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Tribal Interiors: Prints and Patterns

Designers have been inspired by locations far from home since forever. Yves Saint Laurent launched his ‘Africa’ collection in 1967 (though he was no doubt influenced by his Algerian childhood).

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And once again the African aesthetic is back on Western designers’ minds.

Of course, Africa’s a huge place. So inspiration spans from the cloths of Yaruba with its tradition of Indigo dyes, to the iconic reds and beaded jewellery of nomadic Maasai on the other side of the continent. With a lot more ideas – about 4,500 miles worth – in between!

On the SS16 catwalk, graphic prints mixed with the monochrome trend.



And the fashion for bold pattern, prints, beading and more, translates all the way through to interiors too.



Weaving is a big part of traditional African design and we love the textures it can create. And it can have a contemporary edge too. Architect David Adjaye worked with the wonderful KnollTextiles to create these fabrics, each one named after an African city.



The trend for bold printed textiles, with a slightly off-centre, handmade feel, works really well in just about every room in the house.

Try hanging rugs on walls, creating interest with tassels and fabrics, and exposing natural stone and wood. And don’t think you have to go bright. Earthy, natural tones, albeit with bold geometric patterns, can work a dream too.

Remember, accessories are your faithful friend. (And they’re always a handy way to incorporate an interior style without redecorating.) Mix and match textures. Add African plants. And make a beeline for baskets.



Baskets don’t have to stand on the floor, of course. Create a focal point with an assorted collection of colours, weaves and sizes. (Just don’t try keeping your fruit in them.)

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Another company keeping the African trend ethical is Lalibella (a London-based company whose profits go to the Give A Future charity). Their Kuba cushion is made from a traditional fabric, woven from the fibres of the Raphia Palm and decorated with gorgeous geometric shapes. (The Kuba people have been producing textiles in the Congo for 4 centuries so they know what they’re doing!)

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Cushions, throws and rugs are a great way to bring the trend home. And we’ve got excited about African art too – not only the traditional masks, but images by contemporary artists like Beatrice Wanjiku and Jenevieve Aken too.

That’s the best thing about African inspiration – you’ve so much to choose from! A whole continent of cultures so rich and varied you can’t help but find something to excite you. And then all you have to do is make it work for you!

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