With the tribal trend so hot right now, you might see things you like, but wonder if they’d work in your home. If you have a home with more traditional architecture and decor, or country or farmhouse decor, does that mean you cannot decorate with pieces from Africa? Actually, you can! The contrast is what makes it work. Let’s look at what top interior designers have done, to learn how to weave African elements into our homes as we take a look at African inspired interiors.
Above, French interior designer Jacques Grange masterfully mixed a few tribal pieces into a room that incorporates traditional architectural details like the dentil molding at the tops of walls. This room shows that you can use strong tribal shapes and patterns in any style of decor. Note the black accessories on the table and the geometric patterned stool.
This is another room in the same London home designed by Jacques Grange. What makes this room less “predictable” are the restrained African touches: the tribal art on the mantel and the fun vintage tiger print carpet. Can you imagine this room with a plain sisal carpet and vases of roses on the mantel? It would be SO MUCH less interesting.
In my view of the world, the global mix added by accessories makes this a visually exciting scene. You can see more photos of this home in Architectural Digest.
The next home is in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its style blends iconic African pieces with finds from far beyond the continent’s borders; from China and India. It’s another example of how tribal art and furniture can mix well with a variety of styles. In one room, there’s a collection of ceremonial staffs from Africa hanging on the wall, along with an Indian figure on the shelf. Carved wooden doors from India hang on the wall above the shelf. A Chinese ceramic stool mixes it up with geometric textiles that has tribal origins.
The above room has a basic sofa and simple Chinese cabinets in the background, all made much more interesting by the wood tribal artefacts and ikat textiles that are placed around the room.
The owners of this home are South African interior designers who specialize in Chinese antiques. They have a great eye for mixing pieces from the Far East with those found around the African continent including Morocco and Egypt. They say they chose things that have a good aesthetic appeal or that speak to them emotionally. You can see more of their home at House & Leisure.
In another South African home, a kitchen that could really be a kitchen anywhere, except for a few bold, unique African-inspired elements; the stools, the hanging lights and the thatched roof give it a tribal African vibe. This home is featured in the French version of Elle Decor.
A similar thatched roof, in the house below, offers the crowning touch in the home above, which is in Kenya. Beyond the unique ceiling, this room has neutral furniture that you might find in many American suburban homes. I’m a lifelong resident of Midwestern suburbs and there’s a lot here that’s familiar to me. Indeed I wasn’t surprised to find that the couple who built this home is from Indiana. But notice what places this room in Kenya…
…The leather campaign/director’s chair to the left of the fireplace brings some safari style to the room. There are two beaded Nigerian baskets to the right of the fireplace. In the mirror above the fireplace, you can see that behind the photographer there’s a framed Kenyan Kuba cloth hanging on the wall. There’s also a rustic wooden stool and a cowl shell woven basket in the foreground. It’s these touches that give the basic neutral furniture some personality and a “sense of place.”
And what a place this is! It’s built on the grounds of a wildlife conservancy and the walls are open to the outdoors so you can see – from the house! – elephants, zebras and lions. And sometimes animals are even closer to home, like in the home. Because here is an orphaned cheetah cub snoozing on a sofa!
Well, with the view they must have outside, and a lifestyle where sometimes wildlife comes inside, I wouldn’t want to be distracted by too much indoors. I think they struck the right balance with the decor.
As another example, you can see their master bedroom also has neutral furniture with safari and tribal touches. There’s the campaign desk on the far end, and hanging above it is a framed African warrior’s ceremonial dress. And more campaign director’s chairs are placed here. This is a room that, without that spectacular ceiling, really could be anywhere. So you can take the safari and tribal cues from this room and try them in any home. More photos from this home are in House Beautiful.
The next room was created by American interior designer Vicente Wolf. It has just the barest of tribal influence in this photo, in the three large metal African bracelets standing on the cocktail table. Sometimes you don’t need much.
These three tribal pieces add some strength to balance the paper Noguchi lamp and white florals. You might not think to place tribal elements in a room with that style of fireplace mantel and mirror, but to my eye, it adds the right contrast. The designer’s book Crossing Boundaries: A Global Vision of Design shares more ideas.
I saved my personal favorite example for last! I love strong patterns in red and black and maybe that’s why I used them in the tribal stencil lamp shade shared here. You may know the next designer from Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators show. Martyn Lawrence Bullard designed this bedroom for Grey’s Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo. Even though it is a celebrity’s room, you can easily use elements of it in your own home.
The antique Egyptian wall hanging is the first thing that draws your eye. So to borrow this room’s look, hang a strong colorful textile behind a bed. You can purchase a textile, or you can stencil on a floorcloth with any pattern and color you wish. The African inspiration is more subtle here and that’s why the ideas in this room can be used in many homes. There are the gray campaign nightstands flanking the bed which bring some safari style. And the vintage West African pillows and vintage Moroccan-style brass lamps. With the tribal trend so popular right now, you can easily find similar items in stores or online. You could spray paint the bases of plain lamps with a metallic copper paint. You could even paint tribal design stencils onto fabrics to make your own pillows.
I hope this gives you ideas of how to use the hot African tribal trend, from haute interior designer rooms around the world!