Happy new year! Yes, 27 days in and I’m part of that irritating group of people who’ll still be wishing you a happy new year till Valentine’s day.
Speaking of starting a new year, there’s no better way of doing so without reflecting on the best parts of the last one, and it goes without saying that my highlights would be decor related. Looking back at 2017 and all the projects I undertook what really stands out are certain decor items that were true gems. Decor items that not only gave spaces that extra oomph that completed them, but were still able to stand out on their own.
Think of a fruit salad, every fruit in it can be eaten on its own but there’s that one fruit that you love way more than the others and ever time you take a scoop of the salad you have to make sure there’s a piece of that fruit (Bear with me here, this is still an interior decor blog.) Now lets say the fruit salad is a completed-well-designed space, each individual fruit would be an item in the room, a chair, painting etc, and that one fruit you love would be the items I’m referring to as the true gems of my 2017 decor experience.
Now if you’re anything like me and any mention of food gets you craving it then why dont we both go get a fruit salad before we start on the list. I’m starting to sound like the fruit salad ambassador 2018, aren’t I? Well, forgive me for that, and let me just dive straight into it.
1. THE “INCOMPLETE” MICHAEL SOI PAINTING
A couple of months ago I was at my favourite artist’s studio (if you’ve been following this blog it goes without saying that that’s definitely MICHAEL SOI) for a small meeting and as we were catching up I kept getting distracted by a large piece on his wall.
ME: I cant stop staring at this piece, it just might be one of my favourite pieces that you’ve done.
SOI: (laughing) I don’t like it and I’m actually planning to paint over it next week and start something new. It just ins’t going in the direction I want it to so now that the inspiration has left me I think its best I move on to something else.
ME: (My heart starts pounding, my feet get weak and the world starts spinning) No, you cant! That would be like painting over the Monalisa. No, I cant let you do it! Why not sell it to me.
SOI: But it isn’t even a finished piece…
ME: It is to me. I honestly love it just the way it is and I wouldn’t have one more thing added to it.
Two hours later the piece was transported to my office and was hanging on the wall. I won’t reveal to you how much he sold it to me but I can tell you it was definitely a throw away price as Michael Soi pieces go but it is undoubtedly completely priceless to me. Take a look at it to see what I mean:
It is perfect, right?
Soi had intended to fill the black with his iconic pattern in yellow but lost his motivation to do so. Thank God he did because to me this piece is complete. I see a strong modern African woman at the centre of the piece, a woman with brilliant ideas she can’t contain inside her represented by the small area of yellow pattern. I see myself, I see you, I see our sisters, mothers, aunties…I see the women of women!
2. THE TUFTED SOFA FROM ODDS AND ENDS
Now speaking of my office, one of the first items I ever got for that space was this washed out linen tufted chesterfield from ODDS AND ENDS KENYA.
You know how in movies when a woman spots the love of her life and the soundtrack changes to something sappy, something along the lines of AT LAST BY ETTA JAMES. Well, ladies and gentlemen, when I saw this sofa in the far end of the top floor of their Mombasa Road branch I heard this exact song in my head. Etta James was talking about this sofa and I when she sang:
At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over and life is like a song, oh yeah
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up clover the night I looked at you
I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill I’ve never known, oh yeah
You smiled, you smiled oh and then the spell was cast
And here we are in Heaven
For you are mine at last
I guess it’s pretty obvious that I am in love with this chesterfield. From its lived in look, due to the washed out blue colour, the explosion of tufts and its size (2.4m long, perfect for napping when I need a break from doing my accounts). The only negative thing about the piece was definitely its exorbitant price as, but every time I look, sit or sleep on it, it reminds me of how every single penny was worth it.
Unfortunately I am yet to complete my office’s decor. The funny thing about creatives is that its easier to design for others than it is for yourself, I’ve never understood why that’s the case. But excuses aside I intend to complete it next month. and after I do so you’ll be able to see how this sofa works with the painting and the rest of the space.
3. MY “WINGED HORN” PAINTING
Before I did this painting last year (see THE PAINTER’S TALE: HOW I ADDED LIFE TO A ROOM) I hadn’t painted for close to four years. They say that somethings are like riding a bike and that even after years of not doing it you can easily get back on it and ride like no time had passed. Well I can attest that painting fits that analogy way more for me than swimming even did. Yup, I hadn’t swam for like six years and when I got back into the water even floating was impossible so now Im re-learning how to swim.
Anyhu, I digress as usual!
I was pleasantly surprised that when I laid down the canvas (I can never paint with the canvas straight I guess because of our art classes in St.Mary’s where we never used easels) and picked up a brush the skills and inspiration came rushing back and I loved it.
