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DECORATING ADVICE : Take Your Beige Kitchen to the Tropics


Question: In our kitchen, we have wood laminate cabinets, beige countertops, a beige-tile floor and off-white walls. The color schemes seem to have been chosen by a builder, not a designer. How can I give it a tropical, island feel?

Wanda Jamison

Answer: As disheartening as it may be to walk into an apartment or condominium where the colors are muted and safe, in the end it's for the better.

If the countertops were royal blue and the cabinets white, you would be locked into a color scheme of the builder's choice. Beige and light brown are, at least, easy to work around.

Paint the ceiling soft yellow and stencil it with tropical green leaves. Brighten up beige countertops with citrus-colored containers for flour, sugar, rice and other kitchen staples. Mix orange with lime to really add pizazz.

If your kitchen has a window, find a banana-leaf and tropical-fruit pattern for your curtains. Hang them on white poles with white rings. Under your curtains, a natural-colored bamboo roller would lend a breezy touch.

Q: I would like to liven up my master bedroom and adjoining bath. The bedroom walls are painted off-white. The draperies are also off-white. The carpet in both rooms is bright blue, and the bedspread is made of a white eyelet fabric. In the bathroom, the wallpaper is blue with a gold pattern, and the shower curtain is made of a matching blue material with navy fringe. The fixtures are white.

Mary J. Malcolm

A: You might want to liven up your bedroom by painting the walls light lemon-yellow. Paint the trim with a white semi-gloss enamel. Top off your off-white draperies with a valance made of a pretty print of yellow, pink and blue flowers entwined with green leaves on a soft-blue background. Skirt your bed in the printed fabric also, and cover a club chair in a yellow tweed. Accent your bathroom with sunny yellow touches.

Q: I recently visited St. Croix and would like to incorporate some of the island's style into my home. How can I do this?

Gretta Benger

A: St. Croix is back! When Hurricane Hugo hit this small American paradise in 1989, the effect was devastating. But, at last, the work on many of the island's homes and hotels is complete. The buildings have been built to withstand strong winds, though hopefully they will never have to be put to the test.

With the return of St. Croix comes lush interiors with radiant colors. In the home I am currently decorating, the living room walls are painted rich, jungle-leaf green. Natural rattan furniture is upholstered in a Caribbean print of banana-yellow, hibiscus-pink, mango-melon, Caribbean-blue and spring-green on a white background.

The sofas are accented with pillows of jungle-green and banana-yellow. For flooring, I have laid cocoa-colored matted rugs, woven on the island of Dominica, over terra cotta tiles. The cocoa matting has a natural look that is always appropriate in the Caribbean.

The master bedroom in the island villa has crisp white walls stenciled with lots of banana leaves in dark green. Sheer fabric is draped over the rattan four-poster bed in a tent-like manner. The sheer fabric is traditionally used for protection from mosquitoes--anyone who watches a lot of old movies has seen the way it's done. Fortunately, St. Croix has few mosquitoes; here the fabric simply lends a wispy, exotic look.

Whether you're shopping for furnishings for your island villa or your suburban sun room, rattan can lend a fresh look. It comes in styles from modern to Oriental. And, of course, it comes in a wide assortment of colors such as black, red, dark green, white and natural.

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