African Decor: How to Decorate with this Trendy Style

Changing and updating your furniture and decor can be overwhelming. (We can relate.) Oftentimes it seems like there are too many new styles and pieces to consider, too much effort involved in trying something new. However, a recent design trend has caught my attention, not only because it’s unique and lively, but also because it’s easy to apply to any home: African furniture and accents.

Though designers and savvy homeowners have adorned their homes with African decor pieces much earlier than 2017, the trend has recently caught momentum. Characteristics of African pieces – think bright patterns and shapes, African motifs, and handmade items – were listed in Vogue’s 10 Interior Design Trends. This African furniture trend has been interpreted in many ways. From Mud cloth Ottomans and decorative wooden masks, to Burundi baskets and patterned pillows, we’ve seen African decor appear in many people’s homes. As designer Elle Gibson said in her 2015 article, “Africa is a source of inspiration that elevates a modern room while infusing it with history and culture. This trend will continue to grow and be in vogue.” And it has grown. Take a look.

african decor eclectic bedroom

Source: DigsDigs. Note the patterned wall art, pillows, and rug. They comfortably and unobtrusively add liveliness to the room.

Why has this design trend taken off? According to this Telegraph article, it might be due to a shared “mood…all about fun and glamorous escapism.” Such a mood opens the doorway to the article’s suggestion to add in “some bright geometrics and exotic African motifs.”

One of AptDeco’s sellers, Ethnika Home Decor and Antiques, has seen the popularity of the African decor trend firsthand. The owners of the store, Yvonne Jean Rabie and her husband, artist Daniel Carranza, have sought to find hundreds of such items.

“I started collecting African art a long time ago. I first collected masks, and I displayed them in my house,” Yvonne said. “African art and style have always been pretty popular, but now it’s really popular.” After mentioning she loves everything – from Kuba textiles to wooden stools – she adds, “It’s all really elegant and beautiful.”

Decorating with African Decor Pieces

Wooden Stools and Tables

You don’t need to completely transform each of your rooms to take part in this trend though. In your living room or bedroom, try swapping your current side tables with a Bamileke stool or Senufo stool that doubles as a side table. As you’ll see below, adding just the two Senufo stools makes a difference to the room.

“Each stool is unique,” Yvonne says about her stools. “The artists from Africa make each stool from one piece of wood. I sell a lot of them.” It makes sense that these stools are popular. In Vogue’s article on 2017 home decorating trends, interior designer Beth Diana Smith mentions that handcrafted items, including “furniture that is more of an investment—furniture that is very well-made,” are going to be largely sought after.

african wooden stool

Source:Ethnika. The Senufo Stool/Side Table.

Patterns and Prints

Aside from wooden stools and tables, patterns and prints are essential for this home decor trend. As Sarah Barclay of Barclay Interiors puts it in this article, 2017 “will turn into a year full of contradictions in pattern, texture and colour.”

Having patterns doesn’t mean you have to cover all colors of the rainbow and all shapes imaginable. Let’s start with pillows: choose to be more minimalistic with a black-and-white pillow; or go bold with a tasseled, printed pillow.

african pattern pillowmutilcolor african pattern pillow
Source: Ethnika. Left: Mudcloth pillow. Right: Rug pillow.

Yvonne told me that these pillows are also made by hand, with careful consideration about the fabric. “I design the shapes and fabrics of the pillows,” Yvonne told me. “And I really like good material. I have Mud cloth, Kuba cloth, Persians carpets, and more. I love Kuba cloth, which is all fiber.”

When asked if she combined fabrics, she said “Of course! The front can be Kuba cloth, the back Mud cloth (cotton). Sometimes, I add silk or tassels.” This mixing of texture and fabrics is yet another trend that’s been picking up in 2017, according to the aforementioned Vogue article.

Ottomans and Footstools

The overlap of the mixed textures and African decor trend applies to Ottomans and footstools as well. Similar to pillows, Ottomans come in different styles: black-and-white, warm patterns, and more.

african black and white ottomanafrican ottoman

Source: Ethnika. Left: Black-and-White, bird print footstool. Right: Mudcloth Ottoman.

At Ethnika, each stool and Ottoman is unique and handmade, just like the other pillows and stools. “There’s something really beautiful and colorful about the stools,” Yvonne pointed out. She credits the fabrics for that “something,” explaining, “I first began to use carpets to create my stools. Then, I really fell in love with African textiles.”


Now that we’ve covered the patterns and prints, we can’t forget about home accessories. On shelves, console tables, and walls, these accessories can subtly – or obviously – exhibit African influences. As seen in the photo below, you can start with items like small figurines and sculptures.

Or, if you’re keen on displaying some statement pieces, try hanging up some Burundi baskets, or an African mask or two. These masks come in a great variety, from colorful moon masks (left) to long and solemn Kore masks (right).

african wall decor african decor mask
Source: Ethnika. Left: Moon mask. Right: Kore mask.

It’s no question that incorporating this new trend will require some of us to step out of our comfort zones. What does Yvonne recommend us to try first? The wooden stools.

“They are simple, solid, and elegant. Plus, you can use them for sitting and displaying items, or use them as coffee tables.” She sighs, “They have a beautiful form.”

Ready to try this trend?

Get some African decor inspiration from Pinterest. Then, when you’re ready, start searching for items on AptDeco or on Ethnika’s page. Happy exploring!


Article by Melinda Hu


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