8 Ways to Bring African Pattern Home

Bring hip, global style to your space with these rich, vibrant pattern ideas.

By: Jeanine Hays
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Photo By: Oluwa and Celestin

Photo By: Enitan

Photo By: Tonic Living

Photo By: AphroChic

Photo By: xNasozi

Photo By: Capel Rugs

Photo By: xNasozi

Photo By: The Mine

Caribbean Expression

From mud cloth to indigo and colorful wax prints, textiles featuring traditional African patterns, or inspired by them are finding a place in trendy, modern spaces all over the globe. Designers, artisans and creatives alike are finding that textiles obtained by way of the African continent, from countries such as Mali, Uganda and Nigeria, offer strong graphic and geometric design along with vibrant, striking color stories. In spaces with a contemporary look, these designs are stylish and impactful while adding a global touch to the decor. As African people moved around the globe, traditional African designs took on new shapes in new worlds. This Mustique print by Malene B for Oluwa and Celestin is a perfect example. Though inspired specifically by the Caribbean, the importance of African heritage in Caribbean culture can be been in the design. According to the designer, "the pattern design, Mustique, was inspired by my mother’s home country, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Mustique is one of the islands in the Grenadines. My brand aesthetic is modern tropical and the brand inspires you to embrace island living anywhere."

Vibrant Wax Print

Actor and designer, Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire, The Deuce) has taken notice of the power of African prints and created his own home furnishings line that incorporates them. ENITAN Vintage offers storied pieces, where vintage and antique European seating is reimagined through Akinnagbe’s extensive collection of African textiles. "I wanted to preserve many of these pieces where I could, using influences from the Continent that also transcend space and time," says Akinnagbe about pieces like this Victorian settee that’s upholstered in a fuchsia African Dutch Wax Print fabric.

Mud Cloth Print

African textiles don’t only just stand out for their patterned designs. It’s the colorways as well, that draw you in. Interior designer Genevieve Gorder developed a version of mud cloth where the color palette stands out. Her Mali Mud Cloth Inked Pillow features faded black and cream. According to Gorder the faded shade provides a "grounding effect."

Modern-Day Rug

In addition to traditional African patterns, new patterns are being designed by artists and artisans. The Day Rug by our own company AphroChic is one such example. The dark blue shade is reflective of indigo design that can be found throughout West Africa, while the pattern is inspired by the designs of the famed antebellum, African-American craftsman, Thomas Day. The print with a mix of lines and circles feels similar to many of the geometric prints found in traditional indigo print fabrics from the Bamana people of Mali and other West African cultures.

Hand-Painted Design

One of the reasons that African prints and patterns make such a statement in the home, is the graphic nature of the designs. Many of the textile designs from the African continent are based upon mathematic principles and there is a distinct sense of geometry in pieces such as the popular Bogolan fabrics of Mali, more commonly referred to as "mud cloth." This traditional Malian textile has been reimagined by Nasozi Kakembo of xnasozi, in a modern drum shade. The hand-painted design stands out with the kind of dots and x shapes that can be found in traditional mud cloth.

Global Beat

The Kahlo Sapphire Rug by Genevieve Gorder is a globally-inspired piece that shows a clear African influence. The shapes, patterns and symbols are African in nature, and reminiscent of pieces found in Mali. The deep blue shade is an homage to indigo dying. However, the overall design can also relate to a Mexican sarape. It’s a beautiful blend of global influences that is reflective of many of the most modern home decor that expresses traditional African pattern design.

Indigo Is It

Indigo has a centuries-old history in Africa. In Nigeria alone, you can find the world’s oldest dye pits, where traditional indigo dyeing is still being practiced today. Relief indigo prints were a strong part of commerce, resulting in some of the earliest exports from African countries. Today, indigo still has a place in the world of exports. The stunning blue shade that results from plant-based dyes from the Indigofera and Lonchocarpus cyanescens plant varieties is an evocative one. And it looks stunning on this Indigo Butterfly Chair from xnasozi. Featured in this midcentury-modern piece, this West African pattern helps to make a modern statement.

Cameroon Cloth

This modern, geometric pattern is inspired by the Ndop textiles of the Bamileke people of Cameroon. One of Africa’s most artistically lauded cultures, the Bamileke resist-dye raffia fibers to create their amazing designs. Featured on a pouf in black and gold this striped Ndop pattern adds striking—and super functional—detail to any room in the form of extra seating.

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