STORY BY SANDRA S. SORIA ✷ PHOTOGRAPHS BY TRIA GIOVAN
We caught up with Amanda in her own breezy home, dubbed Hope Hill, on Lyford Cay in Nassau, The Bahamas. It’s one of many places featured in her book, Island Hopping, all of which have her signature kicked-back elegance. It’s an aesthetic that bursts with juicy tropical color, is enriched by pieces found or crafted locally, and is grounded in natural materials. Here, the popular decorator and shopowner (with stateside shops in Charleston and Palm Beach and an online store) shares some secrets to feel-good interiors.
Q: You give your mom a lot of credit for influencing your style as you were growing up in Palm Beach. How so?
A: My mother never did anything with the intent of it being beautiful. It was something that was essential to her, almost on a cellular level. In other words, it wasn’t put on. But when she wrapped a present or set a table it was a work of art. She was a tastemaker, but she was also super edited. It was less-is-more design and extremely stylish. But she was also dead cheap. I gobbled all of it up by osmosis.
Q: How does your style diverge from hers?
A: My houses are much more comfortable than hers. She didn’t understand that so much. She was all about a kind of starkness and I kind of rebelled against that. I got to England in my early twenties and understood a little bit more about how the English decorate. There was always a drink table, a good reading light, and a place to put your feet. Those kinds of elements are essential to them; they do that naturally.
Q: Is that notion of comfort and livability at the heart of your signature breezy, natural island style?
A: It’s really important that the houses we decorate are comfortable and also timeless. We don’t want them to date. A house needs to look like it was always there, even when it’s brand new. That’s our job and our challenge.
Q: How do you pull that off?
A: We do it by bringing layers in, such as personal items and books—always books. But, also, little things like a cup of pencils and a notepad by the bed. A comfortable chair with a table beside it. You want your house to feel like it’s loved, like it has someone who cares for it and the people in it.
Q: What are some signature elements that are always, always going to be in an Amanda Lindroth project?
A: Definitely grass cloth on walls or smooth Coralina, which is a kind of Caribbean limestone that we love to use on the walls of a room. Seagrass matting or natural matting on the floors. White cotton duck slipcovers on sofas and chairs. Candlelight for sure. Garden elements from a single palm frond to a bucket of roses. These are all trademarks of our projects.
Q: But you do projects across the country, how do you translate the style to those who live in landlocked homes?
A: When I take my look on the road, we use many elements that I’m comfortable with a little differently. A wicker chair might be spray-painted black if we are doing it in a New York penthouse. For a house in Maine, the blonde finish I might use in the Bahamas becomes darker and more polished. Natural rugs go everywhere, but we might layer them with a Dhurrie or an Oriental rug on top. We are thoughtful about making the design relevant to its place.
Q: When you approach a new project, what is the first thing that you do?
A: When I walk into a client’s house, my first inclination is usually terror. How am I going to do this? It’s weird. Creatives are never ever confident. Some are, but they’re annoying.
Q: I totally get that, and your fear is reassuring actually. Seriously, a lot of us just don’t even know where to begin. Is there a certain spot that you always launch from?
A: I usually start with a furniture plan and the scale of the room. Some rooms are beautifully scaled and some need correction with furniture or by giving them some height. Some rooms are super long and low, and you need to figure out how to visually enhance the center of the room. I do fabrics and color last, actually.
Q: I am surprised the palette and fabrics come last, a deft use of color and pattern seems so central to the super-fresh spaces you create.
A: I’m kind of a coward about color. I’m known for my use of color, but it was an acquired skill. When I first started decorating, everything was in white cotton duck. Everything. I had to learn to use color and pattern. So, I’m currently doing a little apartment in London, my daughter’s in school there and the whole thing is being painted pink. So I’m branching out. Or maybe just getting old and less afraid.
Q: How did you learn? I mean, I think choosing color is torture for home decorators.
