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The History of The Bamileke Stool

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African Luxe tall skinny dark bamileke stool

An iconic piece of African furniture, these beauties are known as Bamileke stools and come from Cameroon. They’re also called King’s stools, donuts or birds’ nests and were traditionally used by the Bamileke Tribe for public ceremonies. The tribe’s woodworkers would carve these by hand from one continuous piece of wood. To do this, the lumber would first be thrown into the river to soften it up and then the ornate web pattern would be hand-carved into the hardwood. Any break in the wood would mean the piece was abandoned ó this break is considered a break in the life cycle and thus a bad omen. The intricate pattern you see in these represents the web of the earth spider, a symbol of divine wisdom. The Bamileke people believe that the earth spider is a link between this world and that of our ancestors and the inclusion of the web of the earth spider allows the departed spirits to be connected to the ceremonies for which these stools are used. Bamileke stools come in a variety of patterns and sizes, the biggest and most elaborate would be reserved for the Bamileke King.

African Luxe - painted Bamileke

Bamileke stools have really entered the global design consciousness over the last decade or so. All sorts of retailers are offering their knock offs, and it’s not hard to see why. These are gorgeous pieces that make for a beautiful end table or occasional seating. Despite being made from hardwood, the web hand-carved design lends the pieces a lightness and a sculptural appeal. Bamileke stools are a gorgeous addition to a space, lending that organic, earthy touch that warms a sleek and modern space. They also work well in outdoor spaces, provided the proper lacquering. So versatile and so fabulous!

African Luxe - inside the Cameroonian workshop where they make Bamileke stools

Here’s a peak inside the Cameroonian workshop and the lovely talent who bring these pieces to life.

You can browse our full range of African Stools and Tables here.

The Making of a Home Accessory

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field of stone birds

Pulling a small space together often requires a keen eye to edit and clever accessories. Accessories work both to up the glam factor and define your sense of style. Oh how I love accessories!

In my travels I often come across beautiful pieces that would make a gorgeous home accent but need a little je ne sais quoi for the African Luxe market. A little elevation.

I loved these stone birds when I saw them in a field. My Bird Man from Zimbabwe makes these by hand. Aren’t they gorgeous? And flocked together they bring such drama. These birds, as home accessories, just needed that quirky and stylish edge. The only thing I wanted to change was their perch. I was looking for something sophisticated; something slim enough to fit in the small bird, but stable enough to support the weight of the stone. Then came the idea of planting the perches in lucite plinths. After a little trial and error, a few prototypes, I was really pleased with the final version.

The design phase can be a tricky one, you work with an idea in your mind’s eye, but the results really run the gamut from astonishing to total disappointment. These, however, are glorious and I had to share them with you. The gold leafed beaks and perches were the final touch to having these birds fly off the shelves.

stone bird in lucite

The birds as created by the artisan were perfect as is, of course. But the Denise touch made them home accessory-ready.

Design Tip of the Day

If you want to make a window that is too small in scale for a wall seem larger, extend the rod one inch beyond the width of the window frame on either side, make the curtains to the floor and add a shade. Suddenly everything will light and airy and to scale.

On the Streets, Where the Magic Happens

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Denise and the artisans behind the metalwork windmills

Nothing beats showing off a special object in  your  home that comes with its own exciting story.

So here is a peak into my process of finding the stunning objects d’arts you find only at African Luxe. This awful image of me ( I had just completed a 23 hour flight the night before, excuses and vanity I know!) was taken 5 seconds after I screeched at my driver to turn the car around, having just glimpsed some gorgeous windmills out of my window.

On my way to a spa to work a kink out my neck, we ground to a halt as I had to see these beauties up close and talk to their makers. I purchased the entire collection; the transaction was a happy one and it meant the gents could go home early to relax. But I had to fight my driver, promising the pieces I’d just bought wouldn’t rip his upholstery or worse yet, poke him en route.

windmill final product, spray painted in metallics

It’s purchases like these that add such interest to our offerings at African Luxe.  These transactions often only happen once because so often when I try and go back for more, I cannot find the artisan.  Phone numbers change, people move, believe me I do try to restock but so often it’s impossible.

As for these windmills, well we guarantee they are one-of-a-kind pieces.  Once back at home base, we spray painted them and look at them now, a perfect piece on a bookshelf or a desk not to mention the story you get to share with admirers who are sure to comment on their uniqueness.

Design tip of the day

In a dining room an area rug should be 24 inches wider and longer than the table to allow for pushback and your chair will still be on the carpet

Juju Hat or Feather Headdress From Cameroon As Art

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traditionatl headdress

The Juju hat is found throughout Cameroon and was traditionally worn as part of the costume of the royal dancers. They are striking, bold, colorful and increasingly being used as wall art here.

