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6 Favorites: Yoruba Beaded Armchairs from West Africa

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6 Favorites: Yoruba Beaded Armchairs from West Africa

August 26, 2022

It’s no coincidence that these patterned chairs are strikingly regal—they were originally made as thrones by the Yoruba people of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. Each is beaded over every inch of its surface, front, back, and sides—tiny seed beads are hand sewn onto fabric stretched over wooden frames.

The work has spiritual meaning and decorative impact, and reflects both longstanding traditions and European influences. Needless to say, each chair takes months to complete and no two are exactly alike.

Of late, Yoruba beaded seating is coveted the world over. We were introduced to our first example in Paris concept store Merci’s showcase apartment (shown above and below). Since then, we’ve been collecting sightings, and have yet to encounter an example that isn’t spectacular. Come see.

a beaded yoruba chair via from the tribe; a wildlife documentary filmmaker 17
Above: A Beaded Yoruba Chair via From the Tribe; a wildlife documentary filmmaker’s online shop in Bristol, England, that delivers worldwide. Prices on request (a similar example is available from the gallery for £2,450). Also see the African Beaded Chair, $2,400, at Bloom By Anuschka in Denver.
each yoruba throne is composed of thousands of tiny seed beads, but not all are 18
Above: Each Yoruba throne is composed of thousands of tiny seed beads, but not all are brightly colored. This pale example is from LA interior design firm Nickey Kehoe, which, from time to time, offers Yoruba beaded chairs in its Beverly Boulevard boutique.
the original chair that inspired us—in the home office at the merci seco 19
Above: The original chair that inspired us—in the home office at the Merci Second Residence, a historic Paris apartment reinvented by the concept store: see Lessons in Mixing and Matching.

Merci’s Nigerian Beaded Armchair was sourced from CSAO of Paris, which currently has several beaded Yoruba chairs priced from €2,900 to €3,200. Also see the offerings from Design Mix Gallery of LA, which include a black-and-white checked, rounded Yoruba Beaded Chair for $2,400.

one of several nigerian beaded chairs recently spotted at the malibu village, l 20
Above: One of several Nigerian beaded chairs recently spotted at the Malibu Village, Los Angeles, outpost of Res Ipsa, a fashion chain started, in its founders’ words, by “two lawyers who decided the world needs fewer lawyers but better shoes: our brand is travel.” Inquire about availability and pricing.
6 Favorites Yoruba Beaded Armchairs from West Africa portrait 7
Above Two-toned beaded armchairs in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, loft by New York interior designer Marc C. Houston of  MHLI. Photograph by Claire Esparros, courtesy of Marc Houston.
an inviting bedroom in dar beida (the white house), a rental property in essaou 22
Above: An inviting bedroom in Dar Beida (The White House), a rental property in Essaouira, Morocco, available through Castles in the Sand.

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Frequently asked questions

What are Yoruba beaded armchairs?

Yoruba beaded armchairs are chairs that are handmade in West Africa and are adorned with intricate beadwork that is done by skilled artisans. They are traditionally used by monarchs and the wealthy in Nigerian society, and they are cherished for both their beauty and their functional features.

What is the history of Yoruba beaded armchairs?

The origins of Yoruba beaded armchairs can be traced back to the 14th century when Yoruba tribes in Nigeria began to use chairs as symbols of power and prestige. Over time, these chairs became more elaborate and were adorned with intricate beadwork that showcased the skill of local artisans. Today, these chairs continue to be made by skilled craftsmen and are highly sought after for their cultural value and impeccable design.

What materials are used to make Yoruba beaded armchairs?

Traditionally, Yoruba beaded armchairs are made using locally sourced materials such as wood, leather, and beads made from natural materials like seeds and stones. The designs and patterns on each chair are unique and may incorporate symbols and motifs that are significant in Yoruba culture.

Where can I buy Yoruba beaded armchairs?

Yoruba beaded armchairs can be purchased from a variety of sources, including galleries, antique shops, and online marketplaces like Etsy. It's important to purchase from reputable sellers who can provide information on the chair's history and authenticity.

How much do Yoruba beaded armchairs cost?

The cost of Yoruba beaded armchairs can vary depending on factors such as age, condition, and rarity. Antique chairs in good condition can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Newer reproductions can be purchased for less, but may not have the cultural significance of older pieces.

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