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LATIN STYLEDECORATING YOUR HOME WITH COLOR, TEXTURE, AND PASSION
By Juan Carlos Arcilla-Duque
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Arcila-Duque Furniture Interiors Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCABANA LIFESTYLE
Summertime lingers forever in the Cabana lifestyle, where the omnipresent breeze conveys seaside tranquility. To live the Cabana lifestyle is to live the dream: a bungalow life lit by the vivid shades of aquamarine, where the crystalline sea dictates every creature's course of action and the sun casts shadows and light with romantic precision. Rhythm and beats give tempo to each day, the grooves acting as aural accessories to the infinite crashing of the waves on the shore. Cabana life is the reverie of al fresco showers, hammock naps in the afternoon shade, and the steady, hypnotic dance of a ceiling fan cooling the porch. Here, doors and windows remain permanently ajar and tattered piles of fishing nets lie entangled on docks and boats, a beautiful chaos of textures that tells the stories of the coast and its people. In this place, where neutrals converge chromatically with pastels in idyllic sun-washed afternoons, colors themselves signal the profound sense of relaxation that rules Cabana life.
In the Cabana world, sea salt flavors the air, as well as the tanned skin of the people who live here, and around every corner the sizzling crackle and aroma of foods deep-frying in hot oil awaken the senses. This is a place where the sunset is king, an everyday testament to the magnitude of the ever-changing skies. Here, the light moves across the expanse of white beach throughout the course of each day, accenting every morsel of the tropics with shadows and luminescence, creating an ambiance at once warm and coquettish. The squawking of seagulls punctuates the breeze, along with the intermittent lapping of water against boat bottoms in docks. The nectar of luscious tropical fruits brims in abundance, helping to fuel life in Cabana, a lifestyle that answers only to the elements-the sun, the sea, and the sand. Bare feet and frosty cocktails define the temperament of the day. Cabana is the place for a permanent vacation: the perpetual escape and the haven for total wellness.
A Cabana attitude can be found throughout Latin America, where destinations like the Dominican Republic, Cartagena, Cuba, and the Mayan beach paradise of Tulum express the quintessence of island life and Caribbean soul. Here prevails an exquisite fusion of European colonialism from the Netherlands with African rhythms, an aesthetic inspired by the possibility of paradise on earth and an indulgent expanse of white sand. A circumnavigation of the entire continent of South America shows a stunning sprinkling of beaches, each one shaped by the contours of its own piece of coast and, of course, the culture of the people who inhabit that country. Each locale has its own understanding and articulation of beach culture and coastal life, the distinctions between them fostered by their different topographies, inhabitants, and respective cultures. There are Playas Del Carmen on the Caribbean coast of Mexico; the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Aruba, and Curaçao; Cuba and Puerto Rico; Punta del Este in Uruguay; Cartagena in Caribbean Colombia; and the coast of Brazil. Within this vast panorama of tropics and oceanside lie many gradations of beach and corresponding aesthetics. Actual coastal culture, for example, differs subtly from the lifestyle of more remote island regions. Despite their differences, in both iterations, the gallant palm trees stand asymmetrically as sentinels over the area, shielding the land and its cheerful residents and visitors from any sense of darkness or negativity.
Cabana offers architectural variations, beginning with the classic Jamaican experience, where colonial windows and expansive porches, a view of the ocean, and the swish of the waves become part of life both inside the house and out. In this calming meditative arena, rocking chairs sway on open verandas, facing the water in devout recognition of its import and majesty. High ceilings endow interior spaces with a light, airy atmosphere, blurring the lines between beach and home, creating a quiet euphoria, an unadulterated freedom. In its more tropical iterations, Cabana resides beneath a thatched roof and a gentle breeze, where the sounds of merengue, salsa, and reggae breathe rhythm into the late afternoons and nights.
In the same way that Hacienda and Pueblo are design concepts governed by the mountains, and Paradiso by the jungle, Cabana is indelibly linked to a life by the sea-be it on a small island in the distance or as part of the rugged coastline of a port town. In either case, the ocean dictates the rhythm of these locales, giving their inhabitants a distinct marine flair evident in their style of dress, the music they dance to, and their attitude toward entertaining and cuisine. An ease lingers here, a prolonged sense of tranquility, a feeling that the tide can actually wash away all of the day's trials and tribulations.
The quality of the light is amplified in Cabana, perhaps the result of a strong sun mirrored on crystalline waters, where high-contrast colors pop with saturation against white sands and baby blue skies. The waters themselves are nuanced: the Pacific Ocean flows more brusquely and intensely, with burly dollops of white foam asserting themselves on jagged rock formations, whereas the Atlantic moves languidly, calm and steady in her own pool-like blue-green. The sun, de facto king of Cabana, sets on the Pacific, sending new dimensions of chromatic possibility like streaks of paint into the sea, while an Atlantic sunset breeds a sky of neon pinks and violets-a lovely situation on either coast on any given afternoon.
