My most recent wanderlust adventure to Kenya was filled with both yoga and interior design inspiration...my two main reasons for going anywhere! My first time in Africa, it felt big, powerful and ancient. The first thing that hit me was the quality of the light. It took me by surprise, the wildness and vividness of the sky. The blinding bright light reflecting off white plaster, white sand, glossy green leaves, turquoise water, red earth. Enormous clouds would roll across the sky, and all at once the light would change suddenly and drastically from a bright azure blue to a fierce dark violet. Nature felt wonderfully close, bursting with life and all pervading. A feeling of being small, rocked in the vast arms of Mama Africa. And I was lucky enough to be the guest of a family of Interior Designers with kindred spirits.
I was staying with Joey Kennaway, who has spent most of her life here in Diani, bringing up her family and designing and creating a paradise in a paradise. The beachside apartments where we stayed were once Joey's home. She then rearranged them to make 10 guest rooms and built herself and her family a beach house next door. Joey's design style is beautifully simple. Most surfaces are 'stucco' plaster, sculpted and polished. She uses simple materials, local drift wood, bits of boats, vintage tiles, reclaimed shutters and doors. The inside outside lifestyle of the tropics allows the spaces to be seamlessly neither one nor the other. Nature pervades, a vine grows through the glass-less window, a tree through the balcony. The eastern influence unites beautifully with the African. She uses typical East African textiles, Khangas and Kikoi for the curtains and cushions, upholstered onto armchairs and bring so much vibrancy and fun to the interiors. Khangas are colourful rectangles of printed cotton worn by most of the Kenyan women as skirts, shawls, turbans, blankets, and baby carriers. They feature proverbs written in Swahili in block graphics across the border. These are messages, wise words and inspirational aphorisms. Khanga text speaks truth with poetic layers of cultural meaning.
Joey's daughter Olivia is the owner of Lalesso a luxury African fashion and lifestyle brand which supports entirely transparent, sustainable, eco and ethical production facilities in Kenya and South Africa. I bought a Lalesso skirt in London seven years ago and it's still one of my favourite things. Her brand is super cute, colourful and completely unique, drawing on the rich and abundant textile design brilliance of the East coast of Africa. Olivia has just completed an interior project for a recently renovated boutique hotel on the northern Kenyan coast - Ras Kikadini. Every piece of furniture was designed and made from scratch working with talented artisans and craftsmen from the local area. Her creative flair with textiles and fresh, vibrant design is easily translated beautifully into the stunning interior design of this exceptional residence.