I just came back from the New York Gift Show and yes headdresses were there at a few different booths on prominent display. I have to say mine are the best though: lush, plush and with beautiful rich colors, no straggly edges, and very tightly woven at the back.   The Cameroon hats are something I am proud of. We sell hats only made with the most beautiful feathers with nice plumes that are very full. I hand select each one, fumigate them and make sure they are to the highest standards.

It is so important that the weaving in the back is very tight so they open appropriately. This type of weave is a painstaking process where the feathers are sewn carefully into the tight raffia base.

Our headdresses are sold free of all insects – you may have heard of having to put the headdresses in the freezer to avoid any eggs before you put yours on display at home. We never provide such advice as we guarantee that ours are of the highest quality and fully fumigated.

Our price for these headdresses is a reflection of the quality and high standards we set. Our headdresses are unused new hats, made just for us, to the standards we set and come directly to us from Cameroon.

Feather guys

To ensure these standards, I handpick all the headdresses myself from a huge array. This means many trips to Africa but is also means a better headdress!

Just check out me and my fabulous feather guys! You can buy whatever you want  but if it is not packed correctly, it does not look like an AFRICANLUXE hat.

It is all in the details! And the feather tails!

What Is A Home?

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Is it one’s own personalised retreat?

Is it a unique environment where you have total freedom of self-expression? A home has a splash of paint in your favorite color, personal possessions that hold stories, a treasure that you purchased and some hand me downs, the rest is all about the design; how it’s all put together to make your special place a home. I am currently “homeless” – don’t weep for me, I’ve moved into a temporary space whilst I wait for my new house to be finished.

I was careful about what pieces were moved into my temporary space. All of the above characteristics that make a house a home were abandoned in lieu of storage and functional pieces. The mementos are now waiting patiently to become catalysts for design inspiration for our new abode. In the interim, I am constantly inspired to imagine the next steps. How can I elevate these pieces that I still hold as my nearest and dearest, and ensure they play nice with the new pieces that twinkle has caught my eye? It makes me look at my living space with new eyes and, to my surprise, with a tweak here and there – it is becoming my home.

Denise’s Tip of the Day

The distance from seat to table or countertop is very important. Use the 11 inch rule and you will always be comfortable and sitting pretty.

Going with the Flow

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How do you achieve your desired aesthetic? Do you scour a variety of shops? Look in magazines or on TV? Not sure if you’ve quite achieved it? I find getting the look takes time and starts with a thought or an image. I have just moved from my home of seventeen years and sorted through a lifetime of memories. One third was sent to the women’s shelter, one third to an auction house, and one third came with me. Note that between those thirds, I had my son saying “I want that, that, and definitely that!”
I had a large dining table that seated fourteen. It held many dinner parties and heard its share of stories. Truth of the matter is, I was over it – but it was difficult to succumb to that thought. I knew it was valuable, but most of all, my son really wanted it (you try arguing with a lawyer-in-training). It’s from the 1800s with a crank and you could install leaves for miles! Where was I to put it whilst I waited for him to afford a new home? Then, what? After ten years in storage, was it still going to be something he wanted? Maybe his partner will reject it! I obviously like to plan for all scenarios.
It took some convincing, but it went to the auction house, and I’ll be sure to update you with as much information about its next life as I can once it has sold. I plan to give him the money to buy himself a fascinating objet, or maybe a painting that he can cart around for the next ten years and use in his home. And if his partner doesn’t like it, it’d be much easier to hide behind a door than a certain dining table c. the 1800s.

Denise’s Tip of the Day

Get a small cut of the marble that you have installed for your counter tops. A small square cut can be used as a mobile prep surface!

Savvy and Snazzy

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I often say when you see something you are immediately in love
with, you need to buy it. It’s these pieces that make a house a home. It can be a one off conversation piece from your travels, or the beginning of your very own design aesthetic! I have pieces in my home that just demand attention. I love getting all the feedback from my friends and family (the self-appointed “Front Line”). The stories that go with these pieces add interest and personality
to the room.

Harald at work

Harald at work

This is Harald in the image, he is hearing impaired and he
does the weaving on this Haldane Martin Bench. I took this picture and sent
it on to the client as well so it will ultimately dress her home with
interest and personality. It’s these details and stories that will show off
this piece in a completely different light – adding depth and human connection to a functional work of art.
This piece is purchased responsibly and the price is not negotiated. I pay
the asking price and then decide if the piece is worth the on sell. I call it Africa savvy and snazzy – it keeps everyone happy!
The bench is made of kiaat wood and woven in recycled plastic (picture
plastic milk jugs stripped and woven.) I have one in my home that is super
comfortable, easy to clean and adds that little funk and sophistication. Here – have a look..

