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African textiles offer a fascinating array of colours, patterns, and textures that can instantly transform an interior. But with so much on offer, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start especially for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the fabrics. So to help you get started we caught up with London based textile and interior furnishings designer, Eva Sonaike for her tips on decorating with African textiles. And here is what she had to say…

It is 2017 and I can proudly say that ‘Africa is the New Black’! We launched our new FALOMO RISE Collection at Maison & Objet in Paris earlier this year, the feedback from press and buyers has been great and I was pleasantly surprised to see such a strong and diverse presence of the African aesthetic in the world of design, across many disciplines. Even better, I read an article in a German newspaper, that talked about Ikea’s collaboration with designers from across the African content to develop a new ‘Africa’ collection that will launch in 2019! So I assume you agree with me when I say ‘Africa IS the new black’.

But how do you incorporate African textiles in your home without achieving an over-ethnicized or stereotypical look?


1. First of all, it is important to understand the diversity and multi-facets of African textiles.

Textile traditions in Africa date back thousands of years and are an integral part of the continent’s culture and history. There are printed textiles, woven textiles, animal furs and hides, the list goes on. Every region and cultural group have their own distinct textile traditions, so familiarising oneself with the options is a great starting point. Have a look at John Gillow’s book ‘African Textiles’, which proves a great summary of the most popular textiles and their origins.



[Image credit: African Textiles: Colour and Creativity Across a Continent, John Gillow – Amazon]

2. The next step is to understand the design scheme of your home.

Do you want to incorporate African textiles into a minimalistic Skandi inspired setting? Do you want to achieve a colourful Boho-style look with texture and patterns? Or do you like to ‘mix and match’ your African textiles with antique furniture and neutral pieces? Everything is possible!

Get your iPad out, or if you are a traditionalist like me, head to your local stationery shop and get a large piece of white paper to create a mood-board that summarises your vision. This should give you a good idea of what you want to achieve and you can play around with products, textures and colours.


[Image credit: Eva Sonaike – Afrominima Moodboard]


3. When it comes to sourcing the actual print textiles, there are many options for you to explore.

If you have access to an African market anywhere on the African continent or have a shop in your town that stocks African textiles, go and have a look at what is on offer. You can find some nice traditional fabrics, such as adire, a blue indigo dyed cotton cloth, ankara (wax print, wax cloth), the colourful wax fabric that originates from Holland, and Kente the woven strips fabric from Ghana, which is one of the most popular African cloth, famous for its colourful chequerboard appearance. Take the fabrics home, play around with them and see how you feel having them in your setting.



[Image credits: top, Adire – Indigo Resist Cloth, Victoria & Albert Museum;
bottom, Wax Cloth Fabric Sample via My Ankara Designs; Kente Cloth – Culturally Situated Design Tools]


If you see something you like on the internet or in a shop, familiarise yourself with the designer or company. There are many design companies that carry African or African-inspired soft furnishings and textiles. So shop around the internet and have a look at what is out there. If you are not sure about colour-ways or textures, we offer sample cards of all our fabrics on our website. So if you like a design, but are not sure about the colours, just order a fabric sample and see how you feel about it.



[Image credit: Eva Sonaike Cushions]


Another great sourcing option is Houzz, a website and online community about architecture, interior design and decorating, which lists great African textiles and has a comprehensive image library full of inspiration and ideas. And of course, there is Instagram, which is my personal favourite source of inspiration. In terms of African textiles and designs, I specifically like Blueprint Africa, Veronique_75 (her older posts are more interiors focused) and Interior Living.



5. A good starting point when it comes to decorating with African textiles is to use the rule of thumb ‘Less is More’.

Begin with a great cushion, a lamp or a pouf and then build your scheme around it. You may want to stick to one or two items at the beginning and then combine the items with matching or complementary colours and adding items from your moodboard as you go along. Depending on your style, you can then incorporate other African related ornaments, such as colourful Juju hats, wooden statues, and wall coverings or, choose contrasting items, such as a minimalist glass console, antique mirrors or a concrete side table. African textiles are so versatile that they fit into any setting.


[Image credits: Indigo Ikat Cushions via Veronique_75;
Antique Gold Metal Framed Sunburst Mirror – I Want A Mirror;
Round Concrete Side Table – Temple & Webster; Mpingo Vessels – Dering Hall]


Eva Sonaike has been around for almost ten years now and when I started my company, there weren’t any high-end, African-inspired soft furnishings available on the international design market. But how things have changed! African fashion has seen a boom over the last decade with Africa’s top designers, such as Lisa Folawyio and Duro Olowu, now being household names in the international fashion scene, and this success and awareness has had a ripple effect influencing interiors.



[Image credit: Eva Sonaike Falomo Rise Collection]


Eva Sonaike's Tips on Decorating with African Fabrics

The Eva Sonaike ethos has always been to bring a luxury African aesthetic to the top end of interior design and I can proudly say that after almost a decade this is finally happening.


– Eva Sonaike


About the Author: Eva Sonaike is a London-based lifestyle company that uses African prints and African inspired textiles to create beautiful fabrics and luxurious accessories for home décor, fashion, and interior design.


[Image sources: The images shown belong to: Eva Sonaike; John Gillow via Amazon; V&A; My Ankara Designs; Culturally Situated Design Tools; Veronique_75; IWantAMirror; Temple & Webster; Dering Hall. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly].

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