes from one of these global references:
British West Indies colonial
This style combines mahogany, Victorian furniture (think secretary desks and chests of drawers), animal textiles, and natural materials, including bamboo, wicker, and teak. You can modernize the look by pairing Victorian era decor with contemporary pieces like this white sectional and matching abstract artwork.
Get the look: Bonniton Armchair, $394.99 at WayFair
The Brazilian aesthetic curates statement furniture and decor in an otherwise minimalist, neutral setting. Channel the Land of Palms with colorful chairs and a concrete dining table. For an unexpected flourish, incorporate a hammock or swinging chair to your living room or back deck.
Get the look: Panton chair, $348.50 at Lumens
Shortell shares that Balinese-inspired interiors are also on the rise. Balinese design features intricately carved wood and detailed decor inspired by Hindu temples. Bring Bali to your interior with a painted wooden chest, gold mandala wall decor, and canopy bed draped with white curtains.
Get the look: Handcarved Lombak Three-Drawer Dresser, $998 at Anthropologie
Header Image Source: (Photographee.eu / Shutterstock)