Homeowners have over the years appreciated the value of investing in the home, with most now purchasing timeless pieces for the interiors to match the lavish houses they own.
The shopping list now consists of statement pieces that will look just as good in 20 years’ time as they are a mix of style, artistic vision, high quality, long-lasting materials, innovation and skilled craftsmanship.
Spending money on museum-worthy furniture is seen as an asset whether it is vintage or contemporary because the designs will continue to stay relevant for years to come.
Many Kenyans are now of the school of thought that while you may have to fork out a large sum upfront, collectible design will invariably gain in value over time.
These are pieces that last long enough to become family heirlooms or better yet, antiques in a few generations auctioned off for millions of shillings. This does however mean that the investment in quality matches the end product and the buyer do their due diligence on the firm being contracted.
It is no secret that cheap is expensive, and that quality is the best form of investment. One business that is offering the promise of good quality and valuable furniture for the discerning customer is The Design Gallery.
Amar Shah, the CEO, says that instead of using their budgets on items that will fall apart many Kenyans are now investing in quality furniture that can be used for many years to come.
“You want the piece to grow with you, so it needs to be timeless and multipurpose. The leather sofa from Gamma for example has a three-year warranty on the leather and the frame has a 10-year warranty which means it is quality you can trust for decades,” he says.
Items sold here may dent the pocket, but the firm says it is putting money where its mouth is with guarantee.
The Design Gallery, which started two years ago, is one among the few furniture stores offering high-value pieces that are said to increase in value instead of depreciating.
He says homeowners are also investing more on the entire home by getting in touch with interior designers immediately they break ground in their homes.
“We create the home from scratch and people want to be involved more than ever so we do the entire layout and give you the dream home based on the size and your desires,” says Shah.
When making the kitchen their clients who opt for high-end alternative spend from Sh15 million upwards on the Poliform designs.
Those who want the mid-range Scavolini designs which is their mid premium range can pay from two to five million shillings depending on the work they would like done, says Shah.
“There are different price points for different products and an average house can cost Sh1.5 million to furnish from the Colombini products we have. The price could go to tens of millions however depending on the choices of the clients,” he says.
The outdoors are also not left out when turning the home into an exquisite site for the world to marvel at.
“The SICIS collection has an outdoor furniture which retails for Sh2.5 million, it has a water repellant cover and a special cushion structure that drains the water rather than absorb it,” says Shah.
Kenyans 'can afford it'
Shah says that for a long time Kenyans were looking for these pieces in the UK or Dubai and would spend a fortune on travelling and importing the furniture, so he reckons the time has come for market players to stop offering Kenyans substandard or low-quality products thinking they cannot afford the alternative.
“We offer end to end solution and measure your space to create bespoke furniture or cabinets and we do not even have to advertise which goes to show how Kenyans are looking for world-class brands and international level products,” he says.
Another furniture store, ParisLand, notes that Kenyans are increasingly very keen on uniqueness, aesthetics and also value in terms of material, durability and functionality.
“These are factors that are found in high-quality items because attention to detail is given and as such a customer knows that they are investing in a long lasting product that will serve them well,” ParisLand Manager Christine Mwai says.
She adds that people are now asking questions about the wood, colour, fabric and seek a unique design before making a decision to buy what suits them and their theme.
Mwai says that while many think of expensive in terms of money, it is important to determine the worth of an item based on their longevity and quality.
“We pride on quality, uniqueness, and elegance and therefore the cost of the products is determined by these factors. Based on those elements, customers are able to choose what suits them best,” she says.
Mwai adds that Kenyans are excited by unique and beautiful home products in general that elevate their living spaces adding that buying is largely guided by specific needs and priority of their homes.
“You will find a person just starting out in their home, being more excited about the home basics like kitchenware, curtains, and furniture while a more settled in customer will find more of the elegant and décor items exciting,” she says.
The market is also full of knockoffs which are cheaper products which many people buy in the hopes of creating a Pinterest worthy home.
Mwai says the only way to avoid these clients have to do their research and buy from a credible store only.
“Always look around and assess how different pieces in different stores look and feel. Good quality, especially in the furniture sector, can be discerned from workmanship check is the finishing clean, strong. Also check the fabric and ask to feel it ask about the wood or metal based on your needs, knowledge will save you a lot in the end,” she says.
Naseem Omar of Nasimi Interiors, a furniture and furnishings shop in Nairobi, says that the ideal time frame to bring in a new sofa is seven years and to avoid having a sofa that is clearly past its prime then its best to invest in quality.
“We may have encountered a seating arrangement marked by a sofa that is clearly past its prime and to avoid such a snafu in your home, bring in a new model every seven to 10 years and the only way it can last that long is to have quality seats,” she says.
Omar who currently sells a leather collection in her store says that the market is currently saturated with plastics that look and feel like leather but is an imitation.
“If you notice fraying, hear creaking or get the uncomfortable sinking in feeling every time you sit on your couch, then it is probably time for a new sofa. On average, a quality fabric sofa can last seven to fifteen years; quality leather sofas can last even three times as long as fabric sofas and there is no way the cheap alternatives can last that long,” she says.
Naseem says that while people may buy a seven seater sofa for Sh250,000 thinking they have saved a few coins it may end up being expensive in the long run.
“You will find this person reupholstering every year or looking for something different in two years yet they should have just spent 600,000 and upwards for quality sofas that will last years,” she says.
Cheap Chinese imports that rose to popularity five years ago for the lower pricing and façade of class have left many homeowners disappointed, raising demand for the high end options.
European firms from the French and Italian who offer the top of the line and the Turkish that offer the mid-range products have set up shop to cushion the savvy consumers from further disappointment.
Not only do these local partners for these companies deliver the furniture, they also offer expert advice on how to tie in the unique piece into the room. This ensures that an exquisite Sh1 million sofa does not look as though it was just thrown into the room but rather that it fits in and was part of the plan.