I honestly love this piece, not only because I did it and its is in black and white (my favourite colour combination) but because it has so much power and grace in it. When people see it there are two reactions I expect, either that it looks like graceful angle wings or powerful beasts’ horns. For one piece to elicit such different reactions from people is what makes me so proud of it. Surprisingly I’ve never named it. Do you guys have any name suggestions for yours truly?
4. THE WROUGHT IRON WARTHOG HEADS
On the 18th of November I attended the Xmas box in Karen to see what this Christmas market had to offer in terms of decor.
Before I go any further I would like to take this opportunity to put out a PSA to everyone who organises fairs. Why do you make us pay to go shop? Why, I ask?! Why should I pay entrance when the vendors are also paying to exhibit and as Ive just mentioned I have come to spend money on these said vendors who have already paid you? WHY?????? Oh, and let the record show they didn’t even have any musical entertainment that they could say we were paying for!
Okay, back to the topic of discussion, decor!
5. THE KANGARUI TRIBAL ZIGZAG PLATES
I read about Rui Yamashita and her company Kangarui a couple of years back, it was so far back that I dont even remember the publication. But when you see something unique and beautiful it sticks in your head and that’s what happened when I passed by a stand at the Xmas box in Karen and saw these breathtaking prints on cushions, phone cases and plates and I knew there and then that they were Kangarui.
I stepped in and started perusing around trying to figure out which of these amazing pieces I’ll go home with and then I see them, the TRIBAL ZIGZAG collection from her adventure plates collection.
Etta James starts singing in my head again. I know you guys think I’m being dramatic but I’m not, I do honestly hear the song playing in my head when I find something that truly takes my breath away. At some point I must have shouted because everyone was staring at me as I grabbed 10 pieces and place them on the counter, without even bothering to ask how much they cost.
RUI: I’m happy you really like them. They actually just arrived this morning and you’re the first to buy them.
This must be how Armstrong felt when he landed on the moon. Yes, Im comparing being the first on the moon to being the first owner of these spectacularly beautiful plates!
After some negotiation on the price, which it was easy to come to seeing that I was technically buying bulk and also picked up a snazzy phone case, I walked off into the sunset with my prized possessions.
Fast forward to a month later when I was preparing Christmas dinner table setups for a client and I had to use these plates for a theme with a monochromatic touch (head on over to my HOLIDAY TABLE SETTINGS: CHRISTMAS EDITION post to see how they turned out). At the end of the year when all the Christmas festivities were over and it was time to retire the plates to the cupboard until the next special occasion that deserved their awesomeness I decided that it would be a crime to do so to such masterpieces. I therefore opted to utitlize them in a way that would make any interior stylist happy, by displaying them as wall art. So armed with strong double sided tape, a ladder and the will to decorate I placed them above these kitchen cabinets.
What say you, is it a yay or a nay?
6. THE PALACINA BLACK AND WHITE CUSHIONS
By now it doesn’t take a genius to know that I am a little obsessed with black and white. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that theres another item with this colour scheme on this list. Worry not this is the last of it.
I can’t remember exactly when I got these cushions but I do remember that they were on sale in Palacina Interiors (I think 1,500/- off) and I decided to get them because not only was their print perfect but so was the fabric fibre quality.
Sometimes as a designer you can’t let a deal like that go buy without taking advantage of it because it could work to the benefit of a future client. Come to think of it I have an upcoming project and I’m sure these would work perfectly in my client’s bedroom as they work well with a painting I’m proposing we hang above her bed. If you’re a designer who’s usually scared of purchasing a good bargain, because you dont currently have a client who needs it, here’s proof that good pieces always find the right home.
7. THE BATHROOM FRAMED FABRIC
This isn’t a new thing. People, myself included, have been framing beautiful fabric as art for a very long time. We all have a few extra meters, or less, of beautiful fabric that we have accumulating dust in our home so why not frame them and make them the art pieces they deserve to be. What really stands out the most about my use of framed fabric is where I opted to place them…in bathrooms. For some God forsaken reason people forget to style their bathrooms when they are doing the rest of their home and it takes a lot of persuading for my clients to see my point and when they do they always thank me for it.
Here’s a look at two framed fabrics, the top one a lesso and the bottom a kitenge, that I had used in a previous project. I’ve hang framed fabrics in more than one bathroom in various projects but this particular one gets the trophy because I am so in love with their African feel and how well I was able to make these very two different fabrics work together.
Here’s a look at how I styled them in the bathroom in a shelf area that the client didn’t know what to do with.
If you’re a fan of DIYs then this is definitely the perfect option for you because all I did was walk into a Mr.Price home, selected two frames measured and cut the fabrics into the desired sizes, put them into the frame and hang them up. It was that simple!
If you do decide to try it out please do share with me via any of the platforms I’ve mentioned below.
