Vanessa Hanka sold her London house to settle in Nanyuki town, fulfilling her teenage dream when she climbed Mount Kenya on her 21st birthday.
“Sunrise and sunset have become part of my life every morning. No winter or spring but a perfect, romantic weather on the foothills of Mount Kenya everyday,” she told BD Life when we visited her at Mukima Ridge, a gated estate in Nanyuki with 10 houses, each standing on 15 acres of pristine olive shrubs and grasslands.
After she bought the four-bedroom 1940s colonial-style bungalow, Ms Hanka spent about two years sprucing up the interiors.
She shipped in furniture collected during her work-life as a banker and headhunter in London as well as while staying in Singapore and Hong Kong where she sold designer lamp stands and other decorative home fixtures sourced from India, Burma and New York.
“I made it into a perfect home full of love for my children aged 19 and 18. It restored my happiness that I had lost when I divorced my Czech husband,” she says.
In Nanyuki, where she has lived for five years, Ms Hanka opened two shops dealing in designer rustic lampstands, curtains and collector items. But she closed down the shops due to poor sales.
“No one appreciated the pain I went through to import the products that they kept asking for a bargain. I need an income to pay for my children’s university education and so I have no choice but to sell my house to release equity,” she says.
The house is being sold at Sh100 million together with its fittings and fixtures.
“But, I am not leaving Kenya, Kenya is the Mecca of outdoor enthusiasts-mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoning and wildlife connoisseurs,” she adds.
Her love for rustic decor starts right from the entrance with a Lamu door handmade by Ali “Skanda” Abdalla Ali, a master carver and dhow builder born to a family of crafts in Lamu.
There is a water fountain leading to a court that she turned into a barbecue spot for many a night when friends visit. Four lampstands from South of France adorn the corners of the rectangular water fountain.
Next to the fountain is an Indian doorway from Burma that she shipped in together with her furniture. She has since transformed the Indian doorway into a human-size mirror holder.
Around the house is a garden raced with over 100 species of flowers. An ardent art collector, Ms Hanka says, she bought some of the old drawings from eBay and others from Kenyan artists.
“I bought this Cameroonian feather-made headdress, Nepalese Kukri knife, Indian candle holder, handwoven Indian mats among others as mementoes from my numerous trips abroad,” she says as we enter the sitting room.
On a rustic four-legged table are stacks of leather-bound albums made by a self-help group of Malaysian handicapped men.
At the drawing room, there are tens of history books about Kenyan communities.
Ms Hanka’s favourite room is the cinema room which had portraits of legend actors and actresses pinned on the walls.
She says most evenings are spent at the veranda facing Mt Kenya or at her pagoda on a hanging bed watching the sun go down the Aberdare Ranges.
The property also has a game room with a pub, table tennis, snooker table, gym equipment as well as darts boards.
“It took me two years to turn this house with its three-bedroom cottage and a two-bedroom staff house into a home,” she says, adding that the house sits in the middle of wildlife.
Nanyuki is courting wealthy Kenyans and expatriates buying second and third luxury homes in Kenya as it has a colonial charm and the expansive land is unspoiled.
Mukima Ridge developed by architect Leslie Ducksworth is one of the high-end properties in Nanyuki. Ms Ducksworth, a Briton, also owns the exclusive Kizingoni Beach houses in Lamu.
Together with her husband, David Campbell, they started a property business in Shela, Lamu about 30 years ago which involves restoring old houses and selling them to wealthy expatriates.