Exploring / Design: Zanzibar Style

While in East Africa last year, I took a quick side trip to Zanzibar, the legendary island off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar has a complex history of rule by and trade with multiple countries, and local design reflects these layers of influence. Hints of Arabian, African, European and Indian heritage can be seen in the island's architecture and decor.

Here are a few classic elements of Zanzibar style, as seen around the island, along with examples of ways to incorporate them into your own home.

Zanzibar Chests: These wooden trunks, sometimes called "Arab Chests," originally stored spices and other precious goods. Traditionally they each had a secret compartment for valuables.

If you buy one today it will most likely be a reproduction, but they still serve well as extra storage, coffee tables, or a window seat, as in this example from AphroChic.

Canopied Mosquito Netting: As seen in one of my hotel rooms, delicately draped mosquito netting is extremely common.

Yes, they originally kept little critters from biting you at night, but how amazing is any bed with sheer fabric hanging from its frame? Photo from Kidspace Stuff.

Swahili Doors: Huge intricately carved wooden doors line the streets of Stone Town.  Featuring flowers and/or geometric patterns, and sometimes studded with brass, they make a formidable statement in the street.

Mighty headboards these doors would make. Example from JPM Design.

(Images: 1. Dabney Frake; 2. Dabney Frake; 3. AphroChic; 4. Dabney Frake; 5. KidSpace Stuff; 6. Dabney Frake; 7. JPM Design)