Aloe House is far from tropical-chic. Instead, I would describe its decor as beach-bargain. When the house was completed in 2001, we were still working and had put all we had into construction. (While others were investing in dot-coms, we invested in concrete!) There was no real "budget" for furnishings, so our goals were not fashion but durability. I sought futons with frames of wood, not rust-prone metal; coated my aunt's old steamer trunk with polyurethane, planning to use it as a coffee table; shopped at Ikea for sturdy things. (I had also been influenced by one resident's advice not to bring in anything so valuable that I wouldn't want to lose it in a hurricane.)
What we didn't bring in, we supplemented by "shopping" at the beach. Flotsam gave us a length of bamboo that we turned into a DVD holder, salt-soaked boards that we turned into valences, and our prize accent table: a large wooden box that we hauled back along the beach, making frequent rest stops.
The eclectic result of our "decorating" is one part Robinson Crusoe, one part First Apartment and one part Bohemian. We find it comfortable and islandy, but it's a far cry from the island elegance I see today.
Yet I must ask myself if I'd do it differently now, when we have more money and it's easier to find and buy goods in the islands. Do I want my home to be tropical-chic instead of beachy-fun? Nah. Formal elegance is not something I seek from the islands. I actually prefer the improvisation that comes with living at the edge of a capricious ocean.
Even though I ooh and aah over those grand homes, I think I'll keep my tiki-hut style.