Spring cleaning is overrated! Of course jet-washing the patio, dusting the cobwebs and scrubbing the floors are necessary chores, but there’s nothing more rewarding than giving your home a refreshing facelift. If this Spring you’re thinking about giving your space a new dose of the unique and exotic delights of Africa, dive right in!
So what is ‘African-inspired’ decor anyway? Needless to say, in a large continent with 54 countries and thousands of cultures, there is no such thing as one single African aesthetic. However, among the many features, some common threads run through, so we decided to focus on two distinctive themes: Sub Saharan Africa and the Maghreb region of North Africa.
Avoiding the cliched look
Achieving an authentic and contemporary African-inspired look can be so much more impactful than hanging a couple of masks or batiks to the wall. If you’re looking to escape the cliches of clusters of wooden giraffes and antelopes in a corner of the room, there’s hope!
It’s possible to transform a space into one that pays homage to anywhere from delightful Dakar to mystical Marrakesh, and it’s mainly about tying together and coordinating different aspects and making smart choices regarding colour, texture, furnishing, lighting and accessories to create a holistic feel. All of which must authentically reflect your personality. And it doesn’t always have to be natural shades – for example, if blue is your colour, work with it!
Sub Saharan Style
When choosing wall colours, be guided by the tones of nature as these are reflected in African interiors. Clay, sand, mud or ochre shades work well. Wherever you are in the world, pay attention to the light. In places where the skies are more often than not on the grey spectrum, pick your wall shades and other decor carefully. Instead of four clay-coloured walls, make it your feature wall and lighten things up with cream or white to maximise light.
Bold black and white zebra stripes are an iconic feature of African design – contrasting white walls with black furnishings or accessories can produce a fabulously chic look without going overboard with this look.
And then there’s texture. In most African rural settings, homes are plastered with mud so rather than going for a smooth finish, consider using textured paint to give a rougher, more authentic appearance to the surface of the walls- consider this for your outdoor rooms and patios.
Bring the outdoors in…mats woven from fibres like straw, grass, banana leaves, sisal, mudcloth and other naturally occurring materials are quintessentially African floor coverings and look great without overwhelming the space. Of course, in less than tropical climates, the look needs to be balanced with comfort and warmth. Wool rugs, either in earth or zebra tones scattered on concrete, terracotta tiled or wooden floors can work really well.
Furnishings and Accessories
Typically, African homes are uncluttered and this is all about keeping the house cool and maximising space. So consider shedding some excess ‘baggage’ like that nest of tables or that shelf unit. There are lots of ways to recycle excess household items.
If you do decide that your sofa is past its sell-by date and needs replacing, go for natural materials – leather, wood, rattan and stick to those earthy colours or, for a dramatic effect, black. Or add a a point of interest by re-upholstering an armchair with a stylish Wax print fabric.
Adding a couple of strategically positioned piece of art will complement the look very nicely. Building around a concept, centre-piece or statement item like a special carving, mask or wall hangings with a few well-considered treatments will enhance the look of the entire space exponetially.
For inspiration and ideas, check out these websites:
In my exploration of North African (particularly Moroccan) interiors, I’ve come across two broadly distinctive styles.
Firstly, there’s the ice queen, bridal look – a vision of dazzling white. White walls, rugs, furnishing and accessories. Lovely and light, airy and calming but unless you love cleaning, somewhat impractical for most of us mere mortals. Ideal for warm climates, white is not a very cosy look for the dark days of long Northern Hemisphere winters.
The other look is altogether warmer and snugger, a comforting nest to hole up in for a chilly weekend of mint tea drinking and pastry eating. Think A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Every shade of red is represented from pinky fuchsia to fiery scarlets and vibrant crimsons on walls, flooring and accessories. Clashing these colours with burnt or bright orange is all part of the Maghreb vibe. Teamed up with wooden furniture, metal pots, mosaic patterned vases, plump floor cushions, these colours look amazing.
For inspiration and ideas, check out these websites:
So, this spring, if you’re tired of staring at the same 4 walls, transforming your living space using African inspiration, one paint pot, one rug, one cushion at a time could be, if not life changing, at least mood shifting and energy boosting.
Words: Yvonne Lloyd
It’s hard not to fall in love with the Orange Shweshwe Shift Dress. Proudly made in our workshop in Malawi using South African-made heritage textile (also known as Seshweshwe or Seshoeshoe) that has huge cultural significance for the Sotho people. At Sapelle, we’re always on the hunt for the best of African print, and it’s our pleasure to showcase those prints that you can’t find anywhere else on the high street. The vibrant autumnal tones of the Shweshwe print transition effortlessly between seasons, and the timeless silhouette of the shift means you can style it many different ways. Take a look at five looks created by our in-house stylist, just for you this Autumn Fall season.
Look 1: Relaxed Style on Date Night
Look 5: Slaying it in the Office
Such a versatile, eye-catching dress. For more details, or to shop the dress (and check out our Katchy Kollections Tote Bag too!) at www.sapelle.com.
If you’re celebrating a wedding soon, whether it’s an elegant city wedding, a traditional fairytale or a relaxed countryside affair, we’ve got some styling tips for you. We’ve paired contemporary fashion inspired by Africa with modern accessories to create unique, stylish looks that will do you justice at your occasion.
THE ELEGANT WEDDING
Balancing form and function is tricky, especially for an elegant wedding where both looking fabulous and being comfortable are essential. Shoes are the foundation of your outfit. A beautiful pair of heels that fits well whilst letting you mingle and party all day and all night are an asset.
Here we’ve anchored the elegant look with printed pencil skirts (both Sapelle), complemented by neutral accessories and beautiful tailored tops.
THE CITY DAY-TO-EVENING WEDDING
For a city wedding where less is more, try using dark, elegant colours and unfussy prints that will transition perfectly from daytime vows to evening reception with ease. A stole or throw is essential for layering up later.
THE TRADITIONAL FAIRYTALE WEDDING
A traditional country wedding is the perfect occasion to indulge in some feminine style, with frilly retro-inspired tops and flared skirt silhouettes. Add a pretty headpiece to complete the look.
THE RELAXED BEACH OR COUNTRYSIDE WEDDING
Select natural, light pieces that look effortlessly stylish while staying cool.
Don’t forget a wide-brimmed sun hat for the afternoon and a pastel shawl for when the sun sets and temperatures drop.
Day 4 of the glittering Lagos Fashion & Design Week was the last in the runway shows, and what a way to end a week of great creativity, fashion and style.
We were spoilt for choice in putting together our highlights on a day when the showcasing designers really pulled out all the stops with their innovation and creativity, a lot of them borrowing from traditional African influences but adding a contemporary edge we hadn’t seen at any of the other shows on such a consistent level.
The ever-evolving Nkwo combined the old and the new with upcycled denim and re-imagined traditional Yoruba-inspired silhouettes. Similarly Ade Bakare’s luscious luxury fabrics and elegant balloon sleeves, IAmIsigo’s bold colour sports luxe pieces included traditional frocks complete with cowrie shell detailing, and House of Kaya’s beautiful flowing robes all carried a unique, yet distinctive African flavour that was oh-so-refreshingly authentic! It’s not possible to state just how refreshing it was. The prolific designer Lanre da Silva Ajayi’s collection, with custom designed fabrics in gorgeous geometric prints on flattering feminine shapes that stayed true to her signature, was another success.
Congratulations to the organisers of LFDW, an event that’s proving to be a force to be reckoned with on the international fashion calendar.
Take a look at what made the cut, and see if you don’t fall in love – photos courtesy of Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week.