Category Archives: Home Decor

Global Style: African Stools

Someone, somewhere online said that African stools have the perfect chunky look to contrast with many decorating styles. You need a surprising contrast to make a room interesting, and small furniture with a chunky tribal look can do that. Check out Justina Blakeney’s post about Afribo style — African + boho. You will see she added stools from Burkina Faso and Ethiopia to a room. She shows how these stools can be used in any style room.

Here is a home Justina decorated for charity, for female homeless veterans and their children. And what a beautifully-designed home this is, complete with that little African stool:

Justina Blakeney The Jungalow Designed Living Room

I always like to have a little table or stool nearby to set a drink, bowl or plate, or even lay a book. There’s always something that needs to be set down while you’re sitting on a sofa, and drinks on the floor often tip over and spill or break. Yeah there’s usually a coffee table, but you have to lean over further to pick up things. Maybe I’m lazy! I like a drink to be a few inches away. A little stool is perfect to set close to the couch without getting in the way.

These stools can also be extra seating when needed, without committing to big upholstered chairs. Set a few stools on the side, like you see in this IG post from one of my favorite stores, Tierra Del Lagarto in Scottsdale:

African Stools from Tierra Del Lagarto

There in the front are Senufo stools. I’ve written about Tierra Del Lagarto before because their style is my style. As you see here, they are masterful at mixing patterns! Every vignette they create is so full of life. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to see the scenes they create in their store. And if you see something you love but you’re not near Scottsdale, they do ship.

I’ve spotted African stools in rooms created by Amber Interiors, like in this room she designed at Domaine:

African Stools Amber Interiors Design via Domaine

A pair could work at the foot of beds too — different than the usual long bench:

Senufo Stools at foot of bed

Here’s a dramatic example of Senufo stools in a home from House and Leisure in South Africa:

Senufo Stools House and Leisure South Africa

These look huge. Senufo stools are made in different sizes. I have noticed some for sale on eBay and they’re very short, like 5″ legs. So be sure to check the measurements if you purchase online.

Now, it’s important to say that “African stools” might be a misleading thing to call these. They are from Africa and they are stools, but Africa is a huge continent with many cultures, tribes and countries. I’ve posted Senufo stools here because I like that simple style the best. But there are other styles of stools from other African cultures too.

There is Bamileke from Cameroon. You’ve probably already seen stools like this used as seating and tables, because this style is common in mainstream catalogs and websites. This stool is Bamileke style, from World Market:

World Market Bamileke Table

Bamileke tables and stools have a criss-cross pattern like that. Here you see how this style stool or table can work in a room:

Bamileke Table

There’s Ashanti. I love these examples of Ashanti stools in more modern interiors. This is where you can see what I’m saying about using something unexpected to contrast with everything else in the room:

Ashanti Stool in Modern Room

If you have furniture similar to this, there’s no reason why you can’t put an Ashanti or other African stool in the room. Not everything has to be matchy-matchy.

Here’s an unexpected placement of an Ashanti stool:

Ashanti Stool in Bathroom

It adds the perfect bit of warmth to a black and white bathroom full of hard colder surfaces. I also love the mix of the African stool with the clearly Indian block print wallpaper — it looks like Les Indiennes style to me.

There’s Tonga. From Zimbabwe. This bold chunky style would bring a good contrast to many rooms. These Tonga stools are from SnobStuff:

Tonga Stools from SnobStuff

I would love a set of Senufo stools in my living room. Our living room is full of Southeast Asian, Indian and regular ol’ American stuff. It’s missing this chunky element. These stools can be a bit pricey, but occasionally you’ll find a seller who’s pricing lower than market because maybe they haven’t done their research, honestly. For sources, you can search “African stool” or be more specific with the type of stool you like such as “Senufo stool” or “Bamileke stool” at sources like:

Smaller independent shops that import from Africa are great sources. They’re often in larger cities, so if you live near a city, look for stores that import directly from Africa. These stools can be heavy and you’ll avoid shipping charges by buying from a local shop. Also, flea markets can be great sources. In Chicago, we have Randolph Street Market and there’s usually sellers of African imports there. Just search for your local big flea markets that might cater to a more design-savvy customer.

 



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Acoma Pottery

If you’ve lived or traveled in the Southwest U.S., you’ve likely seen Acoma pottery. I’ve been in Arizona for a few days and have been seeing it here. Then, with coincidental timing, Acoma pottery popped up in my email box today — Acoma pots from DARA Artisans. Enjoy these bold graphic designs, then I’ll tell you a bit about the pottery and Acoma Pueblo:

Acoma Pottery from DARA Artisans

A Lucario Acoma Pot at DARA Artisans

DARA Artisans Melissa Antonio Acoma Pottery

J Torivio Acoma Pot at DARA Artisans

You might think from the perfect symmetrical shapes, that this pottery is made on a spinning wheel. But actually, the traditional Acoma pottery vessels are built up with row upon row of tiny clay coils! It’s called “hand coiled” pottery. Then the coils are smoothed into the perfect shapes you see in the finished pots. I’ve taken a pottery class where we hand-built things with coils, and it takes tremendous skill to get a perfect smooth shape!

