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Interior Design Themes – Out of Africa

In our fifth part in our series on interior design themes, we head to Africa. Or rather, we take inspiration from it and try to work it in to our homes! There are many different aspects to African design, and very defined splits in the different time periods you can draw from.

Essentially these time periods can be split in to four distinct sections; ancient, pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial. Now obviously the most obvious question is – what was the colonial period and why was it so impacting on Africa?

The Colonial period was when the European powers, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Portugal, began invading and occupying Africa. This happened mostly between the 1880’s until 1914 and the start of the First World War. These invasions were hugely successful, what with the Europeans being armed with guns – though some areas did remain independent, such as Ethiopia.

As with any invasion and occupation, the new rulers brought about a great deal of change within the areas they occupied. This is especially true for design, where the invaders who stay behind wish to be reminded of home, and so import or recreate designs from their homelands – yet they utilise trophies or other African objects.

This lead to a complete change in styles in almost all areas of Africa. As such it was an incredibly defining period of time not just for the politics of the continent, but for the design and aesthetics of each nation.

British Colonial is probably the most instantly recognisable of these styles, and makes for an incredible theme for any room. Making extensive use of ivory, mahogany and a ‘big game hunter’ look, you can create a truly inspired look. Colonial style wooden blinds, faux animal hide rugs, leather sofas with animal print cushions and throws will all look great in this style of interior. In bedrooms the same animal print can be continued with super king bedding, duvet cover sets or a simple animal print bed runner.

Then of course there is the pre-colonial styles. These are much more traditional African in look, using wood much more extensively. You can produce a very tribe like feel by making use of African textiles, alongside items like masks, wooden animal carvings and other art. One of the key concepts of this style is warmth – mostly from the rich colouring of textiles, including burgundies, yellows, ivory and a strong contrast of ebony.

This tribal feel can either be extreme, and seen all over your home, or very minor, just being picked up upon with smaller items such as ebony carvings. It really depends what kind of look you are going for.

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