As the seasons change thoughts often turn to a new look or refreshing an existing one. To help you on your way we turned to Thandi Mbali Renaldi, founder of stylish online interiors boutique Kudu for some tips on how to incorporate African Style into modern interiors…
With winter soon drawing to a close here in Europe I am really starting to enjoy the lunchtime spring sunshine that streams through my kitchen window. My thoughts turn to how to refresh our interior in preparation for the change of season. It is time to move things around a little. This will include removing and cleaning the lovingly-curated items from all over the African continent that are dotted around the house on shelves and displayed on walls; ostrich eggs, Zulu beer gourds, vintage watercolours, to name but a few. Anyone walking into our house will not fail to notice the reminders of the African continent that sit alongside its 19th century Belgian architecture.
When I look at our house however, I sometimes ask myself: is our home a reflection of an ‘African style’? Does such a thing exist? I do not profess to have either invented it or be an ‘expert’ in defining it. The African continent is a marvellous source of creative inspiration for my particular interior style. In my case, it reflects some of who I am but you do not need to have travelled to or be from Africa to use African elements in your interior space.
A question I am often asked is: how to integrate African style into a modern interior? If you feel overwhelmed about where to begin here are a few points to remember.
1. Do not limit yourself to what you might think is an ‘African colour palette’
The African continent has the same spectrum of colours as the rest of the world. Africa is more than shades of brown and sand. You could even embrace monochrome! If you want to keep it sharp and modern, black and white are timeless.
[Image credit: Londolozi Tree Camp Interior]
Blue and white is another fresh, modern-looking colour combination. Try doing this with African indigo mud cloth:
[Image credit: Indigo Mud Cloth Textiles – Amber Interiors]
The use of indigo mudcloth here by Amber Design is a skilfull complement to the soothing palette of natural leather, white walls and wood elements. This interior does not look heavily ‘ethnic’ or ‘tribal’.
[Image credit: Stefano Pilati Paris Duplex – Architectural Digest]
I have sometimes lamented that with ‘African’ style interiors people think of masks-on-walls. Well, here are masks on walls BUT, and here is the big difference- here is an example where it has been done with stunning boldness in an apartment with preserved classical architectural features. The combination of these elements creates an installation which in this case showcases a collection of African masks. They provide a focal point against an expanse of intense deep blue-green wall. The result is a palatial, warm, very luxurious feel. Stefano Pilati is an amazingly talented designer who knows what he is doing!
2. Seek inspiration from natural materials
[Image credit: San Anselmo Bungalow – Jute]
Carved wooden bowls and furniture, woven grass baskets and natural textiles are all very sought after at the moment. By happy coincidence, these materials are often elements in interiors with African accents. There are very few societies in Africa where there is not a tradition of basket-weaving. With that in mind, we can see how the design studio, Jute brought an African touch to this San Anselmo bungalow with an installation made with Zambian Tonga baskets on the wall. It still looks modern but has to warmth that the natural woven grass elements bring.
3. Bring the outside inside
[Image credit: House Plant in Woven Basket – via Un Due Tre Ilaria]
Now that indoor house plants are back in a big way do not limit yourself to aloes and other succulents but go for big, bold plants such as the plant with the fabulous name monstera deliciosa, previously known as the ‘Swiss cheese plant’. (It is not indigenous to Africa, however but to South America). While not all of Africa is in a tropical climate zone bringing tropical plants into your home gives such a fresh feel. Instead of leaving your houseplant in its boring, plastic ‘terracotta’ colour pot try placing your houseplant in a woven grass basket. You will find that it creates a much more structured look and that the textures complement one another.
4. Keep it simple and don’t go overboard
[Image credit: top, Halsted /Cole & Son; bottom, Falomo Rise Collection – Eva Sonaike]
Don’t think of it as a ‘theme’, like ‘Safari’ theme, or ‘Out of Africa’ or you will quickly become literally trapped into a decorating corner. It is also easy to tire of a themed interior. Consider incorporating African contemporary photography, African contemporary art, or perhaps antique sketches from the continent and vintage postcards.
There is an amazing textile tradition across the African continent. Each country has textile weaving and design traditions that can be supported. There are talents out there such as South African design house, Halsted (Ardmore), which recently collaborated with Cole & Son on a range of African-inspired wallpaper or the textile designer Eva Sonaike, whose African origins are very much a part of her UK-based creations. These and other designers are helping to propel the profile of African design-forward on the international design scene.
[Image credit: African Designers for Design Indaba Collaboration with Ikea – Dezeen]
The other day I read an article in Dezeen about the fact that furniture giant, IKEA is entering into a pan-African collaboration with the continent’s designers to come up with a range of items to be released in 2019.
It seems that African design truly is going global!
– by Thandi Mbali Renaldi the founder of Kudu, a lifestyle brand featuring a stylish and authentic edit of beautiful pieces for the home, all sourced from the African continent. Thandi is passionate about Africa and design – in launching Kudu, she is combining her two loves and is especially inspired by her love of South Africa and her wish to help people discover the beauty of the country’s contemporary homeware collections and decorative and lifestyle pieces.
For further information about Kudu visit: www.kuduhome.com
[Image sources: The images shown are sourced from top, Kudu; Londolozi; Amber Interiors; Architectural Digest; Jute; Un Due Tre Ilaria; Halsted/Cole & Son; Eva Sonaike; Dezeen. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]