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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