I’ve had a shitty couple of weeks, and I feel like curling up in bed and only getting out for food. In fact I’ve just had a drink to calm myself down after a session of bawling my eyes out because I feel so…overwhelmed by everything, mostly a string of bad decisions that I’m paying for now.

Maybe the gin wasn’t a very good idea. Now I’m struggling to see my screen, I’m slightly buzzed and my left arm feels a little numb – a sign that I should lay off the alcohol for a bit perhaps?

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I just need to write it down and get it out because it’s cathartic – my own form of confessing to a priest. Maybe I’m just tired of pretending I’m fine all the time. Maybe I’m hoping that by sharing this imperfect piece of me, I can show those of you who are convinced I live a (relatively) perfect life that I don’t. I’m just a Cultured Cow winging it in life, hoping for the best and making mistakes along the way. At least I’m doing it in heels. I may not be in control of everything, but I can control how I look while going through it. And I can control what the space I’m crying in looks like.

I recently shared pictures from my most recent styling project for Fashionable Stepmum, which I’m yet to complete but making decent progress with. I’m not usually in the habit of buying myself what I get my clients, but the moment I saw the bookshelf I’d ordered for her office from Muundo, I knew I was going to get one for myself.

This is the shelf I got for Fashionable Stepmum’s office.

I’ve wanted a statement piece for my dining room for sometime now, just to give the eyes something to look at other than the black walls. This space has undergone quite a bit of transformation in the last two-and-a-half years. This is what we had before:

What we had when we moved in. Landlord cream walls really baffle me, and they did nothing for my ivory curtains.

Painting the walls black with white detail and getting a sisal rug and some accessories definitely made it look a lot better.

First we painted the walls. That white detail was supposed to look a little different, but this wasn’t a bad Pinterest fail, and it made the space more interesting.

Adding this sisal rug I picked from Tile & Carpet Centre during The Big Annual Sale brought the texture I was craving. You can see more pictures of how I styled it here.

I wasn’t unhappy with the bookshelf I had, which was a cheap roadside find. I just wanted a change.

But I still wanted something that would bring some height into the room and allow me to display my small book collection, while at the same time letting me play with different pieces of décor and switch things up a bit whenever I felt like it. So I got this custom bookshelf.

I should’ve added a few more inches on the bottom shelf to comfortably accommodate these big speakers, but it still works. Shelf, Muundo.

I was worried that it might crowd out the dining area, which isn’t very big, but it’s a perfect fit. I just need to move the rug a little. Seat, custom made, roadside fundis on James Gichuru, near Muthangari Police Station. Pillows, Imani Home Styles.

Spent about an hour styling it, determined to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t eat or shop my feelings. It was quite therapeutic, and now I’m convinced that tidying up and redecorating/styling might actually be better than retail therapy and comfort eating combined. This is what we have now.

Already picturing it with lighter walls, but I really like it. Table and Eames chairs, Odds & Ends. Shelf, Muundo. Pendant light, Noor (Sarit Centre).

My new breakfast view. I don’t hate it. Small beaded vase on dining table Haute Baso (Kigali, Rwanda), previously seen in my kitchen, you can watch the makeover video here. Candle, Casa Gallery.

Picked pieces from all over the house to style it. The gold bowl, top left, is a cheap wooden bowl picked from Masai Market a few years ago, which I spray painted in 2017. The black metal lanterns (left, far right top) are from TACC.

In a remarkable show of bravery, I added some real succulents (to the fake palms). Because I want to try and keep some real plants alive. Planter, Kuzi Trading Company.

Not sure this plant is going to survive me. Or Gong. But it looks cute here. Planter from Kuzi Trading Company, for 500 bob. Such. A. Steal. Clay plate and plant bought from the plant shop at The Arbor, on James Gichuru Road.

The basket at the far end was in my bedroom, so was the round piece of decor and pillow, both from Mabel Homestyle. They were previously on my balcony, they’ve been in the living room, master and Gong’s bedroom as well. The black and white beaded vase is from Haute Baso, who gifted it to me when I was in Kigali, Rwanda after I mentioned wanting to steal a similar one from the Radisson. Love them! 

This black and white ibiseke is from Rwanda Traditional Wear. I picked it up during the last Savannah Space Street Fair, and it was initially in my bathroom holding hygiene products (aka tampons and panty liners). Gong occasionally wears the lid as a hat.

