BEFORE & (SOMETHING CLOSE TO) AFTER: A HOME TURNED FASHIONABLE OFFICE

To be honest, I'm only using this picture because I realised I didn't have any in landscape format, and this is the only one I could rotate without looking crazy.

I’m writing this while relaxing on a day bed in Kilifi, facing the ocean, watching friends play and drink in the pool. Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you so that you know how committed I am to keeping promises. I could be in the pool right now, but I’m here. With you. By choice. So you know you’re special to me.

I’ve been posting little sneak peeks of my latest project baby on Instagram, and I’ve been wanting to share this space with you for so long. I wanted to wait until the space was complete so that I could show the full transformation, but I’m really trying to learn to appreciate the process and be comfortable sharing things that are not “perfect” or “ready”; to appreciate progress. Plus it’s talking a little longer than planned and if I don’t share something, some of you might come for me – going my the comments in my DMs.

When my client, Catherine (also known as Fashionable Stepmum) reached out to me and told me she wanted to convert an old apartment into an office, my first instinct (after I completely freaked out and did a half naked happy dance in the bathroom) was to say no. I have a demanding full time job, a toddler and a rather active social life, and I just didn’t know whether I could handle it. Plus interior styling is not something I’ve studied or practiced for a long time – I just really like pretty spaces.

But then I remembered something I read sometime back: “Say yes, then figure out how to do it.” So I said yes, and it’s been two months of figuring it out. I’ve been sleeping late, juggling a 9-to-whenever-the-day-is-done job, trying to spend time with My Lover, our Gong and friends, more hours than I can count on phone talking to suppliers and fundis, balancing budgets, Googling things I don’t understand and praying I don’t screw things up.

She wanted something as classy as her. A comfortable working space that spoke to her personality and taste: simple, clean, a little glam. I’m known for my love for dark walls, heavy woods and modern-industrial-farmhouse-inspired style, so this was definitely going to be very different from my own space – and much more challenging for me.

Here’s what the space looked like before.

View from the entrance – this used to be the living and dining area
View from the former dining area into the living room
Kitchen – those floors triggered me
Corridor
Office 1 – this used to be a bedroom, without any closet space or ceiling light. It makes no sense at all.
Office 2 – also formerly a bedroom without a ceiling light
Bathroom 1 – the landlord had tiled the shower area but decided the stained floor and tiles could stay
Half bath – same stained tiles and floor, and a really old toilet

Now this old ground floor apartment is almost ready to be an office. Almost, and here’s what we’ve done so far, inspired by a colour palette of warm greys, white and gold tones. The paint colour used throughout is Plascon in Silver 38 (silk vinyl), with a simple brilliant white glossy paint on the doors and door frames.

