Elements of Indonesian Culture Used in Interior Design Today


You may not notice it, but many décor items in homes, apartments and commercial spaces all around the world come from Indonesia. For instance, Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of natural rattan and exports raw materials sourced from its regions to furniture manufacturers worldwide.

Let’s take a deep dive into the world of Indonesian decorative items, ingrained as part of the country’s culture and how it is incorporated into marvellous interior design creations today.


A rattan farmer in Indonesia. Source: inaturefilms.org

Rattan is usually perceived as an exotic material to the rest of the world. However, in Indonesia, it is one of the most abundant materials produced, with a production capacity of up to 400,000 tonnes per year. Cirebon in West Java is the centre of rattan production in Indonesia, and is responsible for 80% of Indonesia’s rattan enterprises. Raw rattan is also found in other regions such as Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Sumatra.

Rattan is an extremely versatile material. It can be used to create a wide variety of items, such as baskets, furniture, mats, animal traps, broom handles, sticks, birdcages and many more. In construction, rattan is used to bind houses, fences, bridges and even boats without the use of a single nail. Ropes for tethering buffaloes, mooring ropes, and anchor and bridge cables can also be made from rattan.

Sasak Gantung, a rattan bridge in Pantai Pangandaran, Indonesia. Source: rueeproject.wordpress.com

Rattan is mainly used to create furniture in Indonesia. It is bent, woven and then tied to make different pieces such as beds, tables, chairs and even cabinets. Furniture pieces using rattan are extremely popular in Europe, USA and Japan and are considered as luxury pieces. Due to its popularity, Indonesian businesses have grown stronger than just manufacturing, but also in design. Today, many Indonesian brands produce rattan furniture in different styles and are exported all over the world.

Rattan is most frequently used as outdoor furniture due to its durability. Source: peterandrews.com


This famous textile is not just used in fashion anymore. As I’m sure you know, batik is the art form of decorating cloth using wax and dye. It has been around for centuries and is part of ancient tradition, especially in Java. Contemporary batik on the other hand is noticeably different from the more traditional and formal styles. Other techniques include etching, discharge dyeing, stencils, different tools for waxing and dyeing, wax recipes with different resist values and work with silk, cotton, leather, paper or even wood and ceramics.

An Indonesian batik maker using the traditional technique. Source: tripcanvas.com

Batik has entered the Interior Design industry in a massive way. The traditional batik patterns have been incorporated into decorative items and materials. You can now see them on pillowcases, upholstery, carpets, tapestries and even tile. The versatility of batik motifs can be used with any colour palette and design aesthetic, hence its popularity all over the world.

A rug design inspired by the batik water-resist dyeing technique. Source: indesignlive.com

Wayang Puppets

Wayang is a form of shadow puppetry that originated in Java in the tenth century. The most popular types of puppets used in this ancient form of entertainment are the Wayang Kulit made from leather and Wayang Golek which are three-dimensional wooden figures. It is one of the most prominent parts of Indonesian culture, with its origins tracing back to the spread of Hinduism in the medieval era and the arrival of leather-based puppet art called thalubomalata from southern India.

A traditional Wayang play. Source: Wikipedia.org

Contemporary usage of Wayang figures have transformed into more than just a form of entertainment. Originally sold as a souvenir all around Java, Wayang puppets have now made its way into the Interior Design industry as ornaments and elaborate pieces of décor. Today, you’ll be able to see Wayang puppets as figurines, sculptures and wall art in homes all over the world.

Wayang used as contemporary wall art. Source: society6.com

Wood Carvings

The art of wood carving has been used in Indonesia for centuries. It can be seen in tribal art from Dayak, Asmat, Toraja and Niak tribes but more famously from the cultures of Jepara and Bali. Balinese wood carvings in particular began in the 13thcentury as a result of artisans from the Majapahit Kingdom entering Bali and were mainly used for religious purposes. Old Balinese carvings were constrained by tradition and only were of figures of Gods and demons.

Wood carving by hand is an ancient form or art in Indonesia. Source: bhagawatiindustries.com

Today, Balinese wood carvings are used as beautiful interior design elements all over the world. It was first exported by Dutch traders in the 1930s to the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, and is now found in homes and even international hotels as luxurious bedroom décor across multiple continents. Common uses of Balinese wood carvings are on beds as headboards, wall art, on picture frames, and as statues or trinkets as décor.

Wood carvings are often used on headboards and lamp stands as a unique feature. Source: creativehomex.com

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