This picture was taken when Gong was 3 months old and we went for our first picnic at Arboretum, for my sister’s birthday. I like adding sentimental pieces to each space. When I get tired of this picture I’ll just swap it out. Frame: TACC.

I’ve protected this ceramic chicken from breaking a couple of times, because I feel like I paid way too much for it. Now it’s here waiting to receive offering when you come visit us. It’s from Panache Kenya.

Artificial palm, Mabel Homestyle. The glass vase is an old one from TACC. Spray painted wine bottle (you can get the spray paint from regular hardware stores, Text Book Centre). The little plastic toy car has been in the family for about 6-7 years. My Lover bought it in Gikomba from a roadside vendor.

Not bad, I have to say. And I didn’t even copy anything from Pinterest LOL. The brass candle holder on the right, middle, is from Target.

I really like how it turned out, especially since I accessorised the shelves with stuff I already had in the house. The only new items I purchased are these two terracotta vases I bought on Instagram while looking for some retail therapy.

I’ve dreamt about these terracotta vases from Decor Gallery for a few months now.

I love the texture, and the hand painted design. Plus I’m really feeling natural-looking neutrals at the moment. They might inspire my next wall colour.

They cost more than I would usually spend on vases, but I’d been eyeing them for a hot minute and thought I had earned the treat. That’s why they’re so high up, away from my toddler’s hands.

I also tried to colour co-ordinate my books, mostly because I had the time, couldn’t be bothered to remember which genre each book is in, and I like pretty things.

Sorted out my books by colour, realised my absolute favourites were in the yellow and blue stacks.

Tiny Birds Far Away, Emma’s War and Under The Udala Trees are highly recommended. I usually buy my books from Bookstop, Yaya Centre. They have a great selection of African writers/fiction, my preferred genre.

I’m also a little bit crazy about this leather magazine rack from Whitebull, who I’ve been a big fan of for while now.

Look at the beautiful, tan leather. I’m obsessed with it. I should have straightened that rug, but didn’t have the strength to either lift the bookshelf or drag the rug with the dining table and chairs still on it.

I don’t buy magazines so I thought it would be great for storing My Lover’s records, which he barely listens to but loves deeply. There’s something about playing music from an antique record player that whispers “I’m cooler than you but won’t say it” in a sexy baritone. Still waiting for him to show up with New Edition, Boyz 2 Men and other 90’s bands I’ve requested. Ahem.

The record collection is slowly growing. This is the only magazine in this house. I didn’t buy it; someone gave it to me because my sister is on the cover. I took it out of politeness.

The 70’s and 80’s were cool I guess, but those of us in this house who prefer the 90’s are still waiting to be catered to.

Records, record player and all its complementary pieces are from The Real Vinyl Guru, Kenyatta Market. I need to figure out a way to keep all the cables tidy and still get them to the power source.

My little labour of love and avoidance. The wall bracket is from Noor, Sarit Centre. It was supposed to be an outdoor light.

Anyone got useful tips on bookshelf styling that they want to share? Drop them in the comments. Or just post something kind that might help other people reading this post. It’s ok to not be ok, remember that. And sometimes, if the only thing you can control is having a neat apartment or bedroom, then do that. It’s cheaper than shopping and better for you that comfort eating – or random solo drinking.




  • October 21, 2019

    Shiru Maina

    Hi shiru,

    I love how you decorated the book shelf. You did a tremendous job. And yes, its okay not to be okay sometimes. I have such days too.

  • October 22, 2019


    Getting myself a book shelf pap!…and yes we should allow ourselves to feel our feelings whether happy or sad that’s what it means to be alive.

  • October 22, 2019


    Hi Shiru,

    You styled the book shelf perfectly. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Also, it’s okay not to feel okay all the time. It’s a passing cloud.

  • October 26, 2019

    Wow wow wow! So many ideas to steal! We have a record player too but I didn’t know how to store the records – the magazine rack is genius. I love how effortless and non-Pinterest this looks. Trying to tell myself to slow down and decorate over time rather than buying a bunch of things at once because I think spaces look nicer when there are stories behind the pieces.

  • December 5, 2019

    did you design the layout yourself ?

  • December 11, 2019

    Pesa Kash


  • December 15, 2019

    Nice deco! I’m just here squinting trying to see the book titles . Nice books collection as well

  • April 9, 2020


    This is amazing!
    For the cables, you could run them behind the steel stand using velcro ties.

  • June 11, 2020


    Hi…You painted the walls by yourself? Any tips on how this was achieved?

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