I am SO SO excited to share our Nairobi home’s apartment living room reveal! I usually don’t complete spaces this quickly (~one month since move in), but I did a lot of planning in advance and with a baby on the way I’ve been working in overdrive to make sure that our new home is ready by the time the baby comes. Over the next few months I’ll be revealing different rooms on the blog, walking you through how I designed them using a mix of old furniture from our apartment in Jersey City and some new touches, as well as how I redesigned our spaces to accommodate a baby. I hope that my process helps you think about how you can make small changes in your current living space, or if you’re moving to a new place, carry your old furniture while still making things look new and fresh! Keep reading to find out how I thought through the design of the space, what’s new and what’s old, and for links to all the furniture and much of the decor in our Nairobi apartment living room.
Overall Living Room Design
While our last apartment was very white, and very IKEA, I wanted this space to look a bit more lived in. Although I still don’t have a specific home decor aesthetic – ie farmhouse chic or mid century modern – I played with adding more bohemian/global influences to our living room design. I started with a brown & white color scheme and thought about how to play with texture for visual interest rather than color. Since I bought many items for the space before we moved to Kenya (and long before we even found an apartment in Nairobi), I planned out what I wanted the living room to look like by drawing up a schematic in Canva. I actually did this for all the rooms – it’s been interesting to see how similar (or not at all) each room has become compared to how I initially envisioned it!
Living Room Seating
Our former living room was only large enough to accommodate a sectional, which was even a stretch, so one of the most exciting things about this new space is how much bigger it is. I knew I wanted to do a u-shaped seating arrangement to facilitate conversation when we have guests, but also needed couches that were sturdy enough for small kids. We bought this Article Sven Charme Leather sofa after researching the hardiest couch fabrics for children, and I like the fact that it is a natural fabric that ages nicely with wear. We actually went back and forth on a leather sofa for a while because Jonathan felt some kind of way about sitting on animals, but I won that argument after threatening to never make Nigerian beef stew again ?
Flanking the leather sofas is our old sectional, the IKEA Soderhamn, but separated into a sofa and a chaise lounge. I cannot sing the praises of this sofa enough – its modular setup makes it so easy to reconfigure when you’re redecorating, and its removable covers also make it easy to get a whole new couch without dropping another $1000.
My favorite place to get covers for IKEA furniture is Bemz, which I used a few years ago when we recovered our sectional with a blue velvet cover to add color to our space (and also because the original white fabric was not denim friendly). Bemz makes custom covers and legs for Ikea furniture, so even if you don’t have the Soderhamn, if you have an Ikea couch, Bemz likely makes a cover for it. All their covers are machine washable and Bemz will send you fabric samples before you purchase a cover so you can make an informed decision. Although I initially wanted a lighter color cover, when we received our samples I started to get torn between a burnt orange/rust cover and a dark grey cover. We ultimately decided to stick with the original vision and got the Soderhamn Loose Fit cover in Rosendal Pure Washed Linen in Unbleached, because again, linen is a natural fabric that will be kind to our baby’s skin, and the lightness of the fabric helps make the leather sofa and our rug stand out.
Living Room Decor
Speaking of the rug, the biggest change in the living room is this bold tribal/geometric (whatever you want to call it) rug. If you know me, you know that I’m largely averse to color (both in home decor and in general fashion) and I’m not big on prints. I really challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and get an eye-catching rug, both to anchor the room but also selfishly because it’ll hide baby stains much more easily than a white or light rug.
Our last coffee table was metal, glass, and rectangular, which is a lethal combination for someone with young kids. I knew I wanted a round coffee table and this nesting table set is perfect because each one can easily be moved to double as a side table which we opted out of because it looked weird in front of the bookcase. I’ve wanted a furniture piece with hairpin legs for the longest, and the gold finish on these is a subtle elegant touch.
Our former living room’s main feature was a gallery wall behind the TV, which was absolutely stunning. This time though, I wanted the main feature to be symmetrical bookcases on either side of the couch opposite the TV. These are the Ikea Billy bookcases which used to live in my office, but we spruced them up by adding the Oxberg half glass doors. I even did a mini DIY project and added leather pull handles myself (leftover from my entryway project in Jersey)! The bookcase on the left displays wedding photos and albums and coffee table books which I plan to switch out periodically, while the one on the right displays our growing book collection and decor pieces we’ve collected over the years. I love that the panels are only half because the bottom shelves store/hide all sorts of miscellaneous things – greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, board games, etc, and will come in handy when we have surprise guests and need to quickly tidy up. I did briefly consider a gallery wall between the bookcases, but it looked cluttered so instead I chose to display one of my favorite photos from our engagement shoot.
Behind the TV we’ve now hung baskets, which helps bring in the global decor style I was hoping to accomplish with the rug. The best thing about these baskets is I have no idea where they came from (were they wedding gifts? souvenirs I bought in Kenya? flea market finds? I have no clue) but they’re readily sold at Maasai markets in Kenya so it’s a clear touch of African decor in an African home. Below the TV now lives our record player, and I saw this clever use of a magazine rack to hold vinyls on Pinterest, so I put that on the right side of the TV. If anyone knows a good place to buy vinyls in Nairobi, please let me know, we need more! Sidebar, I need to remind Jonathan (again) to get all these cables in order – yikes!
Of course I added greenery to the room because what’s a home without plants? I looked long and hard for a large fiddle leaf fig in Nairobi, thinking they’d be much easier to find in Kenya than in the USA, but the ficus lyrata craze hasn’t hit this side of the world. Large birds of paradise/banana tree plants are much easier to find in Nairobi, but for now I have a snake plant in the corner closest to the balcony. I also have a jade plant on top of the right bookcase, and some stems in a vase on the coffee table. I’ll probably be adding more plants around the house as the months go by!
I’ve never lived in an apartment with a balcony, so this is one of the most exciting aspects of the living room! I love when we slide open the doors and the wind blows the sheers through – I can’t wait to relax in the chaise with a cup of tea and baby in my lap just enjoying a light breeze.
I think the only thing missing in this living room reveal is a floor lamp, which would go on the right side of the TV, but I haven’t yet found the right one for the space. I’m torn between a tripod lamp and an arc lamp – if you feel strongly either way I’d love to know your thoughts!
Leather Sofa: Article
Two Seater & Chaise: Ikea
Couch & Pillow Covers: Bemz
Coffee Tables: Wayfair
Bookcases & Glass Doors: Ikea
Large Gold Photo Frame: Framed & Matted
TV Stand: Ikea
Wall baskets: assorted
Magazine Rack: Target (sold out)
Ceiling Pendant: Maasai Market
Plants: James Gichuru Road, Opposite The Arbor
Sheers: Bed Bath & Beyond