Colonial Interior Design: British, Spanish & Dutch

Instructor: Amy Jackson

Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.

Do you think there's only one style of Colonial architecture and interior design? If you said yes, guess again! The Colonial style of architecture and interior design is as varied as the people of the United States. This lesson will introduce you to the British, Dutch, and Spanish styles.

Colonial Interior Design: British, Spanish, & Dutch

American Colonial architecture includes a number of building styles associated with the Colonial period of the United States, roughly 1600 through the 1800s. Early Colonial architecture and interior design have distinct regional influences. These styles usually reflected the traditions of the immigrants that settled in a particular area or of the powers that controlled these regions. The styles include First Period English, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, and Georgian--in this lesson, we'll focus on the British, Spanish, and Dutch styles.

British Colonial

British, or English, Colonial architecture and interior design style is predominate in English colonies along the eastern coast of the US. The style reflects the tastes of prominent English citizens who traveled the globe. They brought back furniture and exotic pieces of fabric from their journeys to show off how far they traveled. These collections contributed to the eclectic look that mingled the heavy furniture and fabrics of traditional English interiors with the lighter, brighter fabrics and furnishings of the Caribbean, India, Africa, and the Far East.

Because most of these countries were hotter and more humid than England, light colors and lightweight materials were popular. Therefore, in British Colonial style, the interior color palettes became lighter. Whites, tans, light greens, and blues began to dominate. Bamboo became a common wood used for both furniture and window treatments. Rattan furniture might be mixed with tables made of exotic woods inlaid with other woods, or even bone.

Today's British Colonial style would utilize animal print fabrics and lighter colored upholstery. Heavy tapestry-style rugs were replaced with rugs made of natural fibers and animal hides. Animal print accent rugs might be laid on larger rugs or carpets made of sisal, a fiber made from the Agave plant. Accessories might include Far Eastern porcelain, botanical prints, bird cages, and palm trees to bring a global look to the interiors. Bedrooms would use canopy beds with netting to mimic mosquito netting.

Spanish Colonial

Spanish Colonial architecture and interior design can be traced to the first Spanish settlement, St. Augustine, Florida. This style can be found in areas with large numbers of Spanish immigrants: Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona. Spanish-inspired design is colorful and vibrant, and recalls the sunny Mediterranean, with its rustic villas and sunny patios.

True Spanish Colonial interiors typically have walls covered with a smooth stucco texture. Today faux-finished painting techniques mimic stucco without the cost. Colors are Mediterranean-influenced, like chocolate brown, taupe, burnt orange, indigo blue, deep red, and mustard yellow. Many Spanish-inspired interiors incorporate soft archways, wood-framed windows, wood beams on ceilings, and decorative tin panels on walls and ceilings. Floors are hard-surfaced with traditional wood or cost-conscious tile and accented with area rugs and small throw carpets. Spanish-influenced furniture utilizes leather and dark wood such as mahogany, walnut, ebony, teak, and rosewood in the Mission style. Wood finishes are often distressed and are a complementary contrast to the lighter, brighter color palettes.

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