Because the sun governs life in Cabana, the color palette includes washed-out hues, those muted, but somehow lively, pastels that seem to have faded into perfection with the comings and goings of the tide. Beige and aqua come together exquisitely in Cabana, inspired by a canvas of oceanic colors and the crispness of sky against water. This is a schema of blatant escapism, meant simply to warm the soul.
Cabana décor takes most of its cues from the sea, so its color palette also features hues that mimic an assemblage of tropical fish, seashells, and coral. Together these colors come alive on land with an array of textures and sensations also derived from a life on the beach. Bright orange, yellow, and green sun-ripened tropical fruits make their way across entire beaches in massive wooden bowls carried by smiling locals dressed in crisp white clothes. Pinks abound, inspired by such natural objects as the innermost chambers of a conch shell, slices of fresh watermelon, and the messy tangles of fuchsia bougainvillea plants climbing on façade walls. Natural tones such as very light wood and very dark wood also serve to punctuate the exotic flora and marine environs, which explode in all shades of pinks, oranges, and violets-quintessential snippets of sunset bliss. These colors bring nature perpetually inside, creating an ongoing dialogue between the elements and the home.
In Cabana, the traditional notion of the plaza has evolved into the presence of a swimming pool in the courtyard, a private lagoon in the center of the home, surrounded by verandas and palm trees that seem to grow right through living rooms. Products of the sea are brought into the home, an evergreen interaction with one's surroundings expressed as design: a colossal shell on a credenza, a bowl of coconuts as a centerpiece on a table, tropical flowers strewn haphazardly on tabletops, outdoor showers made entirely of stones-all of these engender the dream of a beach-colored reality where less is always more. Hand-held fans made of natural fibers lie casually on tables and seating outdoors. Striped prints add marine character to interiors and exteriors alike, and found objects like starfish, seashells, and beach glass make their way into homes, where the coconut shell is used in dining utensils and décor accents. Sand dollars and pieces of coral interpose elements of the sea into the home, while rope elicits a maritime feeling, a romantic sense of what a life might be like if lived on a boat. Canvas, the fabric of sails, is also seen throughout. Sheer linen drapes billow in the wind, and breathable waffled cotton in whites and ivories complement the setting in any Cabana space. Houses are designed as comfortable respites from the tropical heat but, more important, as open-faced outposts from which to enjoy the breeze, the very breath and spirit of Cabana.
Given the various gradients of beach life that can exist, I tried to recreate three styles of Cabana and one celebration that, although each is unique, somehow collectively encompass the lifestyle's extreme nautical personality. The different approaches speak to the different types of colonization that occurred; the influences of Europe and Africa come together with the indigenous roots of these places, creating distinct visual lifestyles of the whole Cabana aesthetic.
The first home takes its inspiration directly from the island of Jamaica, that smoldering land mass in the Caribbean notorious for its saucy, sunny ways-an isle of candy colors, zesty flavors, wide smiles, and global rhythms, all stemming from a rich history of uprising, cultural resistance, and music.
The next setting is a more formal tropical beach house, taking its cues from islands like Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic-places that show traces of Hacienda and Pueblo, given their colonial layouts of courtyards and plazas.
The third house lies on an otherwise abandoned beach, a desolate pristine expanse of sand and sea somewhere close to a rain forest, such as those in Costa Rica or Santa Marta.
The Cabana celebration is the quintessential oceanside affair, a tropical lunch set in what could be Punta del Este, Uruguay, or perhaps Cartagena, Colombia.
In these places, little towns near the sea and bay dignify a rich culture of fishing, where fresh seafood is a staple of the local cuisine. The advantage of being on an island is that you can have both a sunrise and a sunset, a detail never taken for granted, especially on those perfect afternoons of clear pool-blue sky and sea.
The home stands like a personalized oceanic institution, a structure made for the lover of the sea, a place to entertain the notion that utopia is achievable through an everyday connection with the sky, sun, and sea.
This scene is inspired by the tropical beach life of island destinations like Jamaica, Antigua, or Curaçao, touched by the Dutch influence, but resoundingly alive with the pop colors of the Caribbean.
