The ethnic furniture style and its characteristics
What makes the Ethnic furniture style so popular and how it developed.

The fascination for Africa and South or Central America are the inspiration for the Ethnic furniture style. Mongolian and formerly Russian land patterns are often found in fashion. In the interior industry that’s less the case though. The ethnic style has its origins in South and Central America, as well as in Africa and has been widely used in the interior industry since about 2015.


Origin and development

The colonial style was created between the 17th and 19th century and can be described as a historical model for today’s Ethnic furniture style. The colonial style was characterized by the fact that Europeans brought their architectural styles into the then new regions such as North, Central and South America. Of course, raw materials from colonial areas were used, such as mahogany, redwood, robinia or mango wood. Today’s Ethnic style is understood as integration of exotic country-typical characteristics, motifs, patterns and materials in one’s own interior. It’s recommended you dedicate yourself to one country or continent.

Key characteristics of the Ethnic furniture style

The Ethnic decorating style either copies the patterns, tendrils and floral motifs and rearranges them in new colors or uses the typical color constellations of Native American, Peruvian, Mexican or even African tribes with modern inspirations of traditional patterns.

Known patterns in ethnic furniture style from Africa, Peru and India.

Furniture made of mango or teak in typical Spartan optics characterize the Ethnic style. But also fur imitations on upholstery such as zebra or leopard are very popular. Fans of South American or Southeast Asian Ethnic style rely on rattan furniture. In this interior style, wallpapers play a less important role: If then only in the colors sand, beige and also terra. Red and brown shades are also suitable.


A sample furniture by Ethnicraft in ethnic furniture style at Imm Cologne 2018.

Some also like photo wallpapers to have a realistic picture on the wall and visually enlarge the space, but this must be well matched to the rest of the interior. It’s getting modern, when the well-known ethnic patterns appear in wallpaper. Traditionally, a large wall hanging would be most likely a carpet.

Materials for bedding and furniture can also be metal. Stylistically you are in the colonial era then and adopt this style to give the Ethnic style more finesse and authenticity.

More decoration ideas for Ethnic are sand, dried fruit stands e.g. from baobab, shells, bast and of course elephants, monkeys, giraffes and many more.

A nice example of a monkey as a deco figure in ethnic style.

Images from the desired country of origin, whether of fauna or flora and whether painted or photographed belong here. This makes the style authentic. Matching accessories are also bowls and vessels in subtle colors, as well as baskets and braided objects. If you also want to act in proper style, pay attention to ceramics from the respective countries, in South America that would be black ceramics.

Floor coverings are also more earthy, as most Ethnic origin countries had no tiles or processed wood floors, you can neglect the detail and simply work in the matching color to the rest of the interior. Also possible would be natural stone-like tiles or laminate floors in earth colors.

Braided elements are an absolute must in this furniture style.

Regarding lamps, African motifs on paper lamps come to mind but also leather-look lampshades, a simple metal chandelier in brown or black and also lanterns in matching glasses and vessels. Exotic indoor plants, which can thrive wild and in the open air in the country of origin, are staged in style here. Suitable species would be palm trees, cactus or hibiscus.


If one chooses Ethnic style, one should stick with one country of origin, which seems more balanced and authentic later on. Do research what was or is not popular in the land of your dreams and then shape the space in Ethnic style. We distinguish between oriental and Ethnic style, because the Ethnic trend works more with natural, more muted colors and other contrasts and patterns. Another point is that Ethnic is usually rather simple in furniture design and works with coarser materials. Oriental, on the other hand, is much more intense in color, with more attention to detail and much softer in the appearance of the fabrics.

Sample pattern of ethnic in the trend forum at Maison & Objet 2019.

Of course, one could further subdivide the Ethnic style into country-specific styles, such as Mexican, Peruvian or African. In this article we took on the overall style. Well-known companies that have the Ethnic style in their collections are e. g. Pad Concept, Kersten BV, Ethnicraft or Now’s Home from Paris.


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