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My interiors, my space

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When buying a house, it is important to provide for costs of personalising it to your unique sanctuary by accepting none of compromised interiors, writes Robert YAWE.

MANY OF US ASPIRE TO OWN A HOME, yet we unfortunately end up with a mere house. These are houses that do not reflect our personalities, aspirations or dreams. We tend to live in a box. These are boxes defined for us by a stranger who provides a standard environment that takes away any possibility of personalisation.

The strangers providing these boxes to survive in are a number of barely creative developers. They hardly appreciate interiors owing to the conveyor belt mentality targeted towards mass production of houses, not homes, never!

It is perturbing that the middle class across East Africa, like in many other parts of the world, is shrinking fast as can be seen from the level of mediocrity we accept. We are fed with substandard products and services to the extent that we accept it as fine and embrace it wholly also delivering similar shoddy services and products ourselves.

Quite a number of developers are providing some shoddy workmanship. Theirs is about cheapening spaces as they use low quality products that crumble even before the defects period is even over.

Unaware of rights

Regrettably consumers are unaware of their rights. The middle class consists of highly educated professionals; unfortunately most of us leave our professionalism in the office to be picked up on the way back into the office next morning or after the weekend.

When you are buying a house either in a new development or as previously owned, make sure that you provide for costs of personalising the house. It is your business to turn it into a home.

First and foremost there is and there will never be a housing boom so long as you do not leave your brains behind when you go house hunting. For instance, the boom that was claimed to be happening in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi in 2005 to 2011 was actually a mirage. Even as I write this, less than 20% of the Nairobi area has been developed or redeveloped. Most of the land is still occupied by low density housing.

Even Runda still has vacant plots on Mimosa drive 30 years after the inception of the project which tells you there is no rush that can justify paying a premium for a shoddy job.

Well then, the rumour of the boom allowed developers to keep cutting corners as hapless buyers kept paying more and more for less and less. I would have expected developers by this stage in the growth to offer less and less in the form of finishes as opposed to less and less in the quality of finishes.

As you go out to search for a house to turn into a home make sure that your 20% initial contribution in the cost of the house goes to provide for your input. Whether it’s a new development or an existing structure make sure your 25% goes to customizing the finishes or that it goes to renovating the unit to your taste.

Flooring

Be informed that ceramic tiles in the tropics result in cold floors, additional cost of carpets, echoes and an over sanitized feel. They are a cheap floor covering intended for high traffic areas like shopping malls.

If I had the option I would have sheet vinyl flooring rather than ceramic tiles, assuming I cannot afford natural wood flooring (not cheap laminate).

I wonder why many of us still shy away from carpeting our floors yet they give the best option for regular upgrading, it keeps rooms warm and allows you to walk around comfortably without shoes.

We rarely use charcoal “jikos” in our kitchens giving you the freedom to consider warmer flooring options. Even wood flooring can be used in the kitchen. I know that the house I grew up in had PVC tiles in the kitchen which are still looking good 40 years later.

Epoxy flooring is picking up in residential use after many years as industrial flooring; it gives many options for colour.

Our fear of water in the bathroom needs to come to an end, I see developments costing tens of millions yet the bathroom is still treated as a water closet (WC) and not a place of relaxation and tranquillity.

We need to demand quality workmanship where water is contained and leaks should be none existent. It is interesting how you walk into a bathroom and find multiple fluffy mats on the floor and you wonder why do we install ceramic tiles to then cover them with mats? I believe the answer is because the tiles are cold making a certain activity very uncomfortable.

Walling

Something that every new house occupant, be it a buyer or renter, needs to do is repaint the walls even if it’s just in plain white. This gives you a sense of ownership to the internal spaces and opens up your mind to new options.

With quality paints now all over the place there is no reason why we should not refresh our walls every year, it might even help you to keep your New Year resolutions. With the proliferation of emulsion (water based) paints that are odourless and fast drying you can paint the house in the morning and sleep soundly in the same room the same night.

Why do we have tiles laid up to the ceiling on the bathroom walls yet there is a shower cubicle and a sink to contain the water? I believe it’s because many of us remember how we used to wash in the river, splashing cold water over our heads.

In the west they need to have tiling to the ceiling, especially in the bathrooms, because they build in materials that are affected by moisture such as gypsum, particle board and ply. We build in stone and then cover the stone (clad) in stone.

The bathroom needs to be rethought by reducing the amount of tiling to provide more room for painted walls and textures that you can redo at a whim. Ceramic tiles once installed are a nightmare to change, why do we allow ourselves to be boxed in by mediocre designers?

Many houses today have a visitors lavatory which you find tiled all around to the ceiling including the floor (which is then covered in fluffy mats) making one feel like they were in a public facility that needed a wall finish that is easy to clean. Why not finish the walls in wall paper of even some abstract mosaic and do not forget the book and magazine rack.

Cabinets

Particle board for cabinet doors is cheaper than MDF and once it is damaged there is little remedy. Also make sure you look at the malpa hinges as they determine how long the cabinet doors will remain aligned.

I believe it would make more sense for the developers to give the buyer the freedom to choose the doors, they can still install the carcasses. Fitting the doors is a day’s work but gives the cabinets that personal touch thereby turning a house into a home.