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ASK ME ANYTHING: ON INTERIOR STYLING

It’s been about 3-4 months since my last home styling project. I thought I’d be missing it really badly by now, but I’m still enjoying my indefinite break and feeding my passion for interiors by arranging and rearranging things around our home, decluttering, selling off whatever I can (I still have these lamps available for sale by the way, and will be putting up this media unit up for sale soon), and waiting for the new sideboard I just ordered from my faves at Santana Africa. I’m also trying to decide whether to go with custom mirrors or art above the sofa, and will a mural look good behind the TV, or should I go for standard wallpaper? So many decisions to be made and, as usual, not enough money for me to do it all immediately. Aaahh, the joys of adulthood.

Anyway a few weeks ago I posted an Ask Me Anything sticker on Instagram and got a few questions about interior styling. I’ve shied away from giving styling “advice” because I don’t feel like an expert. I’m just a babe who likes nice things and seems to know how to pair them and where to place them, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to share a bit of what I know since some of you think I do a decent job of it. So here goes:

  1. How did you get into interior designing? Did you study it or were you just born with excellent taste in interiors? (I swear the second part of the question actually came like that!)

I didn’t study interior design (my degree is in communications). I have do however spend a lot of time consuming interior styling content on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Architectural Digest and other magazines – which in itself is a form of schooling, I guess. I also grew up seeing my mom take great pride in doing up our home so I definitely drew inspiration from her. Though it stopped at the Java-inspired walls. You know them: the reds, yellows, oranges that everyone was into about 10-12 years ago.

2. What is bad home décor to you?

Anything that you, the person who lives there, cannot stand. I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to style your home. If you love it and it works for you, that’s all that matters.

3. What inspires your creativity in interior design?

Clean lines. Blank slates. Neutrals. A love for nice things in comfortable spaces, and a genuine desire to feature Made in Kenya brands.

4. How did you land your first interior designing project? How did you put yourself out there?

I kind of fell into it actually. It all began with me sharing snippets of my home on Instagram and my blog and one day I got a call from a very sweet lady who asked me to do up her living room after seeing my pictures online. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish the project because she had to move houses after discovering some serious electrical wiring issues in her house, but that little experience gave me the confidence to keep sharing such content and it kind of just grew from there.

5. What challenges did you face as an interior designer? How did you overcome them?

Several, and I’ve mentioned some of them here. I don’t think I’ve overcome them, because here I am on a break with no idea if I’ll ever go back to it, LOL.

6. How do you come up with quotations for your interior décor clients?

A lot of people don’t realise how much goes into styling a space and want to cut your fees, so what I’d say to anyone getting into this is: charge based on what you think your time is worth. Estimate how much time each task will take, add a few hours to it, consider the database and relationships you’ve built – which your client is benefitting from, the resources required to carry out the project, and charge for all of that. And talk to other people in the industry so you don’t undervalue or overvalue yourself.

7. How much would it cost to style a master bedroom?

It really depends on how much needs to go into it. My clients would spend an average of KES 350,000 and up if doing it from scratch. And this is styling only. It’s not inclusive of any structural changes or replacement of things like closets.

8. Do you offer training sessions or interior décor?

Nope. But you can learn so much from the internet for free, and you could pay for a masterclass or short course.

9. Would you consider mentorship for interior design?

Not at this point, no. I’m not there yet. Plus I suffer from imposter syndrome and would feel like a fraud if I tried to do it now.

10. Do you know any good colleges for interior design?

I’ve never bothered to look, but a quick Google search could help.

11. What do you like more – writing or interior design?

Writing, obvs. But mixing the two is always dope.

12. You mentioned that you were taking a break from interior decorating. Why?

It was hard on me mentally and was killing my passion for interiors. Shared my struggles with it here. 

13. What are the bare minimum rules to creating a nice living space?

Invest in the best furniture, carpets, lighting and curtains you can afford – I find them to be the foundation of a space. You can never go wrong with neutrals but go as colourful as you like if that’s your style. Paint is the cheapest way to change up a space (I’m a fan of Plascon, Jotun and Duracoat, and my mom loves Crown). Trends come and go so focus on creating a space that you love, not following a trend because everyone is doing it. Buy things that are meaningful, useful and can fit in your space, don’t just buy stuff because you can afford it. Clutter is not cute, and neither is hoarding.

14. Would you give me ideas for a coffee table? My theme is beige and I’m going for a boho look.

Search “beige + boho + living room” on Pinterest and see what comes up. You should be able to get a few furniture ideas.

15. Top spot to get a good dining table or custom furniture?

Depends on what you’re looking for. I’m not a big fan of those very light, plastic-looking pieces and tend to go for heavier, wooden custom-made tables and other larger furniture pieces. Santana Africa is a favourite. So is my guy Daniel, who made the bed, dresser, mirror and nightstand in this girly bedroom I did, and the green sideboard here. You can reach him on +254 723 465263. You could also check out Tira Studio for simple custom pieces.

16. What do you use to hang your pictures on the wall?

Heavy duty plastic hooks, like these, from Home Décor 254. You can also find them at hardware stores.

I hope you find my responses useful!

I find interior style to be a very individual thing, just like dressing is, which is why I feel like decorating rules can be bent – unless what you’re trying to do makes absolutely no sense. Like filling your corridor with a couch so you need to climb over it to get to the other side because there’s no space; or putting a red bulb in the kitchen, unless of course your aesthetic is strip club chic.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who comes home to your space every day so make that experience worth it. You should feel good once you walk through that door. And don’t feel bad because you can’t do everything at a go. Turning an empty room into something beautiful can be expensive, so start by creating a mood board (I’m in a longterm relationship with Pinterest and Canva), save up, window shop, do your research, DIY if you can, recycle and upcycle if that’s an option, buy second hand if you’re open to it, think through your purchases before making them, and be patient with yourself.

Now, go forth and create the space of your dreams!

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XO,

Shiro

The Cultured Cow

Comments

  • September 20, 2021
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    IRENE

    Thank you so much for sharing so candidly. I love how you share your plugs. The fact that you share your experiences so well should really help to banish the “imposter syndrome”. You could at least consider a beginner’s guide to interior design….. there really isn’t much damage you could do with these ones….☺️. I love love your content. I would buy your book…..(hint).

  • September 21, 2021
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    Achieng'

    I only just stumbled upon your content the other day, and I must say I’m in awe of your work. Everything you touch oozes class, luxury and exquisite taste. Officially a new subbie. Absorbing all this goodness.

  • September 23, 2021
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    Chebet

    Always grateful for the honesty and work you put in. Also your plugs are legit . Hope to see you back on these streets because girl, there is so much work to be done out here.

  • September 23, 2021
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    Christine Michura

    You have amazing taste Shiro. Thank you for always sharing…. 🙂

  • September 24, 2021
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    Dorothy Maingi

    Love love your style

  • September 26, 2021
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    Gina Mari

    Loved every bit of this read. Makes all the sense

  • September 29, 2021
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    Hazel Okech

    I love it here already! I just love how you edit your pictures (wish I could know how!) Everything just pops!

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