Cultural interior designs inspiration from Sabah & Sarawak

The beauty of Sabah and Sarawak are reflected in the rich and diverse culture and tradition of their people. Until today, the people here retain their ancient cultural heritage that is their pride.

Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is home to 27 ethnic races and over 45 different dialects spoken, with each group having their own unique stories, beliefs, traditions and cultures.

Meanwhile, in Sabah alone, more than 30 distinct and individually recognized ethnic races live together harmoniously with over 80 local dialects spoken.

With the influence of these two culturally-diverse states, we look into some of the elements of their bespoke artisanal traditional arts and handicrafts that may just inspire your next interior design project. These traditional elements express the creativity of the local community and can be incorporated into your living space.

Wood carving

Wood carving originated as a task to produce crafts for religious festivities or rituals that decorate the long houses. Today, these skilled woodcarvers produce contemporary works of arts like musical instruments, traditional armor shields and beautifully carved panels and doors. Wood carvings are also incorporated into their daily lives in forms of tribal wooden sculptures.

Weaving with natural plant fibers

Weaving and basketry is the most widespread craft among the different ethnic groups of Sabah and Sarawak. A variety of materials sourced from the jungle such as rattan, nipah, pandanus, bemban reed, bamboo and soft tree barks are weaved into all kinds of products, either of functional or aesthetic value. Some of the finest examples of their excellent weaving skills-manship is transforming these unique materials into many contemporary products such as mats, rugs, bags, baskets, trays, bags, and even decorative pieces like keychains.

Textile weaving and tapestry

The Iranun community is known for their tapestry. Some of their popular textile art works include Mugah, Dastar and Ampik, which each woven fabric is used for different purposes. The Dastar is often used as ceremonial headgear by ethnic groups such as the Kadazan, Dusun and Bajau. The beautiful handwoven pieces are also the choice material for traditional weddings. These hand woven tapestries are made using threads, either cotton, gold, silver or silk, and worked over different portions of a warp to form unique tapestry weave designs that the Iranuns are known for. The handwoven cloth is also often used as wall decorative pieces, handbags and table furnishings.


Beadworks are probably the most artistic and perhaps the most socially significant craft of the people of Sabah. According to the early days, these brilliantly colourful beads which were worn by women indicated their social status and individuality. These gorgeous accessories are famous all over and can be found across the state of Sabah. Meanwhile in Sarawak, household items, baby carriers, clothing and headgears are decorated with intricate patterns of antique and vibrant-coloured glass beads.

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