Out of Africa: How to Embrace An African Decor Theme
I remember my mother wistfully watching Meryl Streep and Robert Redford falling in love on the African Savannah. For me then, Africa was a vast, wonderful, romantic, mysterious, dangerous place. Today, that love and regard for all things Africa is going strong.
One day, my life-long dream trip will occur, and I’ll return so much African memorabilia I’ll need to design a room to hold it all. That will be a fine and great day.
Maybe you’re dreaming of Africa too. From Colonial Africa to the vast Savannahs and the tropical jungles, there’s a whole world of African design to find inspiration from.
Here are some ideas for you.
Prints for drama
When it comes to fashion, animal prints can be gaudy, but when you’re after a safari or African theme, it’s exactly what your space needs. Tiger, zebra, giraffe, and leopard print are perfect in all applications. Also consider faux crocodile and alligator skin. Leather accessories also make the grade.
It’s understandable to be trigger shy with animal prints. A little can feel like a lot, whether it’s a zebra throw, or your table has some leopard print, or your pillows have the giraffe skin pattern, or your Ottoman’s made of faux alligator, it really adds to the feel.
It’s okay, though. Use more than one, and use it throughout the theme, if that’s the feel you’re after. This is one of those “a little or a lot” options that’s really up to your discretion.
Inspired by nature
Everything natural works in this setting. Africa is all about nature, so make sure it’s a big player in your space too. From palm fronds to grass area rugs and even wallcover, it’s all about using elements of wood, plants, and stone.
Bold exposed wood beams, tall leafy palms, grass mats, dark wood furniture, and bamboo pieces all belong in this room.
There are lots of ways to bring the ambiance in through tones of the natural world. If you don’t want to fill the room with plants, and the idea of grass matting on the walls makes your allergies sound the alarm, you’ve still got lots of options.
As mentioned already, grass matting is wonderful on walls. I grew up with it in our home, as my brother had an African safari-themed room. Imagine that! Sky-blue accents, some brown, and a lot of grass. He loved it and had to put up with his sister hanging out in his room a lot.
These days, giant adhesive wall murals are possible. Oh, the drama they can add. Think of a giant shot of the plains and Mount Kilimanjaro. Or how about a striking black-and-white image close-up of an elephant? Or a whole wall covered in a close-up of a zebra’s hide? Or a rainforest jungle? All of these examples are from one company, but there are many other adhesive providers offering great imagery too.
Of course, traditional wallpaper offers a lot of option too. Dramatic floral and palm prints, animal prints can do the job, but so can subtle, simpler motifs of leafs and grass textures. There are a lot of great options, and if you’re only doing it on one wall as an accent (which is often enough), you can be as dramatic or repetitive in pattern as you like.
Africa is interesting because in a few decor styles you’ll tend to see lots of blacks, browns, and creams, a very simple natural palette. But then you turn to a more tribal mentality and you begin to find lots of use of big, bold colors and a lot of flashy metal accents.
Both of these can work and it really depends on you. Blend them, if you like. Things like animal prints really pop against something like a fire red or midnight purple. Sunshine yellow and burnt orange and fuchsia are colors often associated with African Savannah sunsets. Cyan blue, forest green, and so many other colors all make sense if you think about the colors of the landscape and jungle and oceans.
Whether it’s the quiet colonial style of cream and black, the sandy tones of the African grasslands, or the big bright tribal styles, you’ll find there’s more than enough African style to go around.
It means no worries. Embrace as much of Africa’s grandeur as you like, or just bring in a few elements for a little flair. Either way, an African room is a powerful, relaxing, inspiring place to be. I know from my own childhood, and it’s a love I’ve kept all my life.
Africa is the birthplace of civilization. It’s the most extreme continent to live on, with some of the most engaging and wonderful people around. From the wildlife to the scenery, you can’t go wrong with celebrating mankind’s motherland.
Your African space?
What appeals to you the most about African-styled interior design?
What cultural attachments to African art and culture resonate with you the most?
Which textures and accessories in African design do you consider to be cliched by now?
Tell us all about it in the comments section of this post.