It doesn’t matter whether you are living in a villa or 1 bedroom house, whether you are living in a family setting, with roommates or by yourself, in the middle of a bustling city or in the suburbs, we all want to love the place we call “home”. We all want the place we go to after a long day at work, or night out with our squad to be one we want to be at. Can you imagine wanting to go back home at 3 am, after a hard party and a few drinks, and the thought of it is just dreadful? I can! I have lived that life and I did not love it one bit. Mostly because my landlady at the time used to lock up the main gate and keep the keys in her bedroom, smh. I should say, she did help me with my spending habits for a good month and a half that I lived there, now that I think about it in retrospect. The point is, we all want to go home to an inviting living room, cosy bedroom, a kitchen full of life and a welcoming restroom (am I the only one who doesn’t feel comfortable doing my “business” in other restrooms besides my own?)
Anyways, I was speaking to a friend recently. She and her fiancé just bought a semi complete house and they are very excited about the new place they plan to call home very soon. We were talking paint colours, furniture, decorations, gardens and everything beautiful you can expect new homeowners to be dreaming and talking about.
As the minutes ticked by, the conversations got deeper, the dreams sobered up, the costs related to finishing this dream home became more apparent, in short, reality struck! Can we really find the items we want on the market? She asked. How much does a bathroom cabin cost? Do we really need to tile the whole kitchen? I want a beige velvet sofa set; do I need to import it?
As a construction and interior design enthusiast, this got me thinking; surely, it should not have to be that nerve wracking to undertake a project like this. We see all these Do-It-Yourself videos all over the internet anyways, right? You tubers and instagramers do it in 5 minutes. In 5 minutes! Or they make us believe they do. So anyway, I decided to write down what to consider should I undertake this Do-It-Myself project one day, and share it with the world. I hope that I can help someone out here or better still open this discussion up to share ideas. So here goes, 10 tips to consider when thinking about improving your living space!
My House, My Rules!
I feel like a lot of the time, we set up our living spaces to be able to impress guests like the judgmental aunt who may spend the night on her stop over while visiting relatives, the nosy co-workers you want to show that you are doing just fine. It could be your girlfriends who may want to throw a bridal shower, or the guys who may want to watch the champion’s league final at your house.
I do not think it should be the case, my house is supposed to reflect who I am, my personality, and the energy I want for my family. So I will think about how much space I have. How many children do I want (have)? How long do I plan to live in this dwelling unit? I want to consider how my life may change over time, and how my living space may evolve through the different seasons of my life. How will my set up serve me in terms of functionality, mobility, flexibility etc.? I want use the space I have for items that enhance my space but that I can use, for example and overhead lamp as a decoration as well as lighting. Items that potentially have more than one function like a TV console to carry my TV, home theatre system (if these still exist), as well as act as a mini library for my book collection. You get the picture.
Who Am I
Building on point above, I want to come to a home where the shades, colours, and textures make me feel relaxed and at home literally, rather than exacerbate the struggles of the day. Now we all have different preferences. Some personalities prefer bold colours such as shades of orange that make for a happy welcoming feeling, while other personalities prefer cooler colours like shades of light grey that give a relaxing feeling.
I find that more generic and boring shades of cream, green and blue will subconsciously suck the passion and liveliness out, creating a slow and boring life eventually. That’s just me though. There are some playful shades of cream, green and blue that work well though. Next time you are painting your living area, don’t be boring. In the next blog post, we will be talking about colour combinations, how they speak about who we are, and the subconscious affect they have on us. Stay tuned.
To Save Water and Energy
I am one of those people who cannot have a cold morning shower. I do not care if it is the dry season or rainy season, my morning showers have to be warm. Now that puts my newly evolved environmentally cautious self in a precarious position. How do I enjoy my warm morning showers while saving the environment at the same time? How do I save water and energy in a sustainable way? To be honest, I am still figuring that out.
As I embark on this new environmental cautious journey, I have made some lifestyle decisions to start me off. I have adopted intentional actions like switching off all lights I do not need, unplugging my chargers when not in use, turning off the water tap between brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth, and using less water to shower; I have switched from (the very expensive) electric water heater to warming my bath water on the gas stove. I should say I was going to ditch the water heater anyway; the electric bill was killing me! If you use a shower, shortening your shower should do it too. If you are an environmentally cautious person as I am, you will want to think about things like having natural lighting to replace the artificial lighting, harvesting rainwater, fixing leaks on water taps, bathroom, toilet etc.
There are also cool things like sensors that turn on and off lights when movement is detected, solar powered security lighting systems, solar powered water heating systems, using energy efficient appliances and water efficient installations. For example, there are newer ultra-low flow toilet versions on the market that use significantly less water (6 litres/toilet flush) compared to the older versions (using 13.4 litres/flush). Contact the Urugo experts on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to save money and the environment.
A Mix of Memories and Aspirations
When I was moving house from my old bachelor spot to my new married home, I brought with me an old candle holder and wall decoration of a lizard that I was given by a dear friend who passed on (God rest his soul). I also moved with my old but beloved home theatre system. These items give me fond memories of years past. They hold sentimental value for me.
I bought my home theatre system with my second salary as a working adult! It cleaned out my entire salary, so you can imagine why I am so attached to it. As soon as our married life began, my wife, being the more artistic of the two and I went to work to design the living room, home office, dining area to give the home more life. I installed some of my style and she too brought her style to birth a beautiful blend of the things that remind us of where we have come from and the things that give us a glimpse of what we can build together. This is definitely something to keep in mind with all our future redecorating projects.
The Antique Look or the Modern Setting
In our African culture, we more often than not go for the more modern setting, dismissing the antique setting as old-fashioned. I should say, there are items that will make the home look outdated. For example, those living room chairs of the good old days that needed to be dressed with those hand knitted perforated tablecloths, or the white cloth with green flowers sewed in the middle. If you do not know what I am talking about, sorry to bust your bubble but anything you consider antique really isn’t!
I truly believe that one can take the modern concepts of furniture especially and give them an antique African look should they choose to do so. There are many beautiful African concepts one can employ to get the antique/modern mix. I love ancient African woodcarvings and the playful details on some of the wall hangings. I do not know about the furniture though, I have seen some creative ways the Rwanda traditional basket has been woven into a chair. It would take a superb creative to apply that look for an entire living room. But not the African patterns though. Those will turn a plain and dull room into a room beaming with vitality and energy. Definitely one of the things I would consider when enhancing my living space.
Bringing More Light in the Room
For me, lighting is very key. It affects me, and I believe all of us, in various ways. I want to have enough light in the house. Natural light especially makes me feel positive and awake. In fact, it is said that bright rooms make people feel more alive, happier and more productive. I love wide windows that let the natural light come pouring in to the house. I want to make sure there is maximum daylight pouring into the house.
A thing to consider when you want to have more light in your house is using reflective surfaces. Using surfaces like large wall mirror creatively will improve your lighting significantly. A clever way of using a wall mirror is placing it opposite the window so it reflects all the light back into the room. Other items to consider are chandeliers that reflect light, replacing dark or heavy curtains that absorb light with lighter ones, and using lighter paint colours for dark rooms.
Colours like white will reflect light back in to the room. In addition, using light coloured throw pillows and bedding can help to balance out the dark room. For the kitchen, consider using pendant lighting. This keeps the kitchen well lit well into the night.
Decorating with Arts and Crafts
For a while now, the art scene has been growing and improving steadily. So much so that you can get a portrait painting of yourself. There is no better way to accentuate your personal touch to your living space than to put up a portrait of yourself! There are however many options for decorative hangings from the traditional Rwandan Imigongo and baskets, to wall hangings with inspirational quotes, art and much more. This will boil down to personal preferences.
Family Portraits, Wall Art and More
Something about constantly seeing the people you love that just gives meaning to life. Beautifully framed revered family portraits will bring a room to life, as well as create a feeling of intimacy and joy. I entered a baby’s room once that had beautiful portraits of the baby’s little hands and feet and face, it just gave me such good feelings seeing these portraits. Wall paper will also turn a plain room into a beautiful space. Given, there are still very few options for wall paper in Kigali but the scene is growing steadily.
Taking it step further, murals! Now these can come as wallpaper too, but they can also be hand painted murals, customized to fit your taste. Murals are a statement, a way of fearless self-expression. Mural bring life, dynamism, creativity and all round feeling of being awake and aware of ones surroundings. I feel like this is still an underutilized interior decor element.
Choosing the Best Curtains, Cushions and Rugs
Now choosing the curtains-cushions-rug combo is a usually an overlooked interior design decision. Often times, we tend to choose them independently. I am not disputing that it does not work; I am just saying that it works much better when considered together. The details in the curtains, cushions and rug will either make or break the room. Of course, this decision will match the individual personalities for example; some personalities may go for quirky, playful and vibrant decor of bright coloured curtains, fruity patterned cushions and rug. This look is great for smaller spaces. Others may go for the more organically blended softer colour palettes, which gives the room a subtle stubborn and whimsical feel (works best for personalities with a hint of OCD). This setting is also great for rooms that are more spacious.
Some may choose youthful patterns, on-trend artistic style while others may go for the minimum colour and maximum pattern look to achieve a more dark, modern and mature look. Again, this can go so many ways. At urugo.store, we help you to understand what works well for you and your space.
Light, Light, Light
I cannot emphasize this enough; light is one of the most important elements in interior decor. Furnishing your living space with the right lighting will determine the feel and look of the space. If you think about it, how you light your kitchen will be (and should be) very different to how you light your home office bedroom.
Choosing a lighting option is very similar to choosing an attire or accessories for an outfit, it has to match the place and/or occasion. Beachwear and its accessories cannot (and should not) be applied in a professional setting and vice versa. You see my point, right. Visit www.urugo.store to get a few ideas on the lighting options. Here are a few lighting tips;
- Use chandeliers for spaces that need enough lighting for example the living room and dining areas. Also positioning lamps around the outside of the rooms will give an illuminating light effect towards the centre of the room.
- Using paired lights adds asymmetry to a room, and gives it a more proportional look.
- Lighting for specific tasks should be bright enough and well directed to the task. For example lighting for the kitchen, reading, make up etc. If you opt for table lamp lighting for tasks, make sure the lamp is well positioned so that it does not cast a shadow to the task.