Entry of my home

Entry of my home

Denise’s Tip of the Day

When choosing a sofa, keep in mind that you may need a higher arm to accommodate elders – it helps them when getting out of their seat. To ensure comfort, combine the seat height and the seat depth. The goal is for the total to range from 40 to 44 inches. Example: if the seat height is 16 inches and the depth 24 inches, you have a combined measurement of 40 inches. Similarly, if you have a seat height of 20 inches with a depth of 24 inches – you have a total of 44!

From Africa, with Luxe

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Luxury doesn’t mean that you have to compromise comfort. In fact, adding luxurious items to your home can increase your comfort! Take linens for example, the finer the thread count the more expensive and luxe they seem to be (plus, your comfort increases tenfold). It always amazes me how we try and compromise on the price of a luxury item that we will have, love, and live with for ages. Many people will think nothing of spending $20 on a gourmet hamburger at a trendy, new hot spot, yet flinch at the cost of a finer, handmade, high-quality fabric! Now it isn’t to say that luxury only starts after a certain price point, but it’s important to make investments in yourself as well as your home to enhance your everyday experiences!


There’s a bounty of fabulous fabrics in Africa. Adding a beautiful, handmade fabric that uses an old tradition will not only provide you with an original piece full of character, but it will also be an excellent conversation piece! The colors will be richer, more saturated, and as the fabric is handmade, each piece varies ever so slightly so no two are exactly alike – no worrying about the Jones’ next door trying to replicate your look! Use the fabric in a way you’ve never considered: as a headboard, a pillow, or maybe just as a throw to add some warmth and texture to your room. It will be luxury you can live in, and history you can feel.

Denise’s Tip of the Day

Buy ready-made drapery and sew grommets onto the panels (you can DIY or have it done professionally), and you will have your own custom look!

And We’re Off!

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African Luxe denise travels

I am utterly infatuated with Africa; I love the architecture the smell, the colors, and the layers of design it has to offer. It brings me great pleasure just thinking of a trip! Sometimes the travel portion can be long and hard and you will be happy to know that I always travel Economy. I have a simple routine, wear the same clothing, sit in the same position on the plane, and try to keep it as routine as possible. I am off to pack up a container full of goodies that I have accumulated over my last few trips. Leaving our climate and into 39° Celsius is no easy feat, but the opportunity to explore and celebrate Africa makes me grateful. I leave today and look forward to delicious, fresh, and juicy fruits that Africa has to offer! But in the mean time…

Denise’s Design Tip of the Day

If hanging a chandelier over your dining table, be sure to choose a fixture that is half the width in order to keep the proportions of your space balanced.

Tips by Denise – Fashion and Interior Design

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African Luxe patterned throw pillow as seen on the runwayClothing fashion and interiors are incredibly connected now, so does what you wear look as good on your sofa is the big question. If the spring colors are lovely pale hues, will we see mauve, dusty pink in our interiors? I say YES!

We are seeing more and more influence from Hollywood.  Take the  velvet jackets in American Hustle, I predict this film will help bring  lovely velvets into the living room.

So how do we do that in Africa? I guess you have to wait and see because I leave early February 2014 to get it all together with an African influence. Nothing looks better than light colors against a backdrop of textured blonde woods and organic glass. Imagine plush velvets paired with beautiful natural stone from Africa. This will all translate into luxury that is both felt and seen. I am excited as I put together my mood board and carry it around showing all the artisans

Design Tip of the day

Barstools need 28 inches between them for extra room for swinging in and out so remember measure 28 inches from the centre of one to the centre of the other and start swinging!

Tips By Denise

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African Luxe room scene accented n fuchsia

Interiors often need to be taken up a level, one can be inspired but it is often hard to find direction when setting out to design your space.

I would start with stepping into the room in question and figure out what color speaks to you on first glance.  Once you think you’ve come up with the perfect accent color, remove all objects in the room that have the wording accessory or accent on them and be left with the singular piece in the  accent color you have chosen. This will prevent you from creating a look of sameness.

Now get shopping! Try not to buy all your extras and accessories from the same store or site. You want an eclectic space that reflects you and shopping from a singular store can look dull or worse, branded.   Be sure to pick up something quirky when you’re out shopping: This will make your room something to talk about, it can be a unique artifact, accessory, of if you’re very daring, let a feature piece of furniture be your quirky center piece. What about something from a far off land that feels, smells and patinas in a way that you never thought possible?  It can be shiny or dull, bright or dark , but it has to have a story. Africanluxe is here to help you tell that story and in doing so, distinct from any other piece than that  you currently own .

Welcome to UNIQUE!

Design Tip of the day

Buy a cheap grasscloth wallpaper from a big box store or EBAY and spray paint it silver and hang.