Ultimate Top 5 Items to Create an authentic Island Style Home


Having spent the last few years living in a tropical country I’ve learnt a thing or two about creating Island Style interiors.

Here are my ultimate top 5 must haves for creating an Island Style home, no matter where you live or what budget you’re on.



White paint. An island essential. It’s hot on an tropical island, so you need to create that breezy airy feel. White paint gives you this instantly, it’s fresh, cool and neutral. I also like my whites a little on the cool side, a tiny hint of grey or green are the perfect Island shades. My home’s painted in Solver White Snow, looks white on the paint chart, but due to shadows around the house it goes a little grey, I find this perfect for my Island interiors as it gently softens the white, creating a peaceful atmosphere.



Natural elements. We’re talking Wood, Stone, Raffia (grass), Straw, Shells, Cotton, Linen and Paper. These beautiful materials add softness and echo natural living. Think Sisal rugs, Wood furniture, Linen slip covers, Cotton sheets etc. You get the gist, so start adding these to your next interiors shopping list.



Tropical plants. Simply a must. Here in Australia we love bringing the outdoors in and vice versa. Large tropical plants make great statements and can frame a room, smaller ones add a little touch of green for big impact. We say the more plants the merrier in an Island home. If you don’t possess green fingers though, then cheat, grab two large palm fronds and add to a vase, they last for ages and give instant Island drama to a scheme.



Rattan furniture. Be it cane, wicker or rattan, these breezy furniture pieces allow air flow to circulate ensuring maximum comfort on a hot day. They also look good too by adding texture to a room. So whether its classic Hampton’s, Island Luxe Resort or Retro Hawaiian you love, add dashes of these furniture pieces to a room and accentuate the tropical feel.



Ceiling fans. Lets be practical here, when it’s hot you need to keep cool. Ceiling fans are economical to run, look the part and keep you comfortable. They give you that cool breeze as if it came straight from the palm trees themselves. What’s not the love about them. I like to keep my ceiling fans neutral, white or silver and minimal in design for a less cluttered look to a ceiling.

So there you have it.

If you love this relaxed Island look, start with these basics first as your framework, then build on the look. All the interior images are from my own home, so you can take a peek to see how I’ve expressed these elements in a real life Island home interior.

Happy Island Styling.

Zoe x


All images by Zoe Milburn 2015. All right reserved.

The authentic coastal home

I’m going to make a bold statement here – I hate themed interiors.

As a professional designer, I find myself cringing at a lot of Coastal inspired homes.

It’s not really the owners fault, it’s such an easy trap to fall into. You see, coastal theme park interiors should come with a health warning I believe.

Hands up  – who’s collected too many shells, too many pineapples and too many gaudy fake tropical or coastal nick nacks over the years?

Well that’s OK, we’ll forgive your decorating crimes here.

The real secret to creating the perfect coastal home is – Authenticity & Simplicity.


To create Authenticity in your home, seek out those perfect coastal inspired artifacts in other places.

Discover your hunter gatherer instincts and start collecting ‘real’ objects worthy of any keen eyed interior decorator. Vintage stores, car boot sales, house clearances all have the coolest little gems that can help you create a beautiful and authentic coastal home, whether your style be nautical, beach cottage, tropical or luxe resort.

Edit your interiors and don’t stop.

This is the most important design lesson I can give you.

Simplicity is created through careful editing. The essential pieces, the right proportions, the right balance in composition.

And lastly, remember it takes time to create great interiors.

So think a little outside the box next time, to create your own authentic coastal inspired interior, and have some fun with it along the way.

Photography: Zoe Milburn 2015

Full cycle with upcycle

021I have a confession, I love to up cycle beautiful items for my home.

This is not a new idea though, generations before up cycled their furniture because there were not as many affordable options as we have today.

Up cycling offers dual pay back, being sustainable and breathing new life into an item, it’s a very rewarding adventure indeed.

The key to success is having a sharp eye and a vision.

Sometimes I might acquire a piece of furniture, only to see the puzzled look on my husbands face with the words, “so what are you going to do with that?”

This is where magic and trust come together to create the vision – usually it’s in the form of a lick of white paint or deep black japan stain.

As a Designer, I can quickly see the potential in items – it’s second nature to me.

My beach home in Queensland houses many fine pieces of up cycled furniture, and so good are the results, they easily over take the presence of mass produced store bought items.

The image to the right showcases 2 frames I picked up. A Balinese carved frame I stained and a lovely large beveled frame I painted white. I find frames very architectual, so I decided to display as is on an old wooden easal. The result is a wonderful collage display in the corner of my living room.

You see up cycling creates personality, one off pieces that not only stand the test of time, but add that extra dimension to a room.

So keep an eye out for beautiful items with potential, from your local charity stores to second hand markets.

It’s fun, inexpensive and highly addictive.

Photography: Zoe Milburn 2015

Escape to Oceania


Many dream about living on a tropical island, they read magazines and watch travel shows about it.

But I’m the lucky girl, I get to live on a tropical island each and every day.

But how you might ask, because I certainly wasn’t born on one.

The simple answer is, I took a chance.

After many conversations with my then travel bitten nomad of a fiance, I found myself diving into a crazy plan to escape London.

Like many, I too had seen my future destination on TV, although for me it wasn’t until that taxi ride in the early hours of the morning towards Heathrow, with only a backpack of belongings to my name, did I realise the magnitude of my decision.

What I didn’t realise at the time was, this was not going to be about the final destination. This was about the journey itself into a whole new chapter of my life, and my absolute passion for Oceania and Island Living.

They say every journey begins with the first step, for me mine started with a single step onto an aeroplane that left English soil for good. The destination itself felt as distant as the miles it would take me to travel toward it.

To ease into my new life adventure, I spent an amazing time travelling through the South Pacific, hopping from one island to the next.

It was paradise in Paradise.

I liken these naive and native islands to stepping stones, that cross the Pacific Ocean stretching and meandering towards Australia.

Finally when I eventually landed on the big island in Oceania, the dream became reality, and the rest as they say, made amazing history in my new life on the other side of the world.

Photography: Zoe Milburn 2015
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