I buy all my paint from Alibhai Shariff in Westlands. If you know what colour you want, you can call them and order, then go pay and collect. If not, you can spend some time there checking out the different colour options.
I usually turn to this colour chat before turning to Pinterest to see how different palettes look. It’s great for inspiration! Chart, gifted by Lynette from Plascon Kenya. (This plug is not sponsored, but it should be LOL)
Reception area – I’m obsessed with this custom couch from MobilCasa Furniture. Talk to Felix, he’ll sort you out. The rug and soft furnishings (pillows, throw) are from Carpet City and Smart Lady Home.
We initially had a small artificial monstera plant in the corner but decided to go for drama with this tall banana leaf palm I got from Dashing Spaces. I have no regrets.
This is what it looked like with the little artificial monstera in the corner. Which is why I decided to go for something more dramatic, and it made a huge difference.
This round custom mirror, which is about 80cm in diameter, was made by Daniel. He’s a master, and he also made the glass desks, coffee table, and bookshelf in this office. You can reach him on 0723465263.
I love playing with prints and textures, and keeping the pillows within the same colour palette allowed us to bring some character to the couch. Pillows and inserts from Smart Lady Home.
I find pillows to be one of the easiest pieces to decorate with, since you can move them around and change covers as often as you like. Both pillows from Smart Lady Home.
I thought it would be nice to have a glam receptionist’s desk, using this enormous zebra print seat and chandelier that Catherine already had, and a custom desk. Mixing prints also gives this corner a little playfulness. Decided to hang the prints on the wall (from Tile & Carpet Centre, together with the planter) a little lower than usual to hide some old house imperfections. Rug, Carpet City, custom desk, Daniel.
Got these midnight blue vases during Tile & Carpet Centre’s annual sale, and I’ll keep moving them around until I find them a proper home. But this isn’t too bad is it?
I wanted to add something other than a mirror at the end of the corridor, so I screwed these gold IKEA shelves the client already had and put some scented candles in there, then added a snake plant (Dashing Spaces) and patterned runner (SmartLady Home). The pendant light was also a sale find from Tile & Carpet Centre.
This runner is a dream (my toes, evidently, are not).
Even though the snake plant was cute enough in its little white plastic planter, I thought it would look nicer in a basket from Erika’s Antique. Fun fact: the basket is made from recycled plastic.
The bathrooms were quite a challenge because of the old floors and stained tiles, so I worked with Lina from Aposh Decor to paint the tiles white, and changed the sanitary ware so Catherine and her team could actually have something sanitary in there. I also added this simple woven pendant light.
Here is a close-up of the pendant light, which I got on sale for less than KES 1,600 during the Tile & Carpet Big Annual Sale. Win!
We covered the old floors with this mock-wood vinyl cover from Floor Decor Kenya. Went with grey because Catherine said her childhood ruined brown for her. Woven rug from Smart Lady Home.
Then we added some accessories – woven rug (Smart Lady Home), basket (Tile & Carpet Centre), sanitary ware and bathroom accessories (Ideal Ceramics). I just wish I had managed to conceal the water pipe.
Baskets are great for storage and organisation, and bring texture into any space.
I replaced the old, frameless mirror with this simple one from Ideal Ceramics and added a wall-mounted soap dispenser from the same place. You can get a similar mirror from Mr. Price Home. White hand towel, Tile & Carpet Centre.
Little accessories make a difference so they are not to be ignored. Artificial succulent (IKEA, client’s own), mirror (Ideal Ceramics), marble shower curtain (background, Smart Lady Home).
We kept Catherine’s office very clean and simple, with sleek lines and no fuss. This custom desk by Daniel has gone through a number of adjustments (it was initially too low), but I’m proud of it. Acrylic seats and office chair are both from Odds & Ends (on sale!)
Faux fur pillow from Smart Lady Home.
This is what it looked like from the front, before we raised it.
I also had this book shelf made for Catherine’s work space, again, by Daniel. I estimated the measurements because I had misplaced my tape measure (still haven’t found it) and spent a whole week panicking that it wouldn’t fit.
I’m not done styling it yet, so I don’t have any decent pictures I can share of it yet, but I love the play of gold on white with a touch of colour. The ceramic vase is from Tile & Carpet, potted succulent from Dashing Spaces, framed print and other accessories, client’s own.
Brought a touch of the modern and whimsical into the space with this wall bracket, also from Tile & Carpet. The same light fixture is also in the reception area and shared working space. Since it was on sale, I ended up buying 6 pieces.
Added this custom print, representing different body types, because Catherine is into body positivity. Framed print by Ideal Decor.
This woman is feeling herself…so should we. Framed print by Ideal Decor.
This shared work space has to be my favourite in the office. I’m obsessed with the bookshelf, a custom build from Muundo, my favourite new plug for that modern industrial look, and the sisal rug from Tile & Carpet Centre.
I was initially worried that having the book shelf here would take up too much floor space, but it turned out to be the star of the room. Ceramic vases, white hand towels and baskets, Tile & Carpet, throw, Smart Lady Home, all other accessories on the shelf are the client’s own.
Added these custom prints by Ideal Decor KE, in large frames, because a blank wall is always an opportunity to say something. And of course, my beloved snaked plants from Dashing Spaces in one of my favourite designs from Erika’s Antique.
Part of me feels like I chose these prints to speak to myself just as much as I wanted them to speak to my client. Custom print, Ideal Decor KE.
Just because it’s an office doesn’t mean it can’t be cozy. This throw from Smart Lady Home has since moved to the couch in the reception area.
I like to cluster decorative pieces in threes, and play with metallics, candles and greenery, which are my go-to accessories. All pieces client’s own.
From this angle you can see into the shooting room, which continues to have me stumped. It’s a small room with large expectations, and I’m praying something will come to me so I can make it feel complete.
While trying to figure things out, I moved this occasional chair (from Tile & Carpet Centre) to one corner, so it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the shooting room. I think this faux fur pillow from Smart Lady Home (initially shown in Catherine’s work space) looks much better here.
I love the reflection in this custom mirror by Daniel, which is big and beautiful, and which for some reason I have no picture of.
I’m wholly and completely obsessed with this modern industrial/vintage style light fixture from Creative Innovations.
We also have this rug in here, from Carpet City. I used the same one in Catherine’s work space and reception areas.

There are still a number of things pending: I haven’t finished accessorising the shelves, hanging up some art, putting up signage and decorating the kitchen. This is what it looks like now.

I’m just happy those stained floors and tiles are no longer visible after receiving the same treatment as the bathrooms. Plus we replaced the cabinet pulls, which were old and mismatched, with these simple gold-plated knobs, and added these woven rugs (same as bathrooms) from Smart Lady Home.
I’ve bought a few accessories for the counter, which Lina from Aposh Decor covered in contact paper to hide the stubborn stains, but I still need to style it so it looks cute. And so it can distract the eye from these cabinets that still look old even after a couple of coats of paint.
I’d like to create a little tea/coffee station in one corner. Started by picking up these jars from Mr. Price Home. The chopping board is from Santana Africa.
I can’t wait to style this chopping board from Tira Studio, on the kitchen counter. I’m thinking salt, pepper, flowers and maybe a snack jar?

We’re also about to start on the outdoor space, which currently looks like this.

We have quite a bit of space to work with.
Planning to cover the area to make it all weather, install turf grass, get some nice outdoor furniture, maybe even a bar and fire pit. (That’s my little Gong in the background, hi mama!)
And greenery, lots of it!

I honestly didn’t think I could pull this off, but it looks like I’m not doing too badly, and I’m really proud of working with a number of small businesses and getting things made locally. Plus working with Catherine (and Queen, who has been my trusted assistant) has been a dream. I hope this is the beginning of many more projects!

Let me know what you think, drop something in the comments, and be kind 🙂

 

XO,

Shiro

 

 

 

12 Comments
  1. Amazing stuff Shiro….you are just goals and are blessed. May you scale to even greater heights with your talent. Keep shining!

  2. Absolutely amazing!!! Love it.
    You’re giving me hope of working full time, mothering two babies under 3. Being a wife. Maintaining a social life. Doing interior design and DIY projects and remaining sane!!

    Keep going.

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