For Colette van den Thillart, creative director of
NH Design and busy mom of two, escaping to her Barbados beach house is like taking a breath. A break from her busy life in Toronto and London, England, this is where she walks on the beach, crafts with her girls and enjoys peaceful dinners at the seafood restaurant next door. Her three-bedroom bungalow is breezy and bright, with a glamorous coral-pink palette and lots of found objects from the beach. Here, Colette shares the inspiration behind her island hideaway.
Coral stone steps lead up to Colette’s Barbadian home. Built in 2006, it reflects the local wooden chattel house style, with gingerbread detailing. The lanterns on the steps are a must since it gets dark earlier here because of the island’s easterly location.
Colette upholstered the living room sofa in tobacco brown, then had the punchy coral slipcover made to mix up the look of the room, which she does regularly. The palette, trellis-patterned fabric and wicker furniture keep the space both whimsical and livable — the perfect combination for a relaxed island look.
The living room’s hutch with shell-shaped pulls was found in Miami. Mismatched iron chairs were bought on the island and painted “sun-bleached” pink.
Colette painted a pink and white “tented” ceiling in the kitchen and mirrored the walls to amplify the light of hurricane candles, displayed on wall brackets. The stripes pick up the pillow fabric in the indoor living room, a more formal (and less well-used) space than its outdoor equivalent.
Interior designer and friend Thomas Wiggins spotted the dining room’s chandelier at auction and thought Colette would love its Oliver Messel vibe. “I carried that onto the plane,” she says. “I didn’t know birds would love nesting in all the little lanterns!” Green-striped slipcovers over teak furniture play up the lush greenery outside. The gingerbreading is a traditional detail on island houses.
In a work space off the principal bedroom, an Ionic column desk serves as a base for Colette’s beachy craft creations. The shutters are a classic local touch: typically the windows have no glazing or screens, so the louvres tilt and can be locked shut.
The shell lamp and weathered burlap shade are local finds. The books were carefully chosen for their spines. “And, yes, I did cover a few books that I wanted to have here that weren’t pink. So if all else fails, cheat!” says Colette.
Beachcombing is a favourite activity for Colette. She creates “beach ephemera artworks,” displaying them in shadowboxes and giving them away as gifts. “It could be seaglass hearts or coral that resembles Henry Moore sculptures,” she says.
In the outdoor living room — designed just as exquisitely as the indoor one — it made sense to use outdoor furnishings. The travertine floor continues inside, connecting the two spaces.
“I lacquered all the panelled ceilings in a high-gloss white, and everybody thought I was bonkers,” says Colette. “Subsequently, a lot of people have done the same because it doubles the ceiling height.” In the principal bedroom, she also painted the brown four-poster bed white and draped it with mosquito netting (a romantic way to solve the bug problem). Red side tables add a grounding burst of contrast.
Colette designed a Messel-inspired trellis screen outside so that she can leave the windows open and still have privacy while bathing. Seashell motifs appear throughout the house.