A Source for African Inspired Interior Design Ideas

Interior Design: Incorporating Art from African, African American and Caribbean Artists

Photo of Selma Burke (1900-1995), an African American sculptor posing in her studio

Whether paintings, sculptures or fine art in other mediums, what we display in our homes become part of the visual aesthetic of our lives. Art has the potential to create deep feelings in viewers. An art collection also reflects the interests of the collector. Each art work has a history and reflects both the artist and the community in which the artist belongs. This makes selecting fine art a very personal choice.

"Contemporary African Art Since 1980," by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu (2009) and "African-American Art (Oxford History of Art)," by Sharon F. Patton (1998) are great book resources for learning more about the diversity of African and African-American artists. Additionally, in 2008, Tumelo Mosaka co-wrote the book "Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art," which highlights 45 artists of Caribbean descent.

Supporting Local Fine Artists

There are a number of ways to learn about the local fine artists in your community. Local arts and crafts shows are a wonderful way to discover new works. Check with the art department from a local university or community college to find out about upcoming student shows.

Museums such as the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago have staff fine art curators who may be available to give advice on collecting from African American fine art. This may also lead to an opportunity to visit an artist studio. For instance, artist Luther Hampton works out of Memphis, Tennessee and frequently opens his studio to those interested in learning how he makes the various marble and wood sculptors for which he is acclaimed.

Another way to learn about local artists is to visit fine art galleries in your community. Many gallery owners, such as Contemporary African Art Gallery in New York, have specialized collections of artists of African, African-American and Caribbean descent. Do not be afraid to ask a gallery owner if she offers home consultations to assist in selecting and integrating fine art works into an interior design.

Dining Table Accents

Afrocentric dining table runners are fun home decorating accents
for everyday use or for special occassions.

Many families still spend their best quality time around the dining room table. In considering Afrocentric accents for the home, the dining room table runner offers richly fun options. Either hunt for cultural clothes and cut and sew your own table runner or select among the growing number of commercial table runner designs available from traders like Swahili African Modern, which sells a Bamako Mudcloth Table Runner with Glass Bead Fringe.
Photo of Swahili African Modern's Bamako Mudcloth Table Runner with Glass Bead Fringe.
In addition to table runners, adding matching chair covers is an option that provides added functionality to families with small children with sticky fingers. Joyous decorating and bon apetite!

Kirtam Designs' 72" black and white African mud cloth print runner with seat covers as advertised on eBay.

Introducing African Home Interior Designs with Pillows

Mudcloth fabrics come in a wide selection of patterns

Introducing colors and textures can have an enormous impact on a living space according to Adrienne Chinn, author of the book "Home Decorator's Color & Texture Bible." Cultural-based textile designs should be carefully selected to compliment existing texture and color palettes in interior home spaces. There are an assortment of African fabric textiles that can be used to create pillows or cushions as an african style accent. These can be created in cloth fabric designs like kente, mudcloth, kuba and an assortment of brocade designs.

Study the assortment of African fabric designs

From the Berbers of Northern Africa to the Zulus of Southern Africa, there are a wide selection of African textile options that can be used for interior design. Reading books such as "The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End," written by Alisa LaGamma and published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, showcases some of the highest quality African textile designs and explains their cultural context.

Find importers for African fabrics and cloths

The most treasured furniture accent pillows are those that are custom made from fabrics selected, sewn, and embellished personally. For hand-crafted pillows, find an African fabric importer such as Africa Imports, an on-line retailer and wholesaler with a brick-and-mortar business enterprise in New Jersey, USA. African import shops are often found in many of the largest U.S. cities.

Embellishing African fabrics

The best part about hand-crafted items is the ability to customize. Creative fabric manipulation includes such techniques as hand embroidery, beading, and rubber stamping. Sewing machine embroidery options include thread painting, machine couching, and thread-lace grid. "Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond," by Ruth Chandler, offers a wide selection of fabric embellishment options and instructions.

Purchase pre-made pillow cushions

If you are not interested in custom sewing cushions there are a variety of home decoration shops and retail furnishing departments that carry cushions that include African style sofa cushion designs. Cultural Elements is one on-line retailer that sales ethnic or cultural style pillows such as mudcloth fabric design pillows.

  • "The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End", (Metropolitan Museum of Art); Alisa LaGamma, Christine Giuntini; 2008
  • "House Beautiful: Fabrics for Your Home"; Jennifer Boles; 2010
  • "Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts"; Martha Stewart; 2010
Keywords: african textile designs, african interior design, cultural design cushions, african furniture designs, african fabric designs, decorative pillows