Having a bed made to your exact requirements is one of life’s luxuries. But we don't always get that ultimate bed because either it is not locally available or it is too hectic to custom-make. And nowadays, it maybe too expensive to buy or takes longer to make, following the ban on logging which made it hard to easily source for quality wood.
But Kenyan buyers have found an alternative; wrought iron beds warped into fancy Pinterest designs.
At Johnson Mukolwe's makeshift store in Nairobi, there are many iron beds in different designs and colours.
Most of them are made on order and within two days they are bought and he has to make new ones.
He started his bed-making business barely a year ago and now he makes about Sh250,000 a month especially after the logging ban and Pinterest advent.
The 30-year-old now makes from 20 to 25 metal beds in a good month. He sells them from Sh10,000 to Sh16,000 which is cheaper than a typical six-feet ready-to-buy mahogany wood bed which usually costs upwards of Sh100,000.
Kenyans have started falling in love with wrought-iron beds not solely because of the recent government’s decision to impose a timber ban as result of mass logging countrywide but they want to copy the fancy bedroom designs on Pinterest or Houzz apps.
In 1980s, simple metal beds were a must-find in most homes, hospitals and schools until wooden beds took over.
However, with new designs and machines to warp the metals into any designs, they are making a comeback in modern bedrooms. The metal beds are also more durable compared to wooden ones which start creaking after a few years.
Takes a day
The ban, according to Mr Mukolwe, just made the business better.
“The demand has always been there. The ban just elevated it to a new higher level. The high wooden furniture prices opened many customers’ eyes and shifted purchase decision to wrought iron items,” he says.
For craftsmen like Mr Mukolwe, based in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, the craft of making metal beds have all along been cheaper and require less logistics and time to make a ready item.
They make from bar stools, plant holders to bookshelves in a day.
Meanwhile, the process of making wooden bed or bookshelf is involving; expensive raw materials, sawing, sandpaper, and applying clear and finishing paints. Compared to iron’s cheap raw materials, Mr Mukolwe says, he only needs basic bending designs using a gauging machine and paint application.
“And for us getting raw materials is easier, storage is also easier and supply is steady throughout. Unlike wooden beds where getting raw materials depends on certain laws, the finished product has to be kept under certain temperatures, or be treated first before storage, iron defies all that,” he says.
He says their customers come from all walks of life.
“Most of them are from Nairobi. However, others who buy from here take them home to as far as Limuru, Kisumu, Busia and Mombasa.”
But when buying wrought iron beds, ensure the metal used is heavy enough otherwise you will end up with a weak bed.
Although the government has since lifted the time logging ban, prices of furniture has not gone down as many suppliers are yet to adjust their rates.
However, at Fairdeal Furniture, with a showroom located on Nairobi's Mombasa Road, prices of both metal and wooden beds remains stable since the firm imports its products hence not affected by the timber ban.
“Our prices remain the same and sales has been steady throughout. The ban didn’t affect us and both beds (metal and wooden) sales have been stable throughout,'' says Fairdeal’s Mustafa Amir Ali.
“Most of the materials imported are ready made only to fix them here then distribute to our outlets that are spread across the country or sell them directly.”
The company with a main showroom in Nairobi’s Mombasa road supplies imported hardware materials and ready-made furniture, with distribution point in Mombasa town, Nyali, Malindi, Nakuru, and Eldoret.