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Design & Interiors

Adding vibe to furniture with versatile African prints

Pillows and sofa cover knitted from kikoi material. Behind is a wall art made of different kitenge materials by Winne Bwire. Ssays her clients love warm colours. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG
Pillows and sofa cover knitted from kikoi material. Behind is a wall art made of different kitenge materials by Winne Bwire. Ssays her clients love warm colours. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG 

With African fabrics in vogue, interior designers are making living rooms and dining rooms more lively.

The vibrant style of using Ankara, kente and leso has arrived on the world stage with a US-based designers using it to upholster chairs or ottomans.

In Kenya, the trend is also picking up fast.

Winnie Bwire, who has been running her two-year-old Kejani interior and exterior company, is one of the designers giving homes an African colourful touch.

She upholsters furniture with local Maasai “shukas” or cloths, lesos, vitenges, linen, velvet, chambray and floral fabric.

“I buy the fabrics in all markets in Kenya. If I see an amazing piece and I got the cash, then I buy,” she said.

If you want to go African in your living room, dining or bedroom, the materials used should blend with the colour used on the walls.

“Pick the colours that are to be used on the furniture based on paint on the wall. Also, consider the lighting, carpets, lampshades, wall arts and other accessories,” she says.

Ms Bwire says many clients prefer cool tones colours; that is red, brown, blue, white, orange, grey and yellow—the colours that really “pop”.

African fabric-covered chairs. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

African fabric-covered chairs. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

After consulting with the owner of the property and knowing the colours they want to be used and also the paint, Ms Bwire goes ahead to work with carpenters; she sew the fabric while the carpenters fix the sofas.

“I do not nail the fabric on to the sofas. I use Velcro fasteners that makes it easier for one to undo the fabric and clean it and tuck it back. The Velcro rarely wears out,” she says.

You can also go pillow cases make from African designs.

Ms Bwire says her customers spend from Sh15,000 to thousands of shillings to give their homes a new African look.

“I love my Ankara sofa designs most. In fact, most of my clients love them too,” she says.

She also makes Ankara wall arts and accessories made from animal skin and feathers. 

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