First, they will cruise up the Eguaçu (pronounced Ee-gwa-SUE) Canyon River in southern Brazil, located near the border of Argentina and Paraguay. The destination is Eguaçu Falls. This mammoth series of 275 waterfalls cascades over a precipice almost two miles wide and 250 feet deep. The clouds of spray, thundering roar and 180-degree rainbows are said to be overpowering.
Later in the trip they will go to Manaus, a large city about half way up the Amazon River, where they will be met and transferred up river to a jungle lodge. They will go piranha fishing (yikes!), then alligator spotting (yikes, again!), and during their stay they will experience a jungle trek and an early morning sunrise tour.
As I listened with rapt attention to David's exotic travel plans, I said, "My husband will be sooo envious of this trip!" To which David replied, "I envy myself! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!"
When I asked him what he hoped to glean from the trip, his reply was, "Wonderful memories of time spent with Kristine and Phillip seeing these glorious places!" He also admitted to looking forward to speaking Portuguese again, which he learned as a missionary in Brazil more than 30 years ago. He still speaks Portuguese fluently.
I would love to do this trip right along with David and Kristine. Yet in reality, I only seem to go places where productivity is the end result. This idea of going just to experience the jungle is a little too amazing to me. I would be more likely to watch "George of the Jungle" (what a tree house!), and get there another way-by creating a jungle theme and making it a bug-safe, piranha-free atmosphere for a client or my family.
Hmmm, a jungle theme. Great idea. Starting from scratch, how would it come together?
SELECTING THE JUNGLE
If you are thinking of putting together a jungle or even a tropical theme, first visualize the jungle of your choice. Is it in Central America, South America or Africa? Mexico? Indonesia or the Philippines? The isles of the Caribbean or Micronesia? Have you seen a movie, a travel magazine, poster or vicariously traveled there via the Internet? What is your point of reference? In other words, how are you connecting with the theme?
How you connect with your theme is important because interior design professionals always visualize the entire interior in their minds as they collect data, then put the ideas on paper and begin making selections. Jungle or tropical themes will always be associated with two things: 1) Endangered species and lush vegetation in delicate balance with 2) native culture.
So close your eyes for a minute. What native culture comes to your mind? If you need help, turn to the new textile and wall covering designs and hardware accessories with exotic tropical motifs and you might begin to envision the perfect jungle habitat hideaway. You might imagine a rustic lodge deep in the jungle, a casual condominium on the beach at the edge of a lush, overgrown garden, or even a luxury hotel in paradise. This means making selections that can range from rustic and primitive to high-style luxury.
David's Manaus jungle lodge is a definite contrast to my own stays at the Sands Hotel in Puerto Rico and the Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, where I relished the exotic glamour of the jungle theme in the guest and meeting rooms, the fabulous reception areas adjoining the glorious swimming pools with waterfalls, and the restaurants featuring mouth-watering cuisine.
The jungle theme has many options for decorating style. All it takes is a room and a vision, and a bit of practical planning.
START FROM THE GROUND UP
On the floor, tropical rooms have hard surfaces-dirt at the most primitive level, concrete in many cases and tile or stone common where they can be afforded. These impervious materials are cool to the touch and are not affected by humidity, heat, sand, dirt or vermin. Practicality is a priority in tropical climates. These flooring surfaces also last a lifetime, and often are neutral yet handsomely classic in appearance.
For our own practical purposes in non-tropical climates, if a hard surface floor is too hard, too cold or too costly, that's OK; we're not obligated. Wood, vinyl or laminate floors are fine in clean environments where heat and humidity are controlled.
Laid atop the tropical flooring will be found area rugs; woven cellulosic mats such as sisal, maize, or coir; native rugs in bright colors and abstract patterns; or thick, lush area rugs such as the Greek goat hair rugs known as floccati or flokati. Deep pile shag Berber carpet would do nicely as well, and designer rugs are definitely an option where colors and simplified versions of the pattern reflect a great printed textile or wall covering.
The first rule in jungle or tropical climates is to seek relief from the heat and humidity. If you have experienced a tropical climate firsthand, you might have noticed a building's walls often are a thick, dense mass of adobe brick, stone or concrete that slowly absorbs intense heat during the day keeping the interior cool and insulated. At night the heat is slowly released keeping temperatures fairly consistent throughout the day.
The interior walls may be a rough stucco that is whitewashed or painted in soft hues. Some homes and buildings feature strong colorations on one or more wall. Where there are large open interior spaces, we occasionally see vivid, contrasting colors on walls. Wall coverings are used infrequently in intensely hot and humid climates, but are appropriate choices in climate-controlled interiors. Wall coverings with either a natural texture or with a terrific tropical pattern can quickly establish and hold the theme. Artwork in tribal, native or simply a colorful array is welcomed in interiors with neutral backgrounds.
KEEPING THE SUN AT BAY
In Puerto Rico I was surprised to learn from interior designers there that people often use blackout shades or blackout-lined draperies at their windows. The direct rays of the sun come from a southern exposure part of the year and from a northern side for part of the year. The sun there is relentless and cruel. The damage to skin and furnishings from intense heat and ultraviolet rays is real.
But if the intense sunshine is not a reality in your jungle theme, or if air conditioning assures interior comfort even during heat waves, then light-diffusing or light-filtering treatments are good choices-particularly if they can be adjusted to block out the brightest portion of the day. Blinds, shades and shutters make excellent treatments, and if a bit of rustic texture is indicated, so much the better.
Another fine choice is lined draperies, hand-drawn on rings or on a conventional traverse or designer rod. Of course, beautiful draperies can be drawn closed over the top of light-filtering treatments, and if the draperies are a tropical print, the theme is enhanced by closing the draperies or dropping a custom-made shade.
Some rooms are planned with a neutral, natural, textural background with only splashes of brilliant color: a pole swag fabric, an accent pillow or a table skirt with a handkerchief top. Yet other rooms inspire a celebration response with vivid, delightful color. When selecting color, keep in mind that a little can go a long way and take care to not overdo either the quantity or the intensity.
The jungle itself contains a preponderance of browns and greens and only small areas of very bright red, yellow, orange, blue and violet as seen in bird plumage, exotic flowers and small animal species-the brightest colors are used in smaller intensity. This rule can be followed with success in creating a tropical interior. Yet brilliant color is the very crux of the room-the focus of passion-and offers a glimpse of the wonders of the exotic jungle world.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.