A: I think like anything else in life, you have to study. I began hoarding decorating magazines and decorating books and I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. Still, when I get into a design rut, I go back to the books that I’ve always loved. I go and I find old tear sheets. I’ll be 58 this month. Because I’m old, I don’t have as many tech skills as everybody else, so I go to the Pinterest boards and print things I love, and I have them in cubby holes at the office in files of beautiful bedrooms or inspirational gardens or great kitchen cabinets. There’s a thousand cubby holes in my office and everyone laughs at me. They have all the same things, but they’re all digital.
Q: Do you think the pandemic has caused a shift in how we relate to homes? We’ve had months to ponder our spaces.
A: I never, ever lived in my house the way I’ve lived in it this year. I’m just one of billions of people who feel that way. All kinds of little neglected corners of my house have gotten a little bit of attention. And I think everybody’s been cleaning out their house, which I think is amazing. There is extraordinary satisfaction in rooting out rubbish or taking things you don’t use and passing them along to Goodwill.
Q: Are we becoming minimalists, like your mother?
A: Well, the other side to that is we have found people are shopping like crazy for their homes now. For one thing they’re all eating at home. We saw incredible growth this year in our online sales, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. We doubled sales month over month for a few months, while people were wanting to set their tables beautifully and light candles and do all the things that we think are warm and fuzzy in a home. I think Americans for three decades have been grabbing takeout. There wasn’t the same amount of effort or thought put into it, and that’s changing. But I feel like it’s more intentional buying. And I think the natural, simplicity in our line appeals to people who want a lighter, fresher look.
Q: You write in your book about creativity and how the simplicity comes from living on an island and just not having the availability of materials. I wondered if you have any tips or hacks for readers on making do?
A: When I started decorating as an amateur and I was here in the Bahamas, I just walked up to the little dressmaker shop and bought dressmaking fabric. They’re $8 and $10 and $12 a yard. They were seersuckers, cottons with little checks, little piques, Swiss dots, and cotton ducks. But, frankly, these make great slipcovers and charming curtains. My hack would be to buy them for your home decorating because they have an instant charm to them and they’re a zillion dollars cheaper than decorator fabrics.
Q: How do you give a home that effortless feeling? I’m thinking it actually take a lot of effort?
A: We like houses to look like they have an insouciance, like it was all completely easily assembled. Actually, there is some intent to it. But truthfully, there’s not that much intent. If you take a lot of things that are similar, and that you love, and put them together, it creates a wonderful table scape or wall scape. There used to be a word in decorating that everybody used—but they don’t use it anymore, thank God—eclectic. I never knew what the hell that word meant. I think it just means like all kinds of different, shocking things put together. I’ve never been that girl.
Q: Canned, packaged decorating—or painstakingly curated ones—aren’t for you, I take it?
A: It has to be relevant to you, your family, your surroundings. There was a huge trend in Asian-style decorating in the Caribbean, for instance. It was an Aman Resort thing that became really hip here for a few years and I thought, have these people lost their minds? We’re not in Southeast Asia.
Q: I know, too, that you work antiques into your spaces, but in a way that’s fresh and new and spirited. Is there a trick to doing that — bringing antiques in without making the space go sort of ‘granny’?
A: I’m not quite sure how to answer that but I think you just don’t want too much of it. I think if you have a traditional brown pedestal dining table, your chairs should be something else. Otherwise, it looks like your grandmother’s furniture set from the local furniture store. You know what I mean?
Q: What are the toughest rooms to decorate?
A: The problem with modern buildings is there’s not enough millwork. There’s not enough attention paid to the details like that and you end up with these big Sheetrock boxes to decorate. One of the tricks that we always do is to put in a chair rail and then use wallpaper or something underneath. We often use this French faux bois wallpaper. Then immediately you’ve got some millwork, but without the cost.
Q: What other advice or thoughts do you want to leave our readers with?
A: I think another thing for readers to understand is that a house shouldn’t be perfect. A house should express the life it’s been living. If you have children, if you have dogs, if you have parties, then the stain on the carpet, the chip on the furniture just don’t matter. It has no relevance to the life and the goodness and the soul of the house, to it being full of love and energy and life. I feel like this is such an important thing to tell people. We like houses to have a little age. I wish mine showed a little less age, but anyway, that’s next year’s problem.
You can shop Amanda Lindroth’s look at amandalindrothdesign.com.