Décor that draws on Africa’s wealth of crafts and artisans adds color, texture and global style to the home.
Trek through home décor stores and you’ll probably see goods from around the world — India, the Far East, South America. And Africa.
Just as fashion houses like Celine, McQueen, Valentino and Missoni have referenced African prints and hues over the past few seasons, interior designers are also drawing on Africa’s wealth of crafts, including woodworking, pottery, textiles and pattern-making.
Jeanine Hays, creative director of interior design firm Aphrochic in Brooklyn, N.Y., works with her team to develop modern takes on traditional African textiles and patterns found in ceremonial objects. For instance, they have a collection of poufs upholstered in prints drawn from kuba cloth, silhouettes and headdresses.
“We’re inspired by our own African-American heritage, and our interiors and products reflect iconic African-American imagery,” Hays says.
In her own brownstone, Hays uses a long, gray bedroom wall to display a basket collection made by a Rwandan women’s collective. The vibrant shades of pink, mint and gold pop against the dark wall, making a sculptural statement.
Another eye-catching piece that’s cropping up frequently in interiors is the Juju hat, used in dancing rituals by the Bamileke tribe in Cameroon. The headdress features an exuberant circle of chicken or guinea fowl feathers.
Consuelo Pierrepont, designer and co-founder of Sway Studio, an interiors firm with offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, says Juju hats have a softness and geometry that make them a favorite decorative element.
“They’re incredibly versatile and can stand alone as a statement or be layered into a collage wall with other art mediums or more Jujus,” she says.
Pierrepont says that carved, wooden Bamileke stools have also been popular with clients. The sides of the drum-shaped stools are carved in a hatched pattern evoking a spider’s web.
“They have an appealing sculptural quality, and the real ones have a lot of character — no two are alike,” she says. “They’re nearly indestructible — the barrel shape makes them incredibly sturdy, and the dark stain and wax finish hides everything.”
While original Bamileke tables are investment pieces, there are now less expensive versions. Some are made of resin, so they can stay outdoors. Others come in lighter finishes, like white or gold.
In her online shop St. Frank, designer Christina Bryant sells handcrafted textiles and home décor sourced or inspired by global artisans, including some in Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and other African countries. She stocks a large selection of Juju hats, as well as collectible pieces such as Ghanaian gold dust spoons, Nigerian beaded crowns, and bronze leopards and wooden antelope masks from Cameroon.
Bryant thinks that millennial consumers, who have recently entered the home market in large numbers, are driving the global home-décor trend.
“They’re the most avid travelers, interested in exploration beyond the U.S. and Europe,” she says. “They also want authentic products with stories behind them, and they value ethical sourcing.”