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Living large in a small space

REAL ESTATE
By Mwaghesha Mkala | October 23rd 2014

Kenya’s property market has always catered for students, bachelors and bachelorettes and those people who like their own company and smaller spaces.

Bedsitters are to be found outside nearly every campus in the country. They also line up most of the high density areas around our cities.

In more affluent neighbourhoods, they are called studio apartments and it is emerging that interior décor companies are not missing out on furnishing these spaces.

These fit-to-space products are a far cry from the usual static furniture that is sometimes a hindrance to movement inside such houses.

A visit to most bedsitters will reveal a negative use of space with the room filled beyond capacity.

From doors that cannot fully open due to ill-fitting furniture to an overhaul of the entire room to create sleeping space, life inside small spaces can be made harder by lack of multi-purpose furniture.

Rupen Shah from Victoria Courts, says: “Our products and stores are tailor-made to fit the locality and to serve both the high-end and the middle-income markets regardless of their square footage.”

Victoria Courts stocks the world-famous Gautier brand. Gautier, a French company, is one of the first international interior companies that has capitalised on space. Gautier prides itself in creating sustainable and affordable designs.

Multipurpose furniture

At Victoria Courts, the Gautier section has products that can be altered to fit to size.

From four-seater tables that can extend to accommodate eight or more people depending on the number of people present, Gautier also has couches that can be convert into six-by-six beds.

There are also sofas that can extend into a bed or a longer seat. Also available are folding tables that become coffee tables once dinner is over.

According to Shah, the lower segment of the market is more concerned with space, the very reason Gautier and other companies are making a killing.

“This segment is more concerned with space and any furniture bought is purchased with space considerations in mind,” says Shah.

“Whether in the kitchen, living area or bedroom, there are products that can be converted to fit the space depending on the time of day or number of visitors.”

Salma Butt of Furniture Palace says that there are smaller products on offer in their stores that are obviously purchased to fit smaller offices, but not necessarily for studio apartments or bed-sitters.

“We sell small-sized products, which can fit smaller spaces but not  smaller apartments specifically,” says Butt. “We have small couches that are very popular and sell fast. Some customers just like products that occupy less space. That does not necessarily mean their houses are smaller.”

To Butt, people who buy small sofas or other furniture for their big houses just like open spaces. These are the minimalists among us who can afford it but choose to live small.

Extra space

Apart from offering extra space, these products are also made to withstand wear and tear. They are strong and sturdy to withstand wear and tear.

Even with these new interior décor plans flooding the market, there is still a long way to go for firms to fully win over customers.

According to Fred Makai, interior designer at Makai Creations and Interiors, the market is still skeptical of new ideas that are popular in the West.

“We do a lot of interior design for apartments and mansions. We do not do it for smaller spaces because Kenyans are still conservative and view convertible furniture as out of reach,” says Makai.

These products are not for the masses due to the cost of purchase and extra care needed to maintain them.

Even with stores like Victoria Courts offering credit facilities for all their products, the market is still hesitant to embrace multi-purpose furniture.

“Trends come and go and we have to ensure we stay current. What is here is what you will find in Paris or London,” says Shah.

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