The setting calls to mind a feeling of youthful abandon at the water's edge, under a scorching sun that glows ceaselessly. Upon arrival here, you know with certainty that you never want to leave. The mass of ocean extends all around the house, where hammocks swing and planks creak under footsteps while the lapping of water beneath the deck below conjures the feeling of being on a boat. The home stands like some sort of personalized oceanic institution, a structure made for the lover of the sea. It seems to be suspended in that blue sea, alone on an expanse of wood. It is a place to forget about the rest of the world, to abandon reality, and to entertain the notion that utopia is achievable through an everyday connection with the sky, sun, and sea. Verandas on the upper levels of the home are carved intricately, in the tradition of the Dutch, each pattern transmuting different shapes of sunlight and shadow in and out of the house. A thatched roof covers the entire home, inviting the breeze inside, a true signature of the Cabana way. The thatch motif extends over the deck, creating graphic patterns of sunlight with shadows like pencil etchings all around the deck.
The roseate mood takes its cues from a row of lavender chairs in formation on a balcony and the fuchsia of the cocktail glasses-a cheerful hue reminiscent of flirting and vacations, a color that meets the blue of the sea in complete chromatic synchronicity. Starchy white cushions and towels neatly folded on wooden loungers lie ready for guests, who will undoubtedly sprawl there to enjoy ice-cold glasses of homemade lemonade and fresh sun-ripened fruits. Chairs and ottomans sit at the edge of the deck, just inches away from the liquid blue, near mats made of jute and straw, with candy-colored trim details, each one a personal oasis for horizontal lounging that puts a person eye to eye with the horizon. Sandals lie waiting near sturdy pink and white hammocks, where perfect naps leave one rested, sun kissed, and warmed on the inside.
The only sounds that matter are the lapping of the salty waves against the wood of the house, the creaking of those planks as bare feet move across them, and perhaps an old, scratchy salsa record playing somewhere inside the house. There is nowhere to be and nothing to do but bask in the good fortune of the moment by simply taking in its unrelenting beauty and calm. This is a place where the word "elegance" itself takes a break from the rigorous demands of its meaning, allowing instead a sense of casual chic to take over, leaving you endlessly refreshed and at ease, relaxed and revived.
CASA DEL MAR This is a more grown-up island life in a place that caters to long, guiltless evening naps with the rumble of the sea snoring nearby.
This second style of Cabana evokes a more elegant island ambiance, a scene in a home somewhere in an old fortressed city, in a place that could be anywhere from Puerto Rico to Mexico, where Spanish-influenced towns near spectacular beaches are undeniably colored by that fortuitous proximity. The coastline is aggressive, the roar of the surf audible throughout the home, echoing within the old stone indoor courtyard, where from a lounging repose one can almost hear the repetition of waves crashing against the rock formations of the shoreline. This house is a magnificent structure of a home, with all of the spirit and inescapable leisure of the beach.
This is a more grown-up island life in a place that caters to long, guiltless evening naps with the rumble of the sea snoring nearby. Gone is the mess of sand and salt that comes with a day at the beach, and in its place lies an elegant tropical villa with a beachside soul.
A great monolith of recycled white stone, the house beckons with indoor atriums, pools, and massive palms that make life indoors an outdoor experience. The design gives special attention to fresh open spaces, the home's white walls playing perfectly against the colorful furniture. Crisp reds and oranges pop against clean white walls and the blue of the pool, all the hues in harmony with the rustic character of the stone floors and the massive wicker baskets that are at once casually chic and endlessly functional. In a space such as this, there can never be enough greenery, and giant potted palms add seamlessly to the indoor/outdoor tropical sensibility. This is the kind of place where tabletops can be personal altars-places to feature personal objects like found shells, coral, and candles alongside old books and fresh colorful flowers.
A grand table of dark wood graces the indoor/outdoor space, and the lush built-in banquette with its sumptuous cushions makes the area a perfect place for a tropical meal. Comfortable white chaise longues sit somewhere between the inside and outside of the house, where ceiling fans seek to temper the heat and humidity, a goal that can really only be achieved through a dip in one of the pools, where a Buddha statue might sit in meditative repose.
In this setting of ultimate leisure and rest, the afternoon hours take their time, each moment its own little slice of utopia, all of them comprising an idyllic tropical memory that lingers in the mind: a daydream on a terrace after a long day in the sun. On the horizon, the steeple of an ancient ruin encrusted in the fortress that surrounds the town stands out, the sun setting behind it all. Every day affords a new and spectacular view of the sea from this mystical fortress. And in this home in the middle of the old walled city, where the cold stone floors naturally soothe bare feet, there is the sense of a civilized encounter with the tropics, a feeling that these whitewashed spaces provide the ideal backdrop for high-end relaxation and rest.
Excerpted from LATIN STYLE by Juan Carlos Arcilla-Duque Copyright © 2008 by Arcila-Duque Furniture Interiors Inc. . Excerpted by permission.
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