There has been a dramatic change in how houses are built in Tanzania. In the past all that people wanted was a roof over their heads, but now middle-class homeowners are going for more stylish, more modern, and more contemporary designs. This trend is evident in most of Dar es salaam’s new neighbourhoods, and when contrasted to the previously functional copycat buildings, it is a breath of fresh air.
However, when one visits many of these houses one is left with a feeling of dissatisfaction, as if all that praiseworthy work is still inadequate somehow. Something is indeed lacking – most of these projects tend to focus on the buildings’ structures only, with little or no indication of interior designing whatsoever. And it is such a waste to see a house with remarkably high quality of finishing – beautiful floors, expensive furniture, electronics, cabinetry, etc. – yet nothing fits in the eyes. The use of space, arrangement of furniture, colour palettes, décors, use of lighting, design styles, etc. – everything is wrong.
What people usually do is to start by shopping around for what they like – furniture, curtains, and yadda yadda yadda – then think of a way of organising the resultant chaotic mix into a sensible design. This is a quite common mistake, and it usually fails. Splashing of money in purchasing unrelated stuffs won’t magically result in beauty. Beauty is created by design – and that’s why interior designing is an art.
Designers understand that a house is more than a real estate project – it is a living space that should reflect and compliment a family’s lifestyle. One needs to have a plan in advance because the choices that will be made at the beginning will greatly impact the options one will remain with at the implementation stage. It is recommended to use professionals – there are few of them in Tanzania and some are very expensive – but if you are ready to put some effort it is possible to improve your home on your own too.
The building’s floor plan is the starting point. This is what will provide an organisational pattern for the use of space based on the functions of the rooms within. One can use several design applications that are available for this purpose. Alternatively, one can use paper models. Get as large a piece of paper as possible to help you visualise your space easily.
In space designing, how rooms ought to look and feel need to be determined by what they are primarily used for. For example, a living room which is primarily functioning for watching TV will have the TV set at the room’s focal point and people will need comfortable seats for extended viewing. Many questions will have to be answered to achieve a holistic feel of design: how many people will be using that space, will there be children or not, how are they going to move around the space, what is the amount of lighting needed, what will be adequate airflow, what are the house’s storage requirements, etc. Then items are arranged to optimise those elements.
Moreover, a design plan needs to have a colouristic signature that grounds the style used. I am personally greatly influenced by contemporary style interiors and related colours – neutrals, black, and white – where black is used for grounding and walls – painted with colours with neutral tones such as white, off-whites, grey, lilac, beige and ivory – providing a background that accentuate exotic coloured accessories.
Finally, consider your décor, things such as your use of fabrics, vases, pictures, carvings, etc. This does not have to be an awfully expensive exercise in an African context: there are many things which can be used to spice up a living space without breaking the bank. Use things which are inspired by nature, cultures, or geographic locations. A prominent plant in a simple pot can serve the purpose. A well organised bookshelf can be very appealing. Styling one’s bedroom can dramatically change its feel. And lighting accessories can add great value to your space. In all this, try to avoid cluttering your space – as far as designing is concerned, less is more.
Today’s buildings don’t have to be only functional: people want to see beauty – beautiful floors, closet space, stylish bathrooms, etc. People want their offices or homes to say something about their personalities, brands, and lifestyles. People want to feel secure without feeling boxed in. A well-designed office or house space can truly take a person’s breath away. That’s why interior designing has to take centre stage now in our projects.
Do you want to redesign your house or rebrand your office with contemporary or sophisticated African styles? Please tell us what you have in mind.
Writer’s name: Grace Makakala