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Name: Ash Appleton
Location: Westlands — Nairobi, Kenya
Size: 1615 square feet
Type of Home: Two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment across three floors
Years lived in: 6 years old
Ash Appleton approaches design with joy. Trained as a lawyer in international environmental law, Ash also works as a documentary photographer for UN organizations, charities, and NGOs, and shares her joyful living design approach with clients around the world through her Virtual Room Revamp services and her YouTube channel. Originally from Kenya, she splits her time between London and this two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Nairobi’s vibrant Westlands’ neighborhood, which she has been renovating to reflect her “modern, bold, bright, blended, and whimsical” sense of style since purchasing in 2016.
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“I basically manifested an apartment with a roof terrace and friendly, interesting neighbors, in a vibrant part of the city. Everything fell into place. I found my place through an estate agent (realtor), who also happened to be the developer. It was over budget and ideally, I wanted three bedrooms. I grabbed it because of the potential I saw in the open rooftop space, which I later converted into my home office studio,” Ash explains. “I’d looked at two similar apartments in the same development but they didn’t have a nice view. I did a bit of detective work, found out who the developer was (who happened to be the realtor who’d shown me the first apartment). I approached them asking if they could find me an apartment overlooking the fields. They sold me one of theirs, which they were renting out.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: My design style is: Africa-modern, bold, bright, blended, and whimsical. I’m all about celebrating the energy of modern Africa in a fresh and intriguing way. My mantra is “joyful living,” which means creating comfortable spaces that are inviting, quirky, and light-filled. I usually design uplifting, happy, and relaxing spaces with touches of humor. I have a good eye for color, which I love to offset against a brilliant white backdrop. I enjoy blending design styles: traditional and modern; old, new, and custom-made; high-end and high-street. These elements all make up my signature style.
Inspiration: I take a lot of inspiration from my African heritage, but I steer clear of the clichéd depictions of “African interior design,” such as tribal motifs, monochrome, rustic and safari-inspired interiors etc. I get so much inspiration from the places I have traveled to (both landscapes and urban spaces), modern art hotels, restaurants, graphic design, street art and culture.
Favorite Element: I love the view, particularly from my rooftop terrace. I look over trees and school playing fields. It’s relaxing and grounding.
Biggest Challenge: The layout of the open plan living room was definitely the biggest challenge. There was this awful overhead cabinet that blocked the light into the kitchen for the dining area. If you were in the kitchen you basically couldn’t talk properly to the person on the other side. It was installed to conceal the clothes line in the laundry area, off the back of the kitchen. I maxed the space by pushing the kitchen back and incorporating the laundry area into the new kitchen. I now have a decent-sized kitchen with a breakfast bar. After pushing the kitchen back, I was able to flip the dining table so that it now sits horizontal rather than vertical. The whole room is so much more spacious and open now.
The interiors throughout the apartment were done very cheaply, by the developer, and hadn’t aged well. I inherited an endless sea of magnolia, badly stained wood, and cheap sanitary ware. The apartment had absolutely zero personality.
Proudest DIY: I l love the orange paint effect in the guest bathroom. It looks like wallpaper. I designed it but had my painter mask it off and paint it on. I love the way it looks against the mosaic titles. It’s a modern take on an African motif.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I converted the rooftop verandah into a studio, which I use as a photography studio as well. I also installed a mirror and barre so I can follow online barre classes.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I love all the original art in my apartment; it says so much about me, where I live, who I am, and what I love. I also have quite a few prints as well. I basically frame anything I find interesting and intriguing, postcards, brochures, exhibition flyers etc.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have:
Does your home reflect your home country/city in any way? Absolutely, my downstairs cloakroom is inspired by Lamu, which is on the northern coast of Kenya, and one of my all-time favorite places. My guest bathroom has Masaai vibes and the guest bedroom was inspired by Lake Baringo, Kenya (my second favorite place). I collect modern African art and love handmade ornaments made from recycled materials, etc. I also have references to British culture/art in my home to reflect my connection to both these countries.
What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? I love the weekly Friday Masaai Market, at the Village Market, Nairobi. Spinners Web is also great for home decor items and textiles. The Kuona Trust is a haven for original art and decorative pieces and also a cool place to hang out and meet the artists who have their workshops there.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Invest in original art for your home, avoid generic, mass-produced prints. This is the easiest way to personalize your home and make it cool and interesting. Art elevates any space and helps to bring a scheme together. You’ll always move with your art so it’s a quick fix for elevating drab, soulless spaces. And don’t rush… live with the space first, figure out what you like, what doesn’t work and why.