Design & Interiors

Light it up with bamboo

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Kenny Kahiga, Dim Lights co-founder, showing their light designs made from giant bamboo in Tigoni, Kiambu County. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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Summary

  • 30-year-old Sylvia, an interior designer, is using the plant that grows in discrete cylindrical to create ambience lighting and accessories.
  • This kind of lighting has been used to set tones in homes, create a cosy feeling in the room or point of focus in rooms mostly using candles or LED lighting.
  • The business, Dim Lights Kenya, was started two years ago with the intention to create pieces that would improve space design in hotels, restaurants and serve as background for home decorations.

Environmntalists say where bamboo grows along a river bank, chances are the water is clean. For Sylvia and Kenny Kahiga in Tigoni, Kiambu County, in bamboo they saw a medium they can explore for creative interior works.

30-year-old Sylvia, an interior designer, is using the plant that grows in discrete cylindrical to create ambience lighting and accessories. This kind of lighting has been used to set tones in homes, create a cosy feeling in the room or point of focus in rooms mostly using candles or LED lighting.

The business, Dim Lights Kenya, was started two years ago with the intention to create pieces that would improve space design in hotels, restaurants and serve as background for home decorations.

The pieces stand as decorative floor lamps with a soft glowing light.

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light designs made from giant bamboo in Tigoni, Kiambu County. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“The pieces are not purposely for lighting but serve as mood lights,” says Sylvia.

The plant is used for many environmental benefits such as controlling soil erosion, conserving biodiversity and beautifying a landscape. Its timber is used in value added products for construction, flooring and panels.

However, the idea of customising the plant as natural interior décor has not been common in Kenya as people do not know where to source the products and have focused on the metals.

The duo buys bamboo canes from farmers in Kiambu at Sh1,000 apiece depending on size and length. The giant ones are preferred because of their hollowness and walled at the top and bottom.

They are then cut into different pieces, depending on the size of the lamp required. A grown giant bamboo of 10 metres could get 10-12 small lamps, four medium types and three or two large ones.

“The small lamps are best when used as bedside lamps. You can have the big pieces in the living room, or place two of them on both sides of the TV stand or on an idle corner,” she adds.

“The idea is to have a mood in the house and instead of lighting up normal bulbs, let say when watching a movie, you can use them.” The process involves drilling small holes that follow a pattern to allow light out and sandpapering of the bamboo on the outside and inside.

The designs are made from drawn patterns on paper then printed on the bamboo piece or drawing free-hand.

The designs can either be names, leafy designs, maharaja design, senorita and New York that are common with women and men respectively.

The pieces come in wood brown and black colour with a lifetime guarantee due to the clear spray that is used to enhance the colour to stick for ages on the wood, also giving it a sheen.

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light designs made from giant bamboo in Tigoni, Kiambu County. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

This process could take at most one week with three hours for drawing, two hours for drilling and there days to sandpaper a large piece.

The complexity of designs and colouring depend on client’s requests.

“Clients can request the designs and colours they want. Some also order plain and have the natural green bamboo colour fade with years before resorting to painting them,” says Kenny.

“We have really invested in the drilling and sandpaper materials and, therefore, we have to do the details ourselves. However, the cutting is done in nearby town, Banana Hill market, as the cutting machine has been quite expensive to acquire.”

The pieces are sold at Sh1,500 to 2,500 for small, Sh4,500 to Sh5,500 for the medium cuts and Sh6,000 to Sh10,000 for the large ones, with the prices varying on diameter.

“The feedback from clients, mostly family settings and hotels, is very positive because the items are unique and durable especially for surroundings with children because they cannot break.”

Other products the duo has made from bamboo include candle holders, decorations, candy jars, fruit basket, flower vase, spoon holders or spice and kitchen containers.

The Kahigas’ plan to do wall brackets in addition to the alternatives on the markets including small canvas paintings, plastic art, glass and chandelier lighting designs to change the idea of what can be done with bamboo.

Dim Lights also hire out the lightings for events and have been targeting exhibitions and markets with other artists at venues, including Carnivore and K1 Klubhouse.

“Mostly, we land on the exhibitions on online platforms trying to target the right clientele like resorts, hotels and urban settings or families who are artistic.”

Sylvia says the venture has been made possible by availability of raw materials and sensitisation by Environment and Forestry ministry to farmers to grow the plant for value addition.

In September, Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said the government will scale up growing of bamboo across the country towards actualisation of its commercialisation.

During the celebration to mark the World Bamboo Day at Michuki Memorial Park in Nairobi, Mr Tobiko said the State would make bamboo growing a priority.

The Kenya Forestry Research Institute was also permitted to import 4.5 tonnes of seeds to produce seedlings needed for bamboo growing.

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