Most Kenyan homeowners have an idea of how they want their houses to look like: Roomy bedrooms, high ceilings, maybe a kitchen with an island or basically architectural designs drawn by a plentiful mix of palatial grandeur.
However, actualising these designs turns out to be a nightmare.
Some of the biggest challenges in Kenyan luxury homes is that there are spaces that have been overlooked and they ought to be re-designed to stand out. Some houses also have many expensive finishing that is not properly blended.
Yadav Jani, a director at One Point Six, a London-based luxury developer who has started doing projects in Nairobi says in Kenya, many homes have wasted space as people have the luxury to do so. But they lack in design cohesion.
“Many homes in Kenya have nice bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms but they often are put together incoherently, and the overall space doesn’t flow,” he says.
Sh18 million kitchen
“I saw one particular home recently where they had imported everything from Italy, so it looked expensive, but it was poorly put together. There was no cohesion in the home. There needs to be sufficient thought given to all interior spaces,” he adds.
It is from the gap that currently exists in the real estate market that the developer wants to exploit by bringing in high-end Central London finishes with a technical team with experience from a developed market to serve discerning home investors.
Although he acknowledges that Kenya’s real estate market is advancing and people are becoming more conscious on luxury living, there is still a struggle implementing it in the home.
Yadav says that many times people look through an interior decor magazine or read an online article and they think, “I want that look in my bedroom”; but they do not know where to get the same or how to put it all together.
Often, luxury homes are built by the owner-occupiers from the ground up and there is therefore a great emotional attachment that comes with that.
More often than not, a professional design team is not engaged, and the result is a property with nice individual spaces but with no base concept that ties all the jigsaw pieces together.
One of the reasons why professionals are important is that they bring experience, efficiency, and cash savings through their established networks of supplies that benefit the client. They also ensure supervision and delivery of a clean finish.
“We are seeing people spend $180,000 (Sh18 million) in a kitchen bought in local furniture stores, not knowing that professionals can source a far superior product at a fraction of the price,” Yadav said.
Another gap in the Kenyan luxury homes market is the versatility in the size of the house. There is a notion that the larger the house the nicer it is. With this misconception, Kenya has a lot of 8,000 or 10,000 square feet/ houses without character or soul.
“There is a gap for “mini mansions”, where the house is between 4,000 — 6,000 sq/ft with well thought out space planning and outdoor space to complement the interior,” the developer said.
These “mini mansions” still look very prestigious, but rather than the budget being spent on space, a developer can reduce the space slightly and have it perfectly laid out, saving money for a very beautiful interior finish.
Another problem with Kenyan luxury homes that mostly sell for over Sh90 million is that focus is on the outer or inner finishing. Kenya is blessed with great weather all year round, yet developers do not marry a great outdoor space with practical, beautiful well-thought living spaces internally.
“The family dynamic is changing in Kenya as it is everywhere around the world. Integrate spaces where families have social interaction in the evenings. Keep the kitchen, TV lounge and informal dining area in one open space. My family’s house, which was built in 1998, doesn't have this integration and evenings are spent at the dining table which isn’t ideal,” says Yadav.
Comparing prices of luxury properties in Nairobi and London, Yadav states that the latter city has always been one of the most expensive cities to live in for many decades.
In Central London, he says, homeowner pay millions of pounds for a small flat so there is no room for error from the developers.
He says that with Sh300 million one can get a very beautiful mansion in Muthaiga with a beautiful two-acre garden but with the same amount of money in Central London, one can a nice two-bedroom flat, of about 1,200 — 1,500 square foot in size, in Kensington but with no garden.
One Point Six is designing Victoria Commercial Bank in Two Rivers Mall and will develop four residential developments in Nairobi.