Thursday, December 20, 2012

AfricaStyle: Wicker Wonders

Before I get on with this "AfricaStyle" post, I just want to note that I tried very, very hard to personalize my blogger template/design this week and it did not work grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. So the blog design is still boring and lifeless. I hope to work on this when I'm ready to re-approach the design system, which is not now.


I plan to write regular posts about local design styles found in Senegal and through my West African travels. I started this series talking about masks, now we're onto wicker. (Yes, the series name is kind of lame. I will try and come up with something more creative over time!)

So, wicker furniture is really accessible here in West Africa, as is bamboo (for another post). Its actually not common in typical Senegalese homes... I think it is mostly marketed towards expats. Why, is a mystery to me. The "typical" aesthetic in a Senegalese home is, in my opinion, tacky and ornate. The sought after design pieces for formal living rooms are often imported from China or the Middle East, shiny, plastic, and... ugly. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but the norm, or at least the "standard," is oversized leather furniture crammed into small rooms, fake flowers, and plastic wall hangings. I don't get it! People here have ahhhhhhhh-mazing style and amazing accessories. There is so much LOCALLY available for beautiful design aesthetic, and yet the "ideal" style is still the imported look. Actually, I read a post about this phenomenon elsewhere in the blogosphere, written by a Kenyan woman living in the UK. Number one on her list of favorites is "Design that draws from its environs and cultural context." AGREED!

Ok, enough bashing. I am sorry! I love you, West Africa, please forgive me. And now lets get back to wicker: the good, the possibilities, the not so good, and the ugly.

But first, the background. True story: my bed at home in the US is from Ikea, and its made out of wicker. I've had it since I was in middle school and I love it. The first time my boyfriend saw it on Skype, he was like "You have a Senegalese bed in America!" Yup, yup, I do. I also have a wicker chair from Ikea. Basically, I was made to move to West Africa as early as 7th grade.

An assortment of wicker furniture (all made locally in Senegal, except the bench on the bottom left) first found in my old apartment, now in My Finicky African Villa. Also, my first attempt at a "hip" blog collage. Success?

As seen above, the furniture in my last apartment was 85% wicker. The beds, the many shelves, vanities, etc. My roommate and I didn't "splurge" for a wicker living room set because we were too cheap, but our friends had one and I was jealous. Those friends had wicker everything and I liked it (desk, bookshelves, living room set). I mean, I guess they did have a dining table and some wood pieces to balance it out. I sold most of these "Wicker Wonders" to furnish the villa I don't actually live in (complicated.) so they're now dispersed through a much larger space and maybe slightly less overwhelming.

What do you all think of wicker? (You currently non-existant readers!) Personally, I think wicker has a natural, airy, and light feel that goes well with pretty much any color scheme. I don't like wicker too country though, but prefer it incorporated in a contemporary/modern/ethnic aesthetic.

The versatility of wicker: shelves used as kitchen storage. A potential fire hazard. Also, this apartment was pretty ghetto. Just sayin'
Some disadvantages to wicker: The con with wicker beds is that they can make a lot of noise if you roll over/move around (especially if the iron pieces are of poor quality). Also wicker shelves attract mosquitoes. Every. single. morning. I opened my wicker dresser, a swarm of mosquitoes flew out. We bought one of those electric mosquito-killing rackets and would experience deranged pleasure running the racket underneath the dresser to hear crackle-crackle-crackle-crackle-crackle (mosquito massacre). Fresh wicker also smells kind of pungent. None of our pieces were varnished.

Anyways, its been interesting to see how the wicker furniture varies between different West African countries. In Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire the wicker furniture looks much higher quality. It appears more tightly woven, varnished, and professional. Almost Ikea level. I wonder how the prices compare! I've made similar observations in Cameroon, where the wicker also looks far more professional. In Abidjan, I saw some really cool wicker lampshades, that look kind of like these:

But less intricate colors found here in Abidjan. 
What do you think? Yay or nay? I could some day buy (a smaller) one and bring it back to Senegal...

Wicker furniture in Douala, Cameroon. See the quality difference?
Well, disadvantages and potential poor quality aside, wicker will definitely be re-featured in our new apartment as its the cheapest furniture you can find here in West Africa. Wood, bamboo, and iron furniture is all more pricey. But the best thing about ALL of these furniture options is that you can custom-order everything to your own taste and style. I have lotssss of ideas brewing...

Wicker thoughts, wicker possibilities... what do you think of wicker?

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