Understanding the Elements of North African Interior Design

Understanding the Elements of North African Interior Design

Interior Design
Decoration and Design
By Dikran Seferian July 20, 2022

From vibrant coastal towns to the golden sands of the Sahara desert, North Africa is famous for its stunning landscapes. Throw in the diversity of beautiful cultures and you get a rich tapestry unlike no other. This unique blend of exoticism ultimately manifests itself in one of the most enchanting interior design styles — North African design. And considering you can not really isolate this form of home decor into a single style, it is the diversity that makes it truly stand out. There are, nevertheless, certain elements that define the North African style

The Diversity of North African Interior Design

When we say North African interior design, we are not referring to one specific style. In reality, it’s a combination of design styles from various parts of North Africa. Aside from tribal features, these may include Egyptian motifs in addition to elements from the Moroccan style.

Bear in mind that each country in the region has its own heritage and lifestyle. Let’s also not forget the diverse tribes in the region, each of which carries its own identity. As such, it would be a mistake to think of North Africa as one whole community that shares one culture. The same concept applies to North African home decor.

But this can also come to an advantage. Why restrict yourself to one style when you can adopt various design elements — from across North Africa — that could very well correspond with one another?

Characteristics of African Interior Design

The North African style encompasses design elements from the several countries that make up the upper region of the continent. However, certain features tend to stand out and can even complement each other. 

Proud Displays of Eclectic Decor

Elements of North African design can correspond with a wide range of interior styles.

Elements of North African design can correspond with a wide range of interior styles.

North African decor does not mean filling your living spaces with tribal masks, animal prints, and recurring shades of red, brown, and orange. It is about injecting hints of exotic tendencies that evoke warmth, harmony, and character. In other words, it’s about elevating an otherwise simple interior with a touch of North African sensibilities.

What’s best about North African forms of design is that they can resonate with just about any interior, be it in the traditional or contemporary style. One can describe this fascinating style as vibrant, dynamic, and confident. Also characterizing North African interiors are the range of colors and textures that appear in the textiles, carvings, and artwork of the region. This variety is essentially what allows the design style to assimilate into just about any living space. 

Nature-Inspired Patterns

Among the hallmarks of North African design are the varieties of patterns inspired by nature.

Among the hallmarks of North African design are the varieties of patterns inspired by nature.

North African design draws a great deal of inspiration from nature. This influence is evident in the alluring patterns, such as zebra or floral, that you may notice on anything from upholstery to wall art. Aside from interior design, these exotic prints have also been a mainstay in the fashion industry.

Considering that Arab countries constitute a large portion of North Africa, it’s also not uncommon for Arabesque patterns to make an appearance. These may include geometric designs borrowed from Moorish or Islamic architecture and design. All in all, what defines this comprehensive style is the synthesis of rich colors, raw textures, and ornate prints which signify North African craftsmanship. An eclectic combination of modern decor and ethnic elements can exude style, personality, and authenticity. 

Versatility of Style

The versatility of North African design styles allows them to be open to interpretation.

The versatility of North African design styles allows them to be open to interpretation.

The beauty of North African interior design is that it welcomes interpretation. You can find numerous ways to integrate it into your living spaces so that it reflects your personal taste. If neutral colors appeal to you, you can team a modern black and white space with handcrafted baskets and ethnic wall art. If you prefer a more glamorous interior, a vibrant Moroccan-style mosaic can add visual interest to any surface — especially when paired with metallic accents such as brass pots and vases. And if you are drawn to the natural aesthetics of the Sahara desert, try an earthy palette consisting of natural finishes, wicker furniture, and white curtains. 

Reliance on Natural Materials

The use of natural materials is a fundamental aspect in North African interiors.

The use of natural materials is a fundamental aspect in North African interiors.

Sustainable designs are all the rage these days, and decorative items crafted from clay, jute, or rattan are gaining popularity against fast fashion. These natural materials appear abundantly in anything from North African furniture to home decor. For example, you may see a selection of hand-woven trays and baskets displayed on the wall or portrayed in paintings. Hand-carved wooden figures such as elephants often complement these features.

Wicker furniture is a perfect example of North African design’s tendency to use natural materials.

Wicker furniture is a perfect example of North African design’s tendency to use natural materials.

North African design perceives the handmade, the untreated, and the imperfect as beautiful. Handcrafted decor tends to exude a sense of soul and personality, adding charm to a living space. Anything from materials to fabrics can exhibit a raw and natural feel. This not only makes them visually interesting but also incredibly tactile. With bold textures, vibrant textiles, and gorgeous artwork, North African interiors reflect the natural beauty of the region — much like organic architecture

A Vibrant Blend of Earthy Colors

North African color palettes often feature a great deal of rich and rusty colors.

North African color palettes often feature a great deal of rich and rusty colors.

The earthy and vibrant tones of the North African style often begin with a backdrop of tan or ivory walls. Various shades of terracotta, gold, orange, or maroon often constitute the rest of the interior spaces. You may also find organic or geometric forms in black and white, often corresponding with other North African elements including natural materials such as wood and linen. Deep shades of red and yellow may additionally appear in pieces of ethnic furnishings such as poufs and divans.

However, there’s more to the North African color palette than earthy tones. Blues, greens, and purples reflecting North Africa’s vivid landscape are also common. The zellij tiles of Moroccan interiors are primary examples of this. Other ways you can incorporate a vibrant combination of these colors can be through North African living room decor such as cushions and upholstery. 

The Iconic Tripolina Chair

The Tripolina chair has been a mainstay in North African and safari styles ever since the 19th century.

The Tripolina chair has been a mainstay in North African and safari styles ever since the 19th century.

Also known as the butterfly chair, the Tripolina chair is a timeless piece of North African furniture. These chairs have been an iconic part of the North African style — as well as the safari style — ever since the British and Italian colonists used them in the 19th century. The name ‘Tripolina’ comes from Tripoli, the capital city of Libya in North Africa. You can use the Tripolina as an accent chair in the living room, bedroom, entryway, patio, or just about anywhere. This stylish piece of furniture can even serve as a centerpiece item, adding visual interest to a living space. 

Cultural Significance

Should you be adopting any elements of North African decor in your home, it can be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the cultural significance of each. For Example, Arabesque patterns of the Moroccan style, for instance, are known to symbolize eternity. It is also worth mentioning that while depictions of fauna are common in certain North African countries, others tend to avoid them in their artwork. Design styles that draw influence from Islamic culture, for instance, frown upon using animal and human forms. Instead, they prefer to use floral and geometric patterns as an alternative.

DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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