And what adds even more to the amazingness is the designs are hand-drawn. They’re so precise, but they’re not digital or stenciled. I can’t imagine the discipline and control it takes to draw these pots. As DARA Artisans explains, the artist divided the curved canvas of this pot into halves, quarters, eighths, and then sixteenths. And, she painted these precise shapes with a brush she makes from the yucca plant:

Dorothy Torivio Acoma Pot at DARA Artisans

Acoma Pot via DARA Artisans

You can see here there’s variety in the designs, but one commonality is that they are often symbols of nature and the cycles of life.

As explained by DARA Artisans, these pots are not just decorative. They were functional, used for storage and to carry water. A special shape was used to store seeds for planting. The pots that have just a small hole in the top were used for seeds, so the seeds were less likely to spill out. The seed pots are my favorite shape:

Rose Chino Garcia Acoma Pot at DARA Artisans

The black and white and bold graphic style of pottery is made by artisans at the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. The Acoma Pueblo is worth a visit if you’re ever in New Mexico. It’s about 60 miles west of Albuquerque. I visited many years ago and bought my own little Acoma pottery bowl there. The Pueblo is in a stunning location! It’s on top of this mesa with sheer cliff drop-offs:

Acoma Pueblo on a Mesa

It was smart to build here. They could see potential invaders from many miles away and had natural protection. You’ll realize why if you visit — you’ll be climbing “stairs” cut into the rock, all the way up the side of that cliff to reach the top!

If you’re interested in Acoma pottery, there’s the collectible pieces that are made the more traditional way, built up with coils, and they are more expensive. There is also Acoma pottery made with molds and pre-made clay pots and these have a lower cost. You can also find vintage Acoma pottery pieces for sale on eBay. I will warn though, check the dimensions when buying online, because these pots can be much smaller than you think they are from the photos.



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Seeking Vertical Wall Sconces

I have a weird thing where I don’t like lamps. Which is a problem if you don’t want to live in the dark! We have two interesting lamps in our living room and it was actually my husband’s idea to turn them into lamps. I wasn’t sure about the idea at first but I love them now — they’re unique and perfect for our global style. They’re made from carved wooden rice god and rice goddess we found in Chiang Mai, Thailand years ago:

Rice Goddess Lamp

These lamps are among the few sources of light in this 14′ x 24′ living room. The gold reading lamp above has been moved elsewhere in the house. So with only two light bulbs in this room now, the constant dimness is driving me crazy. It also makes the room feel smaller because the corners are dark and drab shadowy gray. We have 8′ ceilings which are low for a chandelier and I don’t like recessed ceiling lights.

So what’s left? Walls! I’m seeking four wall sconces to flank the two bigger windows at opposite ends of this room:

Living Room Wall Sconces

Where to add wall sconces

It’s so dark in this room at night, pictures turn out grainy and yellow!

Because of the vertical-ness of the drapes, I feel like it would look weird to have a round or square shaped sconce, which might look like small blobs squatting on the walls. So I looked for sconces with long vertical elements to them.

Here’s the unrealistic choice because at $599 and needing four sconces plus cost of an electrician, this one from Shades of Light isn’t going to happen:

Shades of Light Quatrefoil Sconce

But if you like this look, you could mount a sconce on a wood panel that you make. You can buy carved wood panels. Or you can stencil raised patterns onto wood with embossing medium, then paint the panels. I am thinking about doing that!

I found these Alsace and Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconces at Restoration Hardware which brings the cost down to just above $300 each (sometimes they’re on sale), then inexpensive wood panels could be installed behind the sconces:

Alsace and Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconces at RH

But like most things at RH, the Lorraine sconce looks over-sized and  too big a scale for the space I have available.

From Circa Lighting, there is this Cawdor Stanchion Wall Sconce:

Circa Lighting Wall Sconce

The Strie Wall Sconce from Circa Lighting is a simpler shape and would bring a vertical element without drawing too much attention to itself:

Strie Wall Sconce at Circa Lighting

Another option from Circa Lighting is this Dauphine Sconce (obviously you see by now I’m looking for burnished gold or raw iron color):

Dauphine Wall Sconce at Circa Lighting

This Serpentine Wall Sconce from Shades of Light is another vertical option and at $90 each, it’s a steal:

Shades of Light Serpentine Wall Sconce

But with four sconces in the room, I’d rather have less curlicue-ness. Maybe something more like this Bryant Sconce from Circa Lighting:

Bryant Sconce from Circa Lighting

A similar sconce is the Vivianne from triple7recycled on Etsy, a great price at $85:

Vivianne Sconce from triple7recycled Etsy shop

A few tips if you’re also seeking wall sconces

You may not need the sconces to be extremely bright, especially if they will be hanging too far from where you sit to serve as task lighting. In our case, the sconces will brighten the corners to lighten the room overall, and make it feel bigger. And maybe I will squint less often.

If you have a certain style in mind, check out different stores for different prices until you find something that fits your budget. As you saw above, you will often find the same/similar look at very different prices. Also keep an eye on the lampshade material. Belgian linen or silk will cost more than paper. Look for what fits your budget.

I usually do mock-ups to scale in Photoshop for purchases like this. Because sometimes when placed in a room, things don’t look as good as they did in your mind. Sometimes they’re too big, or too small, or just not right. It’s better to find that out in Photoshop than after ordering and shipping the products. Maybe the sconce I think I like the least actually looks the best. You never know. Off to Photoshop I go …



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