Recreating the glamour of Britain's expansionist past

Less is more when it comes to a a colonial conservatory, says Joey Canessa
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A colonial interior should be understated, elegant and relaxing. To create the look, think airy and calm, with subtle shades for walls in parchment or duck-egg blue, adding classical touches and stronger colours in furnishings and accessories. Rattan chairs, cushioned with paisley or floral prints, combine well with heavier pieces in darker shades. Keep floors simple, using natural jute or coir rugs.


Choose traditional pieces along the lines of Lloyd Loom or Victorian replicas in darker colours. The Pier (, 0845 609 1234) has a good basic range. Their elegant Malang chair, £175, and matching footstool, £79, has a dark wooden frame with a woven cane body, while the San Lucas armchair, £295, has a curvy bamboo frame and interesting banana-leaf weave, heavy-bodied with a cushion seat. Slightly less chunky, the Saigon Sofa at £295, and accompanying armchair, £195, has a wing-back design, with a woven diamond pattern. Oka (, 0870 160 6002) sells a large range of well-styled, affordable furniture that fits the bill. From their synthetic rattan Cowes range, look at the lounge armchair, £194, and matching footstool, £137. Their hardwood Campaign Desk, £175, contrasts well with woven furniture.

Capital Gardens (,020 8348 5054) has an interesting selection of synthetic "wicker" furniture which can be used in the garden too, without fear of weather damage, including the 8-seater oval Gloster Plantation table, £950, the rocking chair, for £555, and the swing seat, £745. Budget permitting, take a look at Marston and Langinger (, 020 7881 5717). Their pretty English Willow range features a garden chair, for £428, an armchair, £730, a self-indulgent lounger and footstool, £1196, and a rectangular coffee table with etched glass top, £882, all available in a choice of 48 delicious colours.


Plants are central to any conservatory and, for the colonial look, sweeping stems of giant parlour-palms are ideal. Combine them with fleshy jasmine and lilies for a scented haven that will flourish for years. Visit Petersham Nurseries, who sell an amazing collection of individual pots and containers which are genuine relics from another era, including a tapered bowl handmade with sterling silver and bamboo, £795.

Clifton Nurseries (, 020 7289 6851) also have a reliable selection of good quality stock. Elevate smaller specimens with cast iron stands, available from Greenfingers ( 0845 345 0728), 69cms high for £29. Capital Gardens also has a selection, including very pretty wirework examples in their Gisela Graham range, £75 for a set of three.

Add splashes of stronger colour with cushions and rugs. Oka sell silk or wool cushion covers in various paisley designs, from £24, and the Cath Kidston (, 0870 850 1084) range of ready-made cushions, from £25, includes some faded florals and delicate stripes.

Made from antique brass, Marston and Langinger's electric hurricane wall-lamps with glass shades are unusual and authentic (£230); for a cheaper option try their Hurricane Lamp candle-holders, from £25.

Shade is a serious consideration in any glass building. Traditionally, wooden Venetian-style exterior blinds would have been popular. Marston and Langinger supply these in cedar with copper fixings, operated manually, and also offer Pinoleum blinds, made from tiny strips of pine, for interior use with an electrically-operated option. Stir up the sultry tropical breeze with a ceiling fan from Andy Thornton (, 01422 375595).


Simple, natural floor-coverings are best, in muted colours. Visit the Pier for jute rugs with cotton borders, in brown or cranberry, from £50. Also good value are Ikea's Tistrup jute rug, £34.90 and Egeby sisal bordered rug. More of an investment are Sinclair Till's sisal rugs (, 020-7720 0031), in a choice of weaves and colours, cut and edged to order, from around £500 for eight-square-metres. They also do original, bespoke, hand-painted sisal rugs in floral designs or stripes.

Then sit back and sip your Darjeeling from a bone-china tea-set, such as Wedgewood's nostalgic "wild strawberry" range, around £460 for a six-person service (, 01782 204141).