Afrocentric Interior Design

by Bolanle Akindayomi

I live in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, and I get a lot of clients that request an African/contemporary fusion that fits their lifestyles; this is right up my alley because I am directly influenced by my environment.

It is advisable to begin with a clear vision of where each piece would be represented, and this is where a mood board can be useful. You do not want to go overboard in your design and live in a museum. However, you do not want to be shy and overly cautious with your design and pieces; you want to be as bold and vivacious as the continent.

Africa is vast and rich in culture, so you would have to research what region of the continent your clients would like in their home. After the decision to embark on this project, another important thing to note is the cost implications and their budget. A budget-friendly form of this theme would be to recreate an African skyline with perhaps textured wallpaper with sunset colours and decorate it with traditional patterned throw pillows, earthenware and artefacts. 

Personally, when creating an African-inspired interior I prefer to pick pieces as focal items or colours that create an impact within a space, be it a warm, rich orange for a wall with carved African masks serving as an exotic backdrop or cedar wood footstools tastefully arranged in a living room.

Four things to consider when designing an African-inspired interior

  1. Research the mood and the ambience you would like to create within the space. A mood board of chosen pieces and furnishing would help with clarity. Doing this would help create the balance needed to create a cohesive and thoughtfully planned space.
  2. For your design, think deep rich earthy tones that reflect the hot African sun, terracotta and clay huts and in contrast; beige, creams and brown, which is inspired by natural components such as woven baskets and raffia mats seen in the traditional home which adds warmth and a sense of comfort into your design.
  3. Vivacious yellow, natural greens and revitalizing reds fit right at home with dark wooden floors, ebony artefacts and African mahogany furniture. This mix and match of bright and dark colours with appealing textures bring unique depth to your design scheme.
  4. African décor is largely influenced by nature, so it is only natural to incorporate organic and sustainable materials when selecting décor for the space. The use of braided and forged furniture made from raffia, straws, cane and wood in its numerous forms is a great way to express an African design scheme. Materials commonly found in a typical traditional setting would be natural leather and skins sourced from animals such as zebras, giraffes, crocodiles and snakes. I would advise using these materials in small doses to create a strong impact in a Contemporary/African design scheme. 

Maximise the potential of your space by carefully planning a scheme that brings the elements mentioned above; embellish the space with paintings and African arts and crafts to help with the flow. Another subtle way to introduce African interior in an otherwise contemporary setting would be to limit its use to a particular space, for example, keeping the theme within an entrance hallway or lobby, which sets a mysterious tone at the onset. Imagine walking into a home where you first encounter ritual masks and exotic sculptures.

African interior design is slowly growing a niche following amongst contemporary designers with its captivating prints, bold sculptures and enigmatic masks, made all the more special if created by local craft men. Draw inspiration for an African-themed paradise from its different cultures and people.

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