Ethnic Motifs for Ethnic Interiors


In some respects, we’ve already touched this subject on multiple occasions. However, we’ve never explicitly described what exactly is so appealing about the idea of combining a Hi-Tech TV set with a huge replica of African tribal mask. Without further analogies, we’ve never fully explored the subject of ethnic design aesthetics, a fact, we definitely must make up for! Therefore – here’s a little something devoted entirely to refined examples of ethnic motifs for ethnic interior designs!

African-Inspired Ethnic Motifs

One of the most popular interior design aesthetics these days (right next to the Oriental one) is the one that constantly references the Cradle of life. African aesthetics have been around since the very first colonization efforts. In the highest levels of 19-th century society, it was considered a rather classy affair to fill up your London residency with all kinds of wooden figures portraying tribal societies and the huge plethora of different African deities. Other options included a thought-out disposition of traditional African weaponry (spears, bows, and shields) and, which, thank god, is a complete taboo today, a wide array of taxidermical exercises, consisting purely of the African fauna.

Ethnic motifs for ethnic interior. Artwork by Francesco Grande

Canvas art – “Lacanus” by Francesco Grande

Today African ethnic design aesthetic has somewhat merged together with the rustic interior design stylistics and is leaning more towards the ethnic-inspired modern minimalist design. Colors are down to earth, reduced to a simple set of brownish hues. A shibori print or two is thrown in for the drapes, cushion covers, sofa linings and maybe as the subject matter for a large format canvas art by the wall. Ethnic motifs can appear in a form of traditional African plate replicas and anything that resembles traditional African Zulu baskets and vases. These are usually placed in a cube storage shelf for a gloriously chic effect. Any iconography that can set the “Kirikou and the Sorceress” vibe in is the right one in this case!

Japanese Tranquility

Ethnic motifs for ethnic interior. Artwork by Annisa Tiara Utami

Canvas art – “A Journey in My Dream” by Annisa Tiara Utami

Far East ethnic motifs have been crowd’s darlings since the birth of the “interior design” concept. Their capacity to create an ambiance of mystery and the sense of something utmost unfamiliar for our western-value-accustomed eye has been the staple for the phenomenon’s ongoing popularity. Unfortunately, its worldwide appeal has a lot to do with the horrific events of The Second World War. After the Amercian troops occupied the Mainland Japan, the previously reclusive and secretive culture was completely, and roughly exposed for the global audience. From then on, Zataku tables and Zaisu chairs became the hot thing in every financially assured young man’s dining room. Even today, carvings, reminiscent of the Kumiko woodcraft, get squeezed in wherever there’s a free spot to do so while in many, Japanese interior design inspired, places interlocked shelving system forms the structural basis for the whole living space. However, if all of the aforementioned is executed with a true respect for the Oriental cultural heritage, the results can be awesome, to say the least!

The Best of India

Ethnic motifs for ethnic interior. Artwork by Ali Gulec

Artworks – “Garden Skull Light” and “Jungle Skull” by Ali Gulec

Another Eastern influence, that has been going on for decades, is coming straight from the South Asia. Embraced in its full glory during the hippie frenzy of the 60’s, India-inspired interior decor was basically a wide-spread western acceptance of the Hindu spirituality. Design-wise this came off as depictions of Shiva (one of the three major deities in Hinduism) on practically every decorative object (cushions, carpets, wall art) in sight. Unlike the two previous ethnic-inspired interior designs, this one relies heavily on vibrant coloring and glaring accessory use. Here the textile department is all about Rajasthan textile printing tradition (the oldest one in India, going strong since the medieval times), while the ubiquitous fabric underneath is, of course, the velvet. Sultry hues of red and purple are used to heat up the general tone while space itself is filled up with elements like round stools, ottomans, gorgeous kilims and rugs (an Indian variation about the carpet theme), explosively colored chair pads and so on. The mojo you must stick to, in this case, is euphory, haziness, and sensation. This ethnic motive may not necessarily be suitable for a long term interior decor solution, but it would certainly work exceptionally well as the visual direction for your cozy garden hut!

South American Flavour

Ethnic motifs for ethnic interior. Artwork by Annisa Tiara Utami-2

Artworks – “Rock Paper Scissors” and “Cactus” by Annisa Tiara Utami

In a sense, South American ethnic design influence has been hiding in the shadows. It is not as popular and widely accepted as any of three ethnic motifs described above, it does not possess any world renowned features and its popularity is largely limited to the continental borders. Or so it just appears? Yeap, despite the somewhat markedly foreign perception of beauty, the Latin-American aesthetic has a huge and historically significant influence on the development of interior design solutions and actually has quite a lot in common with the much-loved Mediterranean interior aesthetic (and why not, for they share the same historical place of origin). Above all the most noteworthy is the South American tendency to create extensive and filigree wall murals. This is their way of celebrating nature’s comprehensiveness, so don’t be surprised if you are subjected to a beautiful piece of Andes (the mountain terrain, spreading across the whole continent) as you enter a typical Peruvian bathroom. Other commonly used interior design elements are fireplaces (The whole continent is completely bananas about them!), arches (usually enhanced by a colorful pattern of traditional symbols) and massive chandeliers. Everything is wrapped up by a vivid and flashy coloring, marble collages and colorful tiles. Nothing in South America is tame or shy about itself and certainly not the people!

Nordic Charm

Ethnic motifs for ethnic interior. Artwork by Giulio Rossi

Canvas art – “The Mantis” by Giulio Rossi

In this case, the last one doesn’t bite the dust for sure. The offspring of the Nordic interior aesthetic, namely, the Scandinavian design, is one of the most widely exploited interior design variations in the Western hemisphere. The three main principles here are simplicity, beauty, and utility. The secret behind the Nordic charm is keeping it all down to earth with functionality as the dominant quality. The elegance is understated, lines are clean and the furnishings are a result of an exemplary craftsmanship. However, to maintain the core subject of the article, we have to retreat back somewhere to the 18-th century. The so-called Gustavian interior design is the one that encompasses Nordic ethnic charm at its most appealing, combining the best of the modern Scandinavia and the coziest of a Viking’s hut. Although initially brought into the community as a mixture between the Neoclassical (The king of Sweden, Gustav III fell in love with the aesthetic during his trip to the Loui’s place) and the Italian classical style, it gradually morphed into some kind of a Scandinavian rustic thing we tend to associate the Nordic countries with these days. Here it’s all about whitewashed, leggy furnishings, aged and painted wood, and an overriding sense of austerity. The lack of prominent decoration is an intent while the function of the decorative element is usually carried out by a bronze emblem, reminiscent of a decor from the pre-medieval period Viking settlement. This is certainly the least ethnic-oriented of all interior designs here. However, it is also a one that says a lot more about the nordic mentality than the already worn-out log house.  

Congratulations in case you managed to reach this paragraph! We sincerely hope this 5-minute read came off easy and that the newfound knowledge about ethnic motifs will compensate the precious time you lost. For more educational material, check out or other blog articles!

Article Name
Ethnic Motifs for Ethnic Interiors
We have scratched around it but never have explicitly touched the subject of ethnic motifs within ethnic interior designs. Let's make up for that!

Comments (0)