Trend Watch: Kuba-Style Textiles

Trend Watch: Kuba-Style Textiles

Sarah Coffey
Jul 30, 2010

In IKEA's new product line, West Elm's new catalog, and a few other places, we've noticed a trend towards Kuba-style pillows, rugs, and wall art. This classic African fabric has long been a favorite of decorators, but it seems to be flooding mainstream retailers this year.

Also known as raffia cloth, Kuba cloth is woven into geometric interlocking patterns. It's a traditional craft of the Kuba tribe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it's been appropriated many times by designers — everyone from high-end designers like Charles and Ray Eames to mass-market retailers like World Market.

The current crop of Kuba-style textiles evoke the diamond patterns, black-and-white or neutral color schemes, and hand-woven look of this traditional African fabric. The difference between contemporary Kuba-style fabrics and the real thing is visible in the details. Newer styles are machine-made (not hand-woven) and the pattern is often silkscreened or printed on the fabric, rather than embedded into it. A few photos above (including numbers 7, 9, and 10) show traditional Kuba fabric, and the difference is visible — even in photos — compared to contemporary versions (like photos 1, 2, and 5).

  1. Vilmie Figur Pillow from IKEA
  2. Living Room from West Elm
  3. Bedroom from West Elm
  4. Kuba Cloth Pillows from Pfieffer Studio
  5. Kuba Cloth Pillows from Wisteria
  6. Kuba Bedding from Bed, Bath, and Beyond
  7. Interior from Veranda Magazine
  8. Wayfair Wall Art
  9. Kuba Cloth Pillow from Jayson Home & Garden
  10. Lucite Chair Upholstered in Kuba Cloth from 1st Dibs


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