8. THE SEBA WALI AND JAZZANI MINAE PAINTINGS
In March last year I attended BEAUTY AND THE BEAT, Seba Wali and Jazzani joint exhibition at Shifteye gallery. To be honest I wasn’t attending with the intention of purchasing anything. I went with the intention to check out the pieces especially those that they had collaborated together because I hadn’t seen pieces done by two Kenyan artists before. Seeing that it was 10 months ago you can understand when I tell you that I don’t remember that much about the event. But as hazy as my memory seems to be, there are two moments that I remember as if it was yesterday, the moment I stood in front of these two amazing pieces.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you THE LADY and THE SECOND CROWN.
I had that palm-sweating-heart-racing-room-spinning feeling the moment I laid eyes on each of them. Seeing that it wasn’t my attention to get anything I tried to ignore the feeling and kept avoiding them as I walked around the room mingling. But as hard as I tried I couldn’t resist catching a glance of either of them. It was like I was fighting with destiny and boy was losing. After an hour of this cat and mouse game it was obvious to me, and to those who saw me stare at them like a teenager in love, that I wasn’t going to leave here without having them as my own.
What I love about both these pieces is how dark they are, and I don’t mean dark in a negative aggressive manner but dark in the soul searching, finding a light at the end of the tunnel kind of way. You know how when you walk into a dark room your eyes have to take time to adjust and when they do you can make out everything in the space. Well, if you think about it that’s how relationships (parental, friendships, romantic, you name it!) start out. You’re always in the dark about the other person’s true nature and when you get to know each other (“when you’re eyes adjust”) then you can see them for who they truly are deep down inside. I dont know if I’m making any sense at all, but that’s how I feel when I see these two pieces. It’s a reminder to me that life/relationships are more about the discovery.
What do you think of the pieces? Do you see what I see in them or do you have a completely different interpretation of them?
9. THE TABLE LIGHT FROM CREATIVE INNOVATIONS
This is hands down my favourite table lamp, not only of last year but of all time. Its sleek, its classy and it’s, as we youth like to say, lit (all pun intended). Look at it and I dare you to tell me I’m wrong! Here’s a look at how I’ve styled it on my bedside table.
It seems to be a trend that my favourite pieces seem to find me when I’m not even looking for them. In the case of this table lamp, I was at Creative Innovations Parkland’s road store picking up a ceiling light for a client. As I was waiting for them to pack it I decided to walk around taking photos of any pieces I liked that I could use for future projects. That’s when I saw this light at the table lamp section. This section, I’ll be honest, is one I’ve always ignored because I’ve never found anything interesting. In the midst of all these uninspiring table lamps was the most inspiring one I’d ever seen. Without hesitation I asked the lovely lady attending to me to test it and after confirming that it was in perfect condition, I paid for it and walked out. When I got to the car I realized that I had been so distracted by my new discovery I had completely forgotten about the light that had actually brought me here in the first place. Oops!!
10. THE SUNNYDAZE WOOD-TOP SIDE TABLES
Do you remember when I had a father’s day giveaway in collaboration with Sunny Daze Limited? Well, if you don’t you can recap here. On one of the days when I was at their Peponi road showroom organising the campaign I stumbled upon these beautiful simple wood top metal legs sidetables.
RAHIM (the owner): Ah, these one! Yes, you’re right, they are new. These are actually our first two. There used to be a huge tree in our garden that fell and seeing that it had been a part of us for all the years we had been here we decided to pay homage to it by creating this collection. That’s why we kept it very simple in order for the wood to be the centre of attention.
There’s nothing better than an item with a story behind it, except a beautiful item with a story behind it, which these sidetables definitely were. I couldn’t imagine leaving them behind but luckily I had the perfect home for them, a balcony area I was designing at the time. which was to be one of my favourite projects to date (click here to see the post on the balcony transformation I’m referring to).
11. THE USE OF BASKETS AS FLOWER/PLANT POTS
The minute you mention Red Hill Road in Nairobi this is the kind of response I’m sure you’d get:
The road with the vendors selling African baskets.
MANDALIN: It’s mostly you young ones who like placing plants in them. I used to overhear them talk amoungst each other asking whether the plant will fit well or if it’s tall enough for it and so out of curiousty I started asking everyone buying them what they intended to use them for and thats when I discovered that it was mostly for plants. I really like the idea a lot not only because it brings me more customers but also because it’s a good thing that people are surrounding themselves more with our cultural items.
12. THE WALL ART WOVEN BASKETS
Speaking of surrounding ourselves with our cultural items, my number one item is undisputedly using woven trays as wall art. As is the case with baskets they are a brilliant way to bring in colour, print and most definitely texture into a space. My favourite 2017 use of these trays is in my home’s entryway where I created a feature wall using woven african trays.
I initially only had these two large injera serving baskets that I bought in 2016 on my first visit to Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia. Knowing that I don’t like cooking, my friend, knew that I definitely wasn’t buying them to serve injera but she still couldn’t understand what I had planned for them.
A few months later she came to visit me in my old apartment and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had hang them above my bed to create a feature wall.
MY FRIEND: If I ever doubted that you were a designer you have just proved to me that you are in the right profession because never in a million years would I have ever thought of using them that way.
Fast forward to a few months later in 2017 when I moved to my current apartment and knew that my narrow entryway wall would be their next home. Because their colourful nature didn’t work so well with my home’s subdued colour scheme I opted to buy natural coloured UTEOS from a certain gentleman from Maasai market who has hundreds of them in various sizes, colours and prints.
Here’s how the combination turned out:
13. THE MARTHA MENGISTU PAINTING
If you follow me on Instagram (@theinteriordecorator) then you should know about this painting as I mentioned it a few weeks ago.
When it came to styling this apartment’s foyer it was no a brainer that I was going to use this breathtaking painting by the one, the only, Martha Mengistu that was bought at @stgeorgegalleryofethiopia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This is the first thing that hit me when I saw this piece (whose title I unfortunately dont know) and seeing that everyone who sees it states as much I’m confident you can see the strength in the image too. The women may have this soft fluid presence but their facial expressions and the strong patterns on the pots surrounding them are undoubtedly what give it the demeanour of strength.
I’ve always compared this piece to a wedding dress. The same way that there’s no way you can fail to notice anyone wearing a wedding dress, you also can’t fail to notice this gorgeous piece in a room. It definitely has presence and it manages to do so in a way that doesn’t overpower a space. The icing on the cake with this piece is definitely it’s breathtaking classic style gold and black frame made by St.George Gallery. It was the perfect frame option because it looks like a cohesive part of the art piece. Let this be a lesson to all of you who have made the mistake of placing a work of art in a frame that takes away from it. Always remember that a frame is like a good pair of shoes, it is meant to complement the outfit and make it look good but not take full attention away from it.
14. THE KASHMIR ARTS’ FEMALE PORTRAIT CUSHIONS
In the same foyer as Martha Mengistu’s painting I placed these beautiful brown female motif scatter cushions that I purchased from KASHMIR ARTS at their Sarit centre branch. I had been searching for the perfect cushions for this space for what seemed like years. In truth it was actually just two days but the frustration I was experiencing from not finding the last piece of the puzzle was getting to me. I think there’s an expression that goes along the lines of;
If you’re looking for something stop searching and it shall find you
That expression has never been so true than when it came to these cushions because on the third day I had decided to concentrate on something else and heading to NOOR LAMPSHADES to deliver fabric for some shades they were making for a client. As I was walking out I decided to pass by KASHMIR and see if they had anything new. I’ve never shopped for scatter cushions from them, it’s mostly been wooden chests and tables. For some reason today I decided to ask them if they had any new ones and as luck would have it they did and better yet they were on sale. As I waited I kept thinking that I was really wasting my time and I should be on my way to more productive endeavours. But boy, did the universe prove me wrong because when the attendant came back he was holding cushions that were exactly what I was looking for.
This precise moment actually changed my way of sourcing items because now I don’t do so with any preconceived notions of the shop I’m going to as you never know what hidden treasures they may have.
Take a look at the cushions in the space. What do you think?
15. THE VASES FROM NASIMI INTERIORS
A few weeks after they opened shop I dragged two of my friends along with me to check out the store that was on everyones tongue. You know that expression a picture is worth a thousand words well, in this day and age of editing and photoshop, it’s more like a picture is worth a thousand very different set of words. You can see images of a place online but when you get there it looks nothing like it in real life. I would like to attest that this is not the case when it comes to Nasimi Interiors, on the contrary because when we walked into their Mombasa Road showroom I can attest that the space and items of display were even more breathtaking than the images I’d seen.
As we were looking around, resisting the urge to buy everything from the store and immediately becoming bankrupt, I saw these white circular vases placed on a shelf. Nasimi describes their furniture and accessories as being Unique, Industrial & Exotic Urban and these vases are testament to that style.
From the clean white colour, to the geometric relief shapes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these vases. They are sheer perfection! I love them so much I can never bring myself to placing anything in them .To me thats the equivalent of adding salt and spices to a meal made by a Michelin Star Chef. Here’s a look at how i styled one of them on my coffee table.
So there you have it, my top 15 decor items of last year. What was your favourite of my favourites and is there one or more that you dont feel as much as I do? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below and while you’re there you’ll see a SUBSRCIBE button so why not go ahead and fill that in so that you dont miss out on my next post where I’ll vent about all the design trends that should have been left behind in 2017 the second the new year was ushered in.
Till then be sure to Be Inspired…Be you!