Florida A-frame decor should have tropical ambience


July 18, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: We're thinking about redesigning and refurnishing our modest A-frame house in Florida, which we use during the winter months. Without making structural changes, how do you think we might give the place an appearance more in keeping with its tropical location? It's a wooden house with exposed ceiling rafters.

A: Today's A-frame houses are reminiscent of the "shotgun" homes that sprouted throughout the South during the last years of the 19th century. It thus makes sense for you to seek inspiration from that historical source because of its architectural and geographic similarities.

The renovated shotgun home shown in the photo is described in "Key West Houses," a nicely illustrated book published by Rizzoli. Author Leslie Linsley explains at one point that these houses got their name as a result of their straight-ahead interior passageway -- "one in which a bullet could pass through without hitting an interior door."

It's vital that such a space be given proper ventilation. Hot and humid air can take a toll on whatever new materials are used in your redesign.

As the photo shows, the room's surround (that is, its walls, floor and ceiling) was given a lead role in setting the style for the entire space. Here, the ceiling has been made to simulate the look of thatched huts on a tropical island, with rafters left exposed and the rest of the surface covered with split bamboo. That's a relatively expensive covering, however, so you might consider purchasing a few yards of a matchstick, bamboo-like, shade material that can be nailed to your ceiling in between the rafters.

Sisal carpeting or a rug made from sisal squares will act as an attractive background for tropical furniture. As for furnishings, I'd suggest rattan for the seating and mahogany tables and chests done in the style of British Colonial pieces. That sort of combination was favored by early European settlers in the Caribbean. Today, it works best when intermingled with a few contemporary pieces, though I advise you to stop short of giving the place a trendy look.

Neutral, sandy color schemes would be appropriate in such a setting, as would pastels derived from the fashionable deco style of Miami Beach. Batik and other designs from the South Pacific are also possibilities. In fact, the space shown in the photo owes more to the Pacific than to the Caribbean.

Remember, too, that it's perfectly OK to mix and match among various tropical styles. A collection of pre-Columbian artifacts can be advantageously displayed alongside brightly colored Mexican fabrics, which in turn might be accompanied by teak, rattan and bamboo furniture imported from, say, the Philippines.

A home like yours is no place for purist design, but it's absolutely a dream come true for the adventuresome and eclectic spirit.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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