Trend Watch: Tribal

by on July 08, 2010
Tribal catwalk looks in Paul Smith’s Spring/Summer 2010 Collection. Image via

Out of Africa and into our homes, the tribal look is a hot trend for summer 2010.

Interior designers are using Arabic, Asian and African inspired pieces to add depth and interest to interior schemes. The exotic trappings of nomadic tradition are used to create evocative interiors, celebrating the material culture of distant lands. Think Raj tents swathed in exotic rugs and wall hangings, dark wood and leather; the high-energy prints and jewel-bright colours of tribal dress; and striking animal skins seen on the African plains.

The key to making the tribal look work in your home is to use these pieces as contrasting accents: an animal print cushion on a plain sofa; an embroidered wall hanging in a whitewashed room; or a Persian rug on a simple wood floor. Clashing prints, as seen on the fashion catwalks, can really work in a predominantly white room, but take care with colour and pattern if your interior scheme is already defined by a particular colourway. Tribal pieces and especially animal prints are best used to create bold focal points, lifting a scheme with highlights rather than veering towards a pastiche.

With so many vibrant cultures inspiring the tribal look in interior design, there are many ways to interpret the trend according to your personal style. Known for its Asian inspired pieces, OKA is channelling the nomadic vibe with fabulous rugs,">runners and wall hangings featuring exotic patterns, beautifully woven in vivid hues. Trunks with carrying handles, folding occasional tables, and Isphahan plates hand-painted with Persian designs, continue the opulent nomadic theme. The intricate carved wood room screens at Lombok and the low Oriental coffee table with ball feet at Puji create a similar nomadic feel.

Zebra print cowhide rug, £449, Graham & Green

For jewel-bright tribal colours, check out Margo Selby’s hand-knotted banana fibre rug and geometric hand-woven cushion covers. The multi-coloured Summer Estella rug at Heal’s evokes sunrise over the Serengeti, while Rockett St George’s jute storage baskets in sunshine yellow, deep blue and hot pink have fair trade credentials. Moroccan leather footstools are perfect accent pieces for laidback living spaces, available in a range of vibrant hues from Graham & Green and Rockett St George. A fantastic statement piece, the Waldorf Hex sofa from Lockwood design is upholstered in silk fabric with a vivid multi-coloured print.

pendant light
Filigrain Sky Drop pendant lamp by Zenza, £185, Liberty

For a safari feel, try the Bone Inlay furniture collection and Zebra Print cowhide rug from Graham & Green. The intricate detailing on the black resin and camel bone furniture brings an air of luxury to the bedroom, while the striking zebra print rug makes a stunning statement against a stripped wood floor. For a demure approach to animal print, try the dark brown textured Zebra cushion at Occa Home, or go for glamour with the Aura Sequin cushion range at Heal’s. In a pared down colour palette - grey and silver zebra print or gold and silver leopard print - the Aura cushions add some sparkle without being over-the-top. For a natural look, go for the real thing with Rockett St George’s fair trade cowhide cushions.

Tom Dixon’s Beat Vessel vases and Beat Shade pendant lamps in brass are the perfect finishing touches for a tribal-inspired interior. And Zenza’s pierced brass pendant shades diffuse light beautifully for a sultry nomadic feel.

Spice up your interior this summer with a vibrant tribal-inspired look.

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About Catherine Gregg

Catherine Gregg Catherine is a Features Writer and intern at She graduated with an MA in Design History from the Royal College of Art in 2009 and has a market stall in London selling 20th century pieces for the home.