How to create a contemporary Afro-centric home: An article by Tola Akerele

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n this insightful article, Tola Akerele, founder of IDesign by Tola Akerele, shares her insights on how to achieve a contemporary Afro-Centric aesthetic when designing a home interior. She cites the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ that are required to successfully create the warmth and depth that comes with this unique style, something that is effortlessly showcased in her work. Here’s the article.


[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]o what does an Afro-centric home look like? I would like to think it’s a combination of locally available materials redefined in a way that suits our style. We have to stop always looking out to the west and look for what is readily available around us. The question is how can we use these local and sometimes traditional materials in the way that can work for a contemporary home. I have highlighted a few areas below.

Natural Materials

We are blessed with wood, bamboo, shells and raffia. We can think out of the box and create furniture, doors, wall finishes, floor finishes in our own style. I absolutely love the look of stained bamboo on doors. It creates a natural unique modern look, see image. Similarly, carved pieces of wood often be overlooked as being too traditional however one can create wonderful accents to simple pieces of furniture. We can create our own style using these materials and actually make them work for us.

Fabric and Texture

If one thing that unites Africa and Africans is our distinctive use of fabric. We love prints, we love woven fabrics, fashion has really come alive in the last few years with the use of such fabrics. Why not incorporate this into interiors, many are doing so already through beaded and plain anakara cushions. Weaving is an age old craft and skill which has been passed down through generations we can think of commissioning our own modern woven designs that will work for our space. Or even just framing as piece of art. Think of the frame and balancing it with art so they don’t compete.


Nigerian Art is gaining serious ground as is very much in demand. We have so many talented artists around us producing first class price pieces and affordable prices. Take your time and to go to exhibitions particularly of up and coming artist and pick up a piece. When you buy art try and find a piece that you connect with. Sounds strange but you’ll know when you see that special piece!


Thinking about colour is also key to creating that ambience. African design has traditional been linked with bright colours such as yellow and red. However, having a neutral background or using colours such as taupe and grey gives a great backdrop to each piece. It’s just a more sophisticated way of staging those items that you have carefully chosen over time.

Finally let us remember that less is better than more in Afro-centric design. Let key pieces speak your design style for you. Art and pieces are often very bold and can hold their own. Let’s open our eyes and start to imagine the possibilities of the many natural materials around us. Happy exploring!

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