If you are somewhat hazy about exactly where Samoa is, you are not alone. When I told my older brother that Mike and I were going to spend three weeks there, he said, with deep concern in his voice, “Aren’t there pirates there?” 

Uh, that would be Somalia. 


Fred Albert, original photo on Houzz


Let’s get straight to it: Samoa is a tropical paradise, roughly the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north of it. Mike and I may never have encountered Samoa if our son had not married the daughter of a Samoan chief, a union that has blessed us with three gorgeous grandchildren. It’s a nation composed of islands, so you are never very far from pristine sandy beaches sheltered by towering palms and lapped by crystalline turquoise waters. 

Just look at these colors. What struck me most on our first visit (aside from the tropical humidity that wrapped around us like a heavy, wet blanket) was the clear, true, multihued shades of blues and greens.

Don’t green and blue make a natural and compelling color combination?


Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design, original photo on Houzz


When you add the color of the dark thunderclouds so prevalent on a Samoan day, you get yet another magical color combination: green, blue and gray. It fascinates me that a palette born of rain and wind can bring such calm and repose to a room.

The next thing I noticed were the textures. Samoa’s island beaches rapidly melt into jungle — in this case, mountainous jungle, lush with a textural medley of tropical plants.

Bring Samoa’s Turquoise Waters Indoors


Brooke Ulrich, original photo on Houzz


We can learn from the jungle that — green or not — varying textures add richness, interest and much-needed oomph to an interior.

Then there are the tropical fish. I spent one long afternoon leaning over the edge of a kayak staring at the abundant fish — large and small — that scooted around the waters below me: yellow, red, electric green, neon blue, orange, black and white.

When you think of the colors of the reef applied to homes, don’t picture a stereotypical tropical interior. This kitchen’s punchy colors and whimsical mix of dining chairs take me straight back to that sun-drenched afternoon in Samoa. Let your creative juices run as rampantly as they do in tropical waters.


Becky Dietrich, Interior Designer, original photo on Houzz


And then there were the shells. Our second trip to Samoa was six months after the September 2009 tsunami that so devastated the tiny country. The same beaches we had frolicked on with our grandchildren just weeks before the tsunami hit were now littered with uprooted palm trees, toilet seats and even parts of fishing boats.  

But they were also covered with the most beautiful shells, ones that normally couldn’t be seen unless you were snorkeling around the reefs, but that had been washed ashore by the giant waves — the giant clamshell, for instance, which is an absolute marvel of texture and design. This image does not do justice to the beauty of clamshells, with their deeply scalloped ridges and their lovely variations of color.

This living room captures as much as is possible the neutral, textural, rich feel of the giant clamshell. There’s no more than a hint of color, but rich shading and texture have been skillfully brought into play.

Stunning Shades of Green to Paint Your Walls


Dillard Pierce Design Associates, original photo on Houzz


Samoa’s main island is surrounded by vibrant coral reefs that pulsate with life and color. But the reefs had been almost as devastated by the tsunami as the shore. The beaches I walked early every morning that second trip were awash with large bunches of sun-bleached coral. Although laws that protect the reef meant I couldn’t bring any coral (even dead coral) home with me, I lingered on my early-morning beach walks over each stunning bit. Spiky, rounded, sharp, blunt, always intricate … coral is an unparalleled lesson in complex texture and color.

This room, with its rich and compelling hues of pink married to taupes, beiges and tinges of burnished gold, reminds me of the coral that washed up on those faraway beaches. Yummy. And heartbreaking. 


Canon & Dean, original photo on Houzz


We tend to think of Miami Vice pink and turqouise when we think of tropical interiors. And there is nothing wrong with that. But Samoa was way subtler than that, way more organic. From our second trip, I was able to bring back one of those giant clamshells that had washed ashore. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Half of it sits on my coffee table. Sometimes it has a candle in it, sometimes M&Ms. The other half sits on our patio table, where it currently serves as a planter for succulents. 

Every day these shells remind me of Samoa, and what can be learned from the stunning variety of nature’s color schemes in that faraway tropical paradise.

Eclectic Dining Chairs That Show Your Personality