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Gillespie & Steel

Designing Spaces for Caribbean Work & Lifestyles

By Michelle Sambrano on 15 Aug, 2014

While design differences exist from island to island, there are a few statements which can be held to be consistent.  Good design in the Caribbean celebrates the abundance of natural light and cooling breezes, and the vitality of colour and the stunning vistas so readily available in these islands. At the same time good design seeks to protect from these same desirable exterior elements, which are sometimes harsh and dangerous. Caribbean design reassembles diverse elements to suit a tropical environment.  Steep gabled roofs and low facades deflect powerful winds while wide verandas and shuttered windows shade interiors from the island sun.  Often materials found in the local landscape like coral and river stone become an integral part of the design; the region's history as a crossroad of various cultures adds ballast bricks from colonial ships, hardwoods and corrugated tin.

A good designer can use the best of what the Caribbean has to offer and translate into practical reality the desires of their clients. A company’s corporate image can have a tremendous impact once that corporate image is translated into appropriate materials and finishes. A business may create a more successful image in the public’s eye, if consistent and effective branding is achieved via the proper use of materials and finishes. A hotel’s rooms can remain fresher for a longer period of time if low maintenance materials and durable furniture is used. The atmosphere of a room in a house can be changed with varied lighting sources and locations, or with different types of fabrics and furniture styles. A walk-in closet can become an efficient storage unit with the addition of drawers, racks, rods and shelving at the right heights and of the right dimensions.

Many factors come into play in formulating the design solution. There is the space itself, its dimensions and construction as well as its potential and its limitations. There is how the space will be used, for work, leisure, entertainment, worship, healing or learning. There is the meaning of the space, what it signifies, be it power, authority, security, wisdom, achievement, playfulness or serenity. There are practical considerations, like ease of access, the amount of light, acoustics, seating and places to store or set things down. There are health and safety considerations, attention to special needs and more.

As more possibilities become options for the company, hotel, restaurant or home owner considering a change to their physical space, the greater the reliance which will fall on the designer to decipher the tangle of construction or renovation and prevent the client from becoming overwhelmed by the process. The interior designer’s specialized training and knowledge of materials, finishes and furnishings add significant value to the interiors and go a long way towards enhancing the experience of a space.