African Deco

I am always amazed at where the inspiration for room design comes from, as we try to recreate a space that reflects our fundamental tenets of African-inspired design.  The notion that it takes us to our interpretation of deco was initially somewhat of a surprise.

Of course many famous artists, the likes of Picasso, used the impression of the Shona stone sculptures of Zimbabwe to define an overall approach to his art.  Similarly furniture designers from the Harlem Renaissance period combined the shapes and exotic textiles for a contemporary ethnic look.

Following that lead we incorporated these shapes and patterns with a intriguing palette of blue, black sea foam, and pink in an attempt to break away from the dated safari image.  The use of traditional African wax fabrics reinforces the light and airy feel we were looking to achieve.

Another counterpoint that works is the generous use of floral arrangements of plant material pulled from the mood board expands and fills the room with color and intriguing forms.

Modern African Inspired

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of a designer’s contribution to the project is helping define the style of the space. While words such as “contemporary,” “traditional,” “western,” “shabby chic,” “Paris flea market” are often used, seldom does the description “African modern” enter the conversation.  Typically defined in small chunks, the notion  of an entire room or even an entire home is seldom placed in the client’s consciousness.

Stephen Burks of Readmade Projects of Brooklyn hopes to change this with his M’Afrique exhibition, featuring the work of  furniture designer Moroso along with photographers and textile and product designers present a dramatic, tangible impression of modern African inspired design.

Coastal Breezes

The reefs that lie in the turquoise and azure waters of Africa’s tropical west coast are among the richest environments on earth.  These gloried places provide us the inspiration to create the essence of our dining room.  Reaching for a concept that would combine both functional and aesthetic components, we chose a palette drawn from the sea with a backdrop of wood-and-stone artifact images.

The room is anchored by the dining presentation that consists of a custom table top along with table linens that set the stage.  With images by American photographer Ron Tarver, the room has takes on a contemporary attitude.

In order to unify the space we have created a custom buffet and cabinet collection that allows us to bring the color statement around the room in a substantial way.

In keeping with the objective of simplicity, the widow treatment consists of a pair of custom screens and window panels. We have featured in this room, as part of our love of African textiles, coordinated wax prints.

The feature wall is anchored by wax fabric and a buffet.  This allows for a dramatic backdrop for a personal collection of family treasures.

The ethniciti brand represents a new way of thinking about the design of personal spaces.  No longer are we bound by earth tones and skins, but we are free to reflect the energy and stylings of modern Africa.  We will explore together the possibilities.

Living with Strong, Rich Color

We are often guilty of safety-net designing whereby we retreat to the cocoon of sameness and pale.  On occasion, we become courageous with a color accent wall or two, but rarely the tact defined by Vinny Lee in her book “Mood Indigo.” She explores the notion of surrounding oneself with strong, rich, and compelling colors.


Green is perhaps one of the most versatile of all of the dark colors. It works well with both contrasting and compatible tone as well as many others from the color wheel. It can be used to create simple, country rustic to jewel-like gilded opulence. Here are some of my favorites.

Fashion Designers Dress the Home

Is dressing a home the same as dressing a body? According to Marie Bariller’s book, “Dressing the Home,” it is a philosophy shared by many of the world’s top designers.  Christian Louboutin, creator of the celebrated red-soled shoes, is one of the devotés.

Louboutin’s Parisian apartment demonstrates not only his approach to footwear design but how his sense of design influences his personal space.

I have always maintained that you can tell a lot about your client if you look into his or her closet.

Room Attitude Change


Perhaps my favorite designer, Tricia Guild, never ceases to amaze me with her daring and color sensibility. This bedroom was her exercise in using contrasting patterns to a dramatic effect. The color schemes of shades of pink, reds, yellows, and oranges makes a nod to Mexico and demonstrates how easy and cost effective it is to completely change the attitude of a room.  For ideas on how to change the attidue of your rooms, visit ethniciti’s essentials page.

More than Just Fabric

It has always been ethniciti’s belief that African-inspired textiles are perhaps the most visual interpretation of the culture.  While apparel designers have most recently begun to show African textiles in their fashion design, there have been few examples in comprehensive home fashion collections.

As designers we have always been attracted to African wax fabric for its amazing patterns and colors.  Just recently ethniciti has been offered the opportunity to develop a show home for a developer of high-end condos.  The strategy is to create spaces based on ethniciti design concepts, featuring African wax textiles as the center of a marketing program directed at prospective buyers who would be attracted to modern African-inspired home fashions.

Over the next few weeks we will share with you our process that with  culminate in  the opening of the show home in late January, 2011.  We are hopeful that you find our process informative and inspiring.

The basis of the design concept is the creation of a unifying palette that holds the approach together while offering a series of coordinated palettes for individual rooms.

The show home is designed to distinguish the property by offering a memorable experience and tangible ideas to prospective buyers.

The rooms are essentially a collection of vignettes that easily transfer to any home makeover project.

Visit us at ethniciti essentials for a preview of a series of home fashion collections that we are debuting in the first quarter of 2011.