Bamboo sits at the intersection of two styles: eco-friendly design and tropical British Colonial style, which has seen a resurgence of late. For the past several years, bamboo floors and even countertops have been turning up in high-end homes as designers and clients gravitate to bamboo’s relative sustainability, its visual and literal lightness, and the strong materiality it lends to minimalist design. Those who are hot on the trail of today’s trendsetting tropical leaf patterns and breezy coastal style are leading the charge toward incorporating bamboo motifs in many ways throughout the home. Here are our five favorite applications of this re-emerging classic.
KMNelson Design, LLC, original photo on Houzz
1. Wall Treatments
Geometric bamboo wallpaper has long been available through luxury retailers, but don’t be surprised now if you start seeing it everywhere you turn. Not only do bamboo’s recognizable notches spice up tired geometric patterns, but they also communicate a variety of styles: Hollywood glam, Palm Beach chic, worldly bohemian.
Though not quite as ubiquitous as bamboo wallpapers, tiles do exist that will give your bathroom or backsplash surfaces an earthy tropical edge.
GM Construction, Inc., original photo on Houzz
2. Privacy Screens
What looks exotic to many is vernacular in this Hawaiian bathroom. I love the idea of keeping the interiors of tropical homes referential to the scenic natural beauty of the site, and this bamboo screen does just that. It is appropriate to the region and drives the bathroom’s indigenous feel for relatively little investment. In other rooms of the house, a common tri-fold room divider could achieve the same look with less permanence and the flexibility to create smaller nooks as the mood strikes.
While not the budget choice, custom shoji screens can be made to incorporate all manner of flora, including bamboo leaves, into the acrylic material.
Zuniga Interiors, original photo on Houzz
At the height of British Colonialism, when expeditions to far-flung lands were expanding the empire’s reach, aristocratic settlers had to outfit their new homes an ocean away from their trusty furniture craftsmen and retailers. Folding tables were more of a necessity than a conscious design decision since they were easier to transport than the bulky furniture left on the mainland. To this day, folding tables (or fixed ones inspired by folding designs) remain a hallmark of British Colonial decorating. Bamboo legs embrace the look’s tropical context.
Wherever you find vertical posts, you uncover an opportunity to transform a straight cylinder into a bamboo look-alike. Bamboo’s greatest design virtue is its roughly evenly spaced joints, which add texture and dimension, and help break up a long stretch of material.
Bamboo furniture and its imitators boast an easy flexibility that makes them popular in bohemian decorating.
Chinese Chippendale chairs are one of the most recognizable artifacts of legendary furniture designer Thomas Chippendale’s legacy. Modern retailers have adapted the designer’s signature interlocking geometric chair backs in a multitude of ways, but one of the most popular suggests bamboo shoots in its styling.
PT baligreenworld, original photo on Houzz
4. Railings and Fences
If you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical locale, consider using real bamboo as your deck railing. It’s not even necessary to use perfectly straight pieces. Instead, embrace the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the perfectly imperfect, and gather a bundle of bent shoots to construct your own.
Applegate Tran Interiors, original photo on Houzz
5. Decorative Flourishes
Can’t find a place for any of these stellar bamboo applications in your own home? I bet you can find a place for a live plant. It is by now well-documented that plants improve air quality, and may even improve concentration and feelings of well-being. Tall species like bamboo are especially well-poised to impart these benefits since their looming presence connects us more tangibly to the natural world from whence we came.
When all else fails, large bamboo shoots in a beautiful clay pot will dress up any vacant corner.