I first became acquainted with Barbados whilst designing the holiday home of one of my London clients some 13 years ago and was immediately struck by the Islands unique architecture. The combination of Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian influences brought over with the Islands first Western settlers back in the 1600’s, combined with the vernacular architecture of the Island, creates a style that is truly unique to Barbados. The Barbadian climate with its scorching sun, wind and salty air presents challenging conditions in which to live and build homes that last. The key, for me, was to look to the islands local heritage and utilise the materials and skills close to hand which have been passed down from generation to generation. As my client base on the island grew, it felt natural to develop my own range of Barbados made furniture using coralstone, wrought iron and wood such as pickled pine. Working with skilled local artisans enabled me to produce those bespoke items required by my design clients. Today, the benchmark pieces from my range are all available to order in our St James showroom. For those who are in the process of selecting furniture for holiday homes in the Caribbean I would like to make the process that little bit easier this week by looking at the benefits of some of these indigenous materials.
The bedrock of the Island itself is composed of limestone formed from coral – known as coralstone. The oldest and grandest plantation houses are made of coralstone bricks which were quarried by hand until the middle of the 1950’s and are strong yet soft enough to be manipulated easily and help keep the property cool and ventilated due to its porosity. More contemporary properties are now built from brick which is then plastered with coral stone in order to benefit from this wonderful natural resource.
Over the years I, along with Barbadian born Design Director Sue Thomas-Richardson, have developed longstanding relationships with local artisans who are experts in working with this fascinating material. This enables us to offer our clients exquisite designs that are exclusive to Jenny Blanc – fusing high end, bespoke design with traditional materials to create a look that is uniquely Barbadian!
This coralstone console table (pictured above) is a Jenny Blanc exclusive design featuring a pineapple. This shows off the beauty of this natural material and the skills of the local craftsman to great effect – the perfect fusion of great design, quality materials and skilled craftsmanship.
This coralstone dining table with seahorse carvings (pictured above) is another bespoke design and demonstrates how coralstone can be used as part of a more contemporary scheme – bringing together two important elements of Barbadian culture in an eye catching design! The process for creating a piece like this begins in our London design room where Sue and I sketch out our ideas and work out the dimensions. The design plans are then sent to one of our artisans in Barbados before we select the materials and the process of bringing the initial concept to life can begin. We will visit at various times throughout the process of construction to ensure the proportions are correct, check the design and the finish, making any necessary adjustments required for a flawless finish. Meanwhile the design for the overall room scheme will continue as we look forward to that moment when everything comes together!
Wrought ironwork is another strong tradition on the Island and one which lends itself to outdoor living perfectly. This marble topped console table (pictured above) with a sunburst motif is perfect for use out in the open on a veranda while this window grille with a leaf motif (also pictured above) demonstrates how iron can be used to create a more delicate effect. The Caribbean way of life is all about a seamless transition from the outside in so it’s wonderful to be able to leave windows open like this to allow the air to flow freely and keep the space feeling light and open. A window grille like this provides security as well as being an attractive focal point. Both the console table and lattice designs are exclusive to Jenny Blanc and available to order through our London and Barbados showrooms. In addition to ornamented window grilles and console tables, our current range includes dining tables with wrought iron detailing (often supporting marble, stone or glass tops in a traditional or contemporary style), coffee tables and staircase bannisters which often feature a repeat pattern which is echoed throughout the rest of the furnishings.
‘Pickled’ pine was developed in the 1970’s for use in ceilings and architectural woodwork and was designed to make new wood appear old. Since then it has become a key part of Barbadian vernacular design sought after for that quintessential Barbadian look. Although many stains are sold today under the name ‘pickling stain’, technically pickling is a method not a finish. The effect is similar to sun bleached wood found on the beach and gives just a hint of the seaside whilst harmonising with other natural materials such as cane, bamboo and copper. Our current range includes four poster beds which can be draped with a selection of muslins or voiles, carved headboards in a variety of designs – often featuring shell motifs (like the one pictured above which was a bespoke creation for one of our design clients) and cane detailing.
The sofa pictured below is a Jenny Blanc exclusive design on display in our Barbados showroom and features an intricately carved pickled pine frame with double cane panels for a traditional Barbadian feel. Coupled with cushion pads upholstered in cream and coral pink scatter cushions, this piece is perfect for the more traditional Island home.
If you would like any information regarding our interior design service or bespoke furniture range please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Design Director Sue Thomas-Richardson in our London design office who will be happy to advise on all the items in the Jenny Blanc range..