This is Happening: Out of Africa

Julia Millay Walsh

Much like the Moroccan interior décor trend that gained steam five or so years ago, African furniture and accents are having a major moment in interiors today. In addition to the vibrant feathered juju hats, shallow baskets, and zebra rugs that have been trending for some time, now we're seeing African exports like mud cloth pillows, rattan chairs, beaded chairs, Dutch wax prints, kuba cloths, batik patterns, drum stools, Bamileke tables, and more claiming statement-making spots in the most stylish interiors.

The beauty of this trend is that you can interpret it in numerous ways that suit your personal style. If you like a rustic look, nod to the safari look by mixing your Africana with white walls, imported rugs, and worn woods. If you're drawn to more glamorous interiors, look for ornate pieces like beaded chairs, Cameroonian juju hats, and intricately carved wood Bamileke tables and pair them with lush drapery, metallic finishes, and feminine, traditional shapes.Bamileke Tables

[caption id="attachment_61616" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Bamileke King's Table Bamileke King's Tables, from $350, Restoration Hardware[/caption]

These intricately carved stools featuring x-like patterns are used by the king of the Bamileke tribe of Cameroon during public ceremonies. Depending on their height and width, they can be used as stools or coffee, cocktail, or side tables in your home.

Cameroonian Juju Hats

[caption id="attachment_61617" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Purple Juju Hat, $300, Purple Juju Hat, $300,[/caption]

Traditionally worn by village chiefs in Cameroon, these beautiful focal points are painstakingly crafted out of bird feathers in a bursting shape; they're considered a symbol of beauty, prosperity, and wealth. Featured in the pages of ELLE Decor, Domino, and more, these hats have been trending for some time, but we still love seeing them. Try a cluster of neutral colors for a look you won't tire of.

African Drum Stools

[caption id="attachment_61620" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Ethiopian Tribal Stool, $140, eBay Ethiopian Tribal Stool, $140, eBay[/caption]

These three-legged wooden stools are used by African drummers in tribal ceremonies all over Africa. Drop one or two into your living room as spare seating or keep one handy in the kitchen to help you reach lofty cabinets.

Dutch Wax Prints

[caption id="attachment_61629" align="aligncenter" width="175"]African Dutch Wax Pillow African Wax Pillow, $40, Etsy seller OSxN[/caption]

Recognized by a multitude of names, such as Dutch wax prints, veritable java prints, real English wax, and ankara, these vibrant printed fabrics came to West Africa in the 1800s during colonization by the Dutch. Although they were originally intended for Indonesia, the textiles found a more enthusiastic market in the Gold Coast, where today they remain a symbol of fashion. In interiors, we're seeing these fabrics used on throw pillows as well as upholstery, such as armchairs and ottomans.

Hand-Beaded Yoruba Chairs

[caption id="attachment_61632" align="aligncenter" width="175"]African Beaded Chair, $2385, 1stdibs African Beaded Chair, $2385, 1stdibs[/caption]

Used by the kings and queens of the Yoruba tribe in West Africa, these painstakingly hand-beaded chairs are essentially thrones, luxuriously upholstered with tiny-beaded fabric on a wooden frame. With bright palettes and geometric patterns, these chairs are true statement-makers and a fine match for a modern or eclectic interior.

Hand-Woven Rwandan Baskets

[caption id="attachment_61636" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Woven African Storage Basket, $175, Connected Fair Trade Woven African Storage Basket, $175, Connected Fair Trade[/caption]

Intricately woven by Rwandan women with dyed sisal fibers and sweet grass, these baskets are often given as gifts to celebrate major life events like weddings, births, and graduations. The trend of hanging African baskets on a wall may have come and gone, but the baskets are still basking in decorating glory. Textural cathedral-shaped baskets in particular are everywhere at the moment and make great storage for blankets, linens, toys, or even laundry!

Zebra Hide Drum Stools

[caption id="attachment_61643" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Zebra-Skin Drum, $1250, 1stdibs Zebra-Skin Drum, $1250, 1stdibs[/caption]

Originally from West Africa, the djembe -- a rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drum, played by men with with bare hands -- has become a popular piece in interiors as of late. Used as a side table, stool, or simply a decorative accent, these drums are most commonly made of goatskin, but are occasionally wrapped in zebra hide, especially in the case of vintage drums.

Kuba Cloth

[caption id="attachment_61648" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Geometric Kuba Cloth Pillows, $339, One Kings Lane Geometric Kuba Cloth Pillows, $339, One Kings Lane[/caption]

African Kuba cloth, known for its elaborate and complex surface design, is becoming quite popular in the U.S. Made with raffia leaves, which are hand-cut and woven into strips to make fabric, the cloth features rectangular or square pieces with geometric appliqués and linear embroidery. In the west, we're seeing kuba cloth used for pillows, curtains, and throws.

Mud Cloth

[caption id="attachment_61649" align="aligncenter" width="175"]HYM Salvage X Urban Renewal Mud Cloth Danish Side Chair, $1500, Urban Outfitters HYM Salvage X Urban Renewal Mud Cloth Danish Side Chair, $1500, Urban Outfitters[/caption]

Originated by the women of Mali's Bamana culture centuries ago, this contemporary cloth, also known as bògòlanfini, is a traditional handmade fabric dyed with fermented mud, which takes two to three weeks to make. Mud cloth pillows, throws, and even upholstered furniture are gaining speed in the interiors world these days, and vintage mud cloths are highly sought after.

African Rattan Chairs

[caption id="attachment_61652" align="aligncenter" width="175"]Woven Isla Chair, $498, Anthropologie Woven Isla Chair, $498, Anthropologie[/caption]

As with all the aforementioned accents, Africa can claim fame to some of the finest craftsmanship around, from woodworking to beadworking. One such African export we've been spotting around lately is this woven club chair. Made of pine and intricately woven rattan, it's natural yet delicate -- a thing of understated luxury.

Do you own any African accents? Tell us in the comments! Photographs: 1. Simon Upton for Elle Decor, 2. Jared Fowler for The Design Files, 3. Diane von Furstenberg photographed by Francois Halard for House & Garden, 4. Jared Fowler for The Design Files, 5. Max Tielman for Design*Sponge, 6. Virginia Macdonald for DesignSponge, 7. Francois Halard for Vogue, 8. Kitka, 9. Laura U, Inc. (designer and source), 10. Jared Fowler for The Design Files, 11. Windsor Smith designed by Max Kim-Bee for Veranda, 12. Nuevo Estilo, 13. Prue Ruscoe (photographer and source), 14. Prue Ruscoe (photographer and source), 15. and 16. Prue Ruscoe for Vogue Living, 17. Anna Dorfman of Door Sixteen photographed by SFGirlbyBay, 18. Shoot Factory, 19. and 20. Simon Upton for Elle Decor, 21. Table Tonic

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