This was probably the most fun I ever had as a designer in my whole career. This was back in the mid 2000's and it was also when Tommy Bahama and British Colonial tropical styles had become all the rage. This homeowner wanted the huge storage room underneath their house converted into a funky, tropical party room. This house overlooks the intercoastal waterway on the Southern Outer Banks of NC so a party room was a must! I began searching for raw materials such a palm tree thatch, bamboo, seagrass wallpaper, and special trims and I found almost all of those materials at www.SafariThatch.com. I then had to find the right builder that was also artistic and creative. I was very fortunate to find William Garder in Cape Carteret, NC along with his wife Shannon who both assisted me with this project. My husband Stuart, who was a flooring contractor at that time came in and decided we should be using tile and bamboo flooring so I brought some samples to the homeowner the next day.
Next, I had to draw a furniture floor plan so we would know where the TV needed to go, along with any new light fixtures we planned to add. We consulted with the homeowner and told them we would be making them an authentic tiki bar as their main focal point. The only request they had was that the husband wanted to keep a recliner, his big TV and his wife wanted some red in the design. Of course, we said "No problem!" (but more on that later!)
One of the first things I had to address was how to cover the stilts around the perimeter of the room. I found a "quarter round" bamboo and several strips of that placed side by side worked perfectly to cover all of them. It added a tropical, textural element while also adding height. I then found a tropical wallpaper border on Ebay and added the quarter round bamboo trim above and below it. This tied the whole room together while joining it effortlessly with the tiki bar. A lot went into this project. The builder made a dropped ceiling area over the bar and attached the flame retardant palm tree thatch I had selected for the tiki roof. I found a braided thatch trim which was used in several areas to cover raw edges, especially up towards the ceiling areas. I used a seagrass matting in the ceiling of the hut along with the braided trim and it looked so authentic, almost exactly like something you'd see in the Caribbean. The bar's countertop got tiled with the same tile we used on the floor. My husband helped to oversee all of this work because back then, we owned a flooring store and it was what he had done for over 30 years. I had the bar professionally faux painted the same color as the tile so it all blended perfectly. I wanted the bar to look tropical without being too ostentacious or "cheesy" so using natural, neutral colors in that area was key. I purposely selected a porcelain tile that mimicked sand and it looked wonderful.
Looking at my scaled room diagram, the wife and I started looking at furniture pieces together online. She fell in love with all the Tommy Bahama stuff so we found the place to purchase the barstools and a matching gaming table. A lot of people don't know this, but you actually save money in several ways using an interior designer. Often, we get furniture at "trade discounts" so the customer does not end up paying retail. I usually split the difference with my client in this case so it's fair to both of us. I found the monkey with the red coat and leopard spotted shades chandelier online and it fit in perfectly over the game table. The scaled furniture and room diagrams are so important with a remodel because after your furniture is placed in an area, then you know exactly where to tell the electrician to add new wiring. If you look closer at the tiki bar, you will see the three pendant lights which we also had to plan for. Although I later tried to talk the husband out of that massive TV, he insisted on keeping it. This was back before flatscreen TV's so I had the builder custom design a beautiful entertainment center out of real bamboo for him. They had a very cool jukebox that played old 45's plus a red popcorn machine which fit in perfectly but I had to remember this particular red color before selecting the sofa fabrics. The popcorn machine (not pictured) fit on the wall to the left of the tiki bar.
Next, we had to find the furniture that fit my scaled diagram so the wife (now my friend Barb!) and I went shopping again. By this point, she and I were both well informed as to the size and color of everything we needed to pull it all together. We found several dark stained wicker pieces to go with the Tommy Bahama pieces and the furniture manufacturer allowed us to use the customer's own material (called COM in designer speak.) This was important because of the different reds I needed to try and match as closely as possible. We also found a beautiful large tropical pattern we would use on the loveseat, sofa and on the seat part of her husband's recliner which we had recovered. This became the room's "leading pattern." It is important to remember that paint is the very last thing you should select when designing because it can be matched to anything. Now, I chose a neutral warm beige wall paint that married well with all of our chosen furnishings and provided a soothing, soft backdrop for all of these lively pieces. We also found a really realistic looking faux banana tree that we could not resist! Though a bit on the expensive side, it was truly a "must have."
I also had a custom bordered area rug made in brown, beige and trimmed in red to reinforce the color scheme and make it feel "anchored." It's important to look at existing pieces that the customer wants to use (in this case the juke box and popcorn machine) while choosing fabric for the large pieces of furniture. In this case, I knew I was dealing with primary reds so needed a tropical fabric that contained that color. We found some great tropical styled ceiling fans and some easy bamboo blinds for the window treatments. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing your main wall paint colors after you have already assembled several of the rooms elements together to get it right. People make this mistake often, selecting paint first. My analogy for this is, buy your whole outfit before you pick out what color jewelry, shoes, hat, purse, nail polish and even eyeshadow so it all goes together well.
Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to make them a tropical "grand entrance." I wanted the stairs going down to this room to feel like a "portal to a tropical paradise".... like they were going on a vacation inside of their own home. The builder made an amazing custom bamboo handrail in the stair well. I used seagrass wallpaper tiles on the walls and topped the upper half of the walls with a wallpaper that had a neutral background but also a few colorful birds. The same bamboo quarter round was used between the two wall treatments and it looked great. We installed bamboo flooring on the steps and a sisal rug, bordered in brown. In the end, we were all very happy with the results and although this wasn't done on an extravagant budget, it looked classy and very festive and tropical so my clients were quite happy with the end results.