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Hotter than a shade of cool

Updated: 2015-03-20 09:17
By Lucie Morango (China Daily Africa)

The Chinese paper lampshade is growing in popularity as a home decor accessory in Kenya

Kenyan residents are quickly catching on to hip Chinese interior design accessories as they dump the decorative remnants of yesteryear.

Experts say more professionals living in Kenya are attracted to the unique colors, pricing and eco-friendliness of interior design accessories from China.

Hotter than a shade of cool

Daphine Okonji, the founder of Elle Interior Designers, says paper lampshades are simple yet sophisticated at the same time. Photos provided to China Daily

The biggest seller by far has been the paper lampshade, which has replaced the heavy chandeliers indicative of old English traditions and which have been hanging on ceilings for decades.

"They are simple yet sophisticated at the same time, and this versatility is what makes them easy to work with," says Daphine Okonji, the founder of Elle Interior Designers, which is located in Kileleshwa, a middle-class neighborhood in Nairobi.

The company is sandwiched between new residential blocks that are seemingly ubiquitous in the neighborhood, which is popular with middle-class Kenyans and expatriates because of its close proximity to Nairobi's downtown (a 15-minute drive away) and to the United Nations offices (about 20 minutes away).

It is this group of people who are embracing the newness of Chinese lampshades, which have been on the market for five years.

"Simplicity equates to modern. Less is more and this is what the lampshades are radiating in spaces," says Okonji.

She attributes the shades' popularity to their timeless simplicity and neutrality. The interior designer says that the lampshades' varying sizes and designs provide a glamorous aura while at the same time giving soft, unobtrusive light. They also present many options for customization.

"What we have in the market are the circular designs that are a perfect fit for circular spaces. This significantly reduces our allocated project time and allows us to deliver a great job within given budgets."

Kenya's burgeoning middle class, a demographic that is more widely traveled and sophisticated than in previous years, has become enamored with the versatility of Chinese lampshades because the accessory allows homeowners to constantly transform their spaces without putting a dent in their pockets.

"The shades completely change the interior spaces by bringing elegance once you match them with other new items in the house. It has a microwave effect," says Okonji.

Mercy Kamau, a sales executive at Party Lounges Ltd, an event management firm in Nairobi, says the lampshades are also popular for parties.

In the company's accessory shop in Valley Arcade mall, which is located in another middle-class suburb in Nairobi, the shop sells more than 50 pieces a month.

"Our clients love the aura the lamps radiate, especially at night. The sizes and colors give a gradient effect that often mesmerizes," says Kamau, who adds that the color red is in high demand.

She notes that unlike other hanging decorations, the shades offer a delicate ambience that otherwise could not be achieved under tight budgets.

"They are delicate but when handled well, one can reuse them, hence making them environmentally friendly."

Shoji screens, room dividers that use translucent paper over a frame of wood, are another interior design accessory available in Kenya, though Okonji says Kenyans haven't been as receptive of the screens because many homes have small rooms whereas the screens are suitable for large or open-plan living spaces.

"I have occasionally used them to screen off rooms clients think do not blend with the overall home ambience but they have yet to make a mark in the industry. But the potential is there as homeowners move to more spacious house plans."


(China Daily Africa Weekly 03/20/2015 page26)

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