I caught up with the Director of one of the local interior design companies and we had a little chat concerning the industry in Kenya:
Halimah: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
Charles: I am the director of Inconcept Interior Design Studio Ltd and I can tell you it has been an uphill climb. I started the company in 2007 as a sole proprietorship – small scale, and it was initially called Fine Touch Interiors, and it is only last year that I got it incorporated as a limited company and re-branded it as Inconcept. I never trained to be an interior designer but rather studied Fine Art & Design in which I found it hard to penetrate into the art world as not many people appreciate it, nor its value. It was also hard to get a job in the same. I therefore got a job as an interior designer with another company, and this way my interest in creative arts developed into decorative arts. It became more of a passion, and jobs were scarce.
H: What are some of the challenges you have been facing since you began your interior design career?
- Clientele: Getting clients is one of the hardest things in this industry as they do not understand why they should pay for consultancy, and interior design services. They are used to paying for goods; tangible things.
- Customer not paying for extra costing: When some clients come to you, they already have a set budget and after consulting with you, they are not completely honest about it, so they let you go on and use expensive materials and in the end they don’t pay you.
- Lack of funds to purchase tools: Due to this, most of the work was done manually [especially when the company was young] and so the job took double or triple the amount of time that it should have taken.
- Lack of professional artisans: I had to train most of my workers and so this took a toll on the company, as the time I could have spent making money, I was busy training my employees. [Most of them have basic knowledge e.g. in painting, without the creative touch.]
- The Fastidious Kenyan spirit: Kenyans are generally result oriented and they want those results as fast as possibly so most of the times, the process gets compromised. To get great finishes in interior design, time is your best friend. But clients don’t understand this.
- Getting to convince a client to spend more money to get great finishes is one of the greatest challenges.
- Fluctuation of prices of materials: By the time the quotation is ