Westerners have been interested in decorating with a safari theme since the British colonized parts of Africa in the 19th century. Once Europeans had a taste for the exotic wares of African tribes, they began to incorporate these designs into their own interiors.
Today, if you are interested in decorating with a safari theme, there are a few basic concepts to incorporate. After that, the design is only as limited as your imagination.
Some key components of safari design are natural, organic, earth-toned hues, such as khaki, pale gold, red ochre, a variety of browns, and earthy greens--all colors that can be found on the African plains. And, a safari-themed room wouldn't be complete without animal prints, such as cheetah, leopard, zebra, alligator or giraffe.
Once you have the overall color scheme in place, and an idea of how much animal print you want to incorporate (this is one of those instances where less is more), then all you need to do is choose some tasteful and well-edited accessories to complete the look.
Decorating With a Safari Theme
One of the most important things to remember when decorating with a safari theme is to keep your style subtle and tasteful. A room packed with different animal prints, cheap African-style knick-knacks, baskets, and prints of lions, tigers, zebras and cheetah, will only make your room look like a Disneyland-style nightmare.
Instead, focus on a few key elements, keep your color palette to neutrals with a few bold pops of color, and you will create a sophisticated homage to safari design.
Look at photos of the African plains for inspiration. Check out websites such as andBeyond.com or AfricanSafariHome.com for images that will help conjure the serenity and peacefulness of an African safari. Watch the movie "Out of Africa" to get an excellent idea of early-20th-century Westernized African decor. The set design for the heroine's home includes:
- billowy white curtains
- comfortable furnishings
- natural woods
- woven baskets
- jute rugs
- lush vegetation, and
- hardwood floors
Where to Find African-Style Design
There are hundreds of online resources for authentic African goods. Many furniture and accessory companies also sell pieces that work well in a safari-themed room. The trick is getting the right balance between classic furnishings and choosing a cohesive, sophisticated collection of accessories.
When incorporating animal prints into a room keep them to a minimum to avoid making your room look overdone. Stick with a couple of different prints on a few key accessories such as pillows, a rug, or even one full wall covered in an animal-print wallpaper.
Here are a few resources and ideas for incorporating animal prints into your decor:
- Covering one wall in your room with Zebra Print Wallpaper would add a lot of punch to your room while not feeling overwhelming. Consider using it in your bedroom, or in small living room
- PillowDecor.com offers a wide variety of safari-themed throw pillows, including an Ocelot Print Cotton version that provides a little spark of animal print for your sofa, occasional chair or bed
- Another excellent way to incorporate animal print into your room is with an area rug. This Zebra Rug from Rugs USA is a soft version that adds a funky, modern flair to your interior
When most people think of a classic safari-style room, they often conjure images of British colonial-style furnishings--big, heavy, dark wood pieces--paired with smaller stools, chairs, and benches that are hand-carved by native Africans from natural wood. This ideal mix of late-19th and early-20th century British colonial design and traditional African pieces is what you want to achieve in your safari-themed room.
- Combine classic British colonial pieces with traditional African chairs like the Watchman Chairs or Traditional Bouale Chair from VarageSale.com. The Watchman chairs are hand carved by master carvers who craft each piece from ebony, teak and other African woods
- Another excellent choice for British colonial style furnishings is a classic sofa such as the Lord Canning Sofa from BritishColonialImports.com. Pair this piece with a traditional African mudcloth rug, and a carved African-style living room table
Traditional African Accessories
To create a beautiful safari themed room, keep in mind that the devil is in the details. There are a plethora of African accessories on the market that will help you create an exotic collection of wall art, pottery, table art, sculptures, baskets, and vases. Check out the following websites to find some fantastic finishing touches:
- Ten Thousand Villages has a couple of beautiful African pieces such as their Cone Shaped Bongo Drum.
- GenuineAfrica.com offers dozens of tribal masks from many different tribes throughout Africa. A few of these masks displayed together make a stunning focal point for a bedroom or living room
- Some bronze statues on tables or sitting in a corner adds gorgeous African flair to your rooms. The collection at ArtTribal.com gives you several different options to choose from