Fully fathom a land where sea breeze and sunlight never fade. Imagine your dream home in this land. With a little bit of effort and creativity, you can transport this scenario to your own house. The Caribbean may be far from where you are living, but that’s no excuse to not pay homage to the land of Touissant Louverture and Rihanna. Keep reading to find out how to embrace the traditional and contemporary aspects of Caribbean culture and history, and how to craft a tropical nest in your home with tropical minimalist home decor.
A Touch of Jamaica
The “Land of Wood and Water” was inhabited by the Arawak and Taino peoples for over five thousand years before it came under Spanish rule following Columbus’s arrival in the island—and after a century and a half, British rule. Originally from South America, many of these indigenous groups have now gone extinct. Yet, their legacy survives in the arts and culture of Jamaica, where their influence led to a flourishing artisan practice. Jamaica attained independence in 1962 along with many other colonies of the British Empire. Nowadays, the island is home to a mix of influences ranging from Afro-Caribbean peoples to Chinese and Indian migrants, infused with subcultures such as Rastafari, dancehall, and Obeah.
Since the colonial era, Jamaica became known for its expertise in furniture, metalworks, and woodworks. Other forms of traditional craft include pottery, needlework, crochet, and straw work. Some of these techniques are inheritances from the early Taino indigenous presence in the island, while others have been transmitted from British-led plantation slavery. The skills and techniques of uprooted African peoples sent into forced labor in the Caribbean islands soon became the cultural backbone of the nation.
To pay homage to the culture and legacy of Jamaica, you can utilize craftworks as tropical decorations. Hand-woven baskets make for interesting dining and kitchen table centerpieces, plus you can use them for minimalist home decor and functionality. Add a variety of fruits and vegetables for style and nutrition! Straw work will come in many forms, from dolls to purses and candleholders, and these intricate objects will add character to your living room.
Jamaican woodworks can be incorporated into any room through sculptures and short columns. To harmonize light and dark hues, you can prepare the space in bold, contrasting colors or use hardwood floors and wood furniture in complementary ways.
Diving into Cuba
Similarly to Jamaica, Cuba had an early presence of indigenous populations, dating over five thousand years before the present. Along with Taino nations, the island was also home to the Guanahatabey and Ciboney peoples. After the arrival of Columbus, these indigenous groups were forced to work for their colonizers under the encomienda system, with the Spanish Crown allocating land and feudal slaves to their emissaries. After four centuries of colonial rule, Cuba came into a state of semi-independence by turning into a protectorate of the United States. A little over 50 years later, Cuba’s conflicted inner politics gave way to the Cuban Revolution, which instated the current Leninist-Marxist regime of Fidel Castro. Currently, the island is known for its pursuit of the fulfillment of basic rights—health, education, livability—to the population and the totalitarian absence of civil liberties.
Nowadays, Cuba is home to descendants of European migrants, indigenous people, and the Yoruba from West Africa. A small part of the population share Asian ancestry, with groups of Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese origin. Cuba is a nation renowned for its world-class arts and culture, with many folkloric expressions.
In the local markets of Old Havana, finely crafted ceramics, leather goods, traditional and contemporary paintings abound. Set out a scheme of juxtaposing colors—i.e. medium bright blue and a lively red, or burnt orange—to decorate your room and find which décor items you prefer. You can use ceramic vases to decorate your living room and kitchen pottery to give your minimalist home decor a bit of usability. Crocheted pieces such as table cloths can give any room an air of romance and tradition.
The Cuban atmosphere is also a perfect fit for outdoor spaces. Hammocks will always be the most prized item in outdoor tropical home décor, but there are many possibilities. The traditional casa Cubana may have hanging chairs, straw-woven seats, rocking chairs, and even a comfy layout of sofa, cushions, and pillows in its patio or outdoor area. To enhance the mood, include a few items of vintage Cuban tropical home décor, especially those that capture the nostalgic, mid-century allure of the island. Oh, and don’t forget to buy a set of dominoes, another bastion of Cuban culture and local life.