Of all the interior design styles that can go horribly wrong, the tribal or so-called out-of-Africa look is right there at the top of Kilimanjaro. For a start, there's the issue of political correctness and the idea you may be appropriating somebody else's culture. Ditto when it comes to using endangered species to make an impact. You may think an elephant foot umbrella stand looks great beside the front door and a baby rhino's head provides visual interest on the living-room wall but others might not. Few things look worse than a tribal overdose. The key here is restraint or less is more, as the modernists would have us believe. 'It's quite a difficult look to achieve and when it's done badly, can be awful,' says Meryl Hare of interior design firm Hare and Klein. 'You can overdo it and end up with an African theme park.' Hare's advice is to use a few key, quality objects and artefacts, rather than a glut of cheap, mass-produced copies. 'The Africans are particularly good at making things from wire and bottle-tops. If it's creative and a beautiful thing, then I'm even more intrigued by it,' she says. Hare chooses the tribal artefacts carefully. 'It should have merit in its own right,' she says. 'Each piece has to stand up to scrutiny and be of the same standard you would apply to a so-called designer item.' Hare has used woven baskets, ornate carved masks and nomadic rugs as objets d'art. And by no means does she stick to one country or continent. Her eclectic approach results in interiors that appear to have evolved over years, rather than been put together in a day. When selecting materials for soft furnishings, she mixes and matches fabrics from disparate sources, such as India and Turkey. When it comes to the furniture, Hare will team African pieces with early Georgian English antiques. 'Georgian simplicity juxtaposes nicely with the more ornate tribal aesthetic,' she says. 'In the same way, northern Chinese artefacts, which tend to be less embellished and often over-sized, work well with this overall look.' When selecting wall art, you should remember the strong influence tribal art had on the cubists, particularly Picasso. The faces on the figures in his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon were inspired by African sculptures seen in the Palais du Trocadero in Paris. Can't afford an original Picasso? A contemporary Australian Aboriginal painting would work well with a tribal interior, especially one characterised by strong geometric forms and bold colours (go to www.gallerygondwana.com.au for some examples). Ruth Levine, of RLDesign, agrees with Hare with regard to eclecticism. 'Like anything, it's about achieving the right balance and giving yourself space to breathe,' she says. Levine has used the look to great effect in exhibition apartments (top), where she balances the dark, rough hewn timber of African bowls and Bamileki stools from Cameroon with sleek, contemporary finishes. Visual interest is also created by framing vibrant African jewellery. She often uses spices such as turmeric for inspiration when designing a palette. Levine sources much of her wares (such as Malian horses, left) from Orient House ( www.orienthouse.net.au ), which ships worldwide. She also uses classic mid-century furniture, such as the Eames DCM (dining chair metal), with its rich, walnut component. 'I'll combine the machined perfection of the DCM with a hand-made African coffee table because I find the contrast fascinating.' Would she toss a zebra rug into the mix? 'No. I'd rather see my zebras in the wild,' she says. 'A modern textural rug would be my preference.'