Senanu Arkutu is the director of pan-African interiors company Daar Living. Here she shares the best ways to incorporate African elements into existing décor and tells us about the burgeoning interiors scene in her home city of Accra, capital of Ghana.
Hi Senanu, tell us a bit about your interiors business…
Daar Living is a specialist interior design shop and styling service located in Osu, Accra. Our style is vibrant and fun, and also really Pan African, because things come to us from all over the continent. I love our colonial furniture, which I refinish, and it sells in the shop. Although we will always have a physical store, due to rising demand – including international enquiries – we are starting to pivot to online, e-commerce and wholesale.
What are the trademarks of African interior design?
Because African interior design is yet to be defined by African designers themselves, I believe there is a lot of flexibility. Often people will link it to Scandinavian, saying that it looks similar, and while both styles are overall minimalist, African design has a character all its own. As the industry grows and the aesthetic is shaped by African professionals themselves, I do wonder how the look will change…
What are some simple ways to add African style to your home?
It’s easy to add African elements to any interior space. I believe you could put an African piece into anything, whether you’re incorporating it into modern styling or a more traditional look. The best place to start is accessories. For me, what really injects African character into the room would be textiles and basketry. In West Africa we all have a woven fabric, such as Kente and Baoulé, and these can be used for making cushions and throws, or in the upholstery of stools, chairs and sofas.
African interior design also leans heavily on natural elements and textures including raffia, straw and wood. Certain types of wooden elements are easily recognised such as our handwoven baskets and bowls, and these are a nice easy first step if you’re looking to inject African style into an existing space.
What are the trends you expect to see in 2021?
To some extent we follow US trends, and given the pandemic era we are in, I sense that clean and minimalist will become even more popular. It’s interesting that the colour Brave Ground has been chosen as Colour of the Year by Dulux in the UK, and they’ve brought this out along with an earthy palette of shades. People in Ghana have been using the equivalent of Brave Ground for years, so trends-wise we are already there! If people are following this colour trend in the UK or US they will find it easy to achieve an African aesthetic, especially through adding fabrics and textures.
What process do you follow when you work with clients?
Residential interior design is still relatively new here in Ghana. Unless it’s for a hotel or an office, or for a film or television set, the architect has typically handled the interior design. Hiring your own interior designer is just starting to become more common.
When I work with a new client, I begin by booking a one-hour consultation. What’s most important is that I discover how the clients want to feel when they are in that space. How do they want their visitors to feel in that space? We dig deeper and deeper, then I’ll propose a mood board, and I also give a list of stores to shop in Accra, as we work with people having wide-ranging budgets.
How important is natural and artificial light to your design concepts?
When it comes to lighting, there’s obviously a lot of natural light pouring into the room all day. It’s a case of shading that light and conserving energy. Letting natural air come in is important too, and creating that cross breeze.
Artificial lighting is another things that’s done as part of the build, and homeowners might find that it’s too late to make significant changes to the lighting scheme once the build is complete. Sometimes the designer is called in far too late into the project, so for me it’s a question of building awareness of how a designer can contribute to the look and feel of the home, and when to bring them into the project.
In my own home, and when I complete interiors projects for clients, I like to create a soft, warm, intimate feel. I always encourage my clients to use the city’s artisans, who refurbish old items into lampshades.
What I help them to create, through thoughtful design and one-off pieces from my shop and from local artisans, is something truly unique which delivers that visually interesting yet homely environment – a style that will make them feel really good about the space they’re living in.
Senanu Arkutu is the head of professional development of Ghana’s Interior Designer & Decorators Association. Follow her on Facebook, or visit daarliving.com to shop the latest selection of furniture and home wares.
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