Although many of their features are practical responses to climactic extremes, the appearance of colonial island houses is utterly romantic. The architecture of each West Indies island borrows features from the colony’s mother country, like the Chippendale railings found in the Bahamas and Martinique’s segmental masonry arcades.
Contrasting with vernacular elements like French windows with mahogany frames and steep tin roofs with exposed rafter tails, these houses take on an exotic, dream-like quality. To mitigate the high winds, heavy rain, and intense, humid heat of the islands, the houses always have porches, usually two-story ones with round columns below and square beams and decorative railings above. When upper porches are absent, balconies take their place. Tall casement doors interspersed with windows open to the interior, which is almost always one room deep. Louvered interior shutters that control light and air from within are a particular aspect of West Indian houses. Other characteristic details are painted-beam or wood-tray ceilings and walls of horizontal boards with exposed exterior studs, wainscoting, or applied paneling. Most affluent island dwellings are composed of a two-story main house with a rambling arrangement of wings and dependencies.
The ground level of the primary building is generally one large pavilion-like room, ideal for today’s combined living and dining areas. Second-floor bedrooms opening to balconies or tucked into porches provide airy private rooms. Everything is about light, and breeze, and views. This is a style for people who want to be on vacation every day, even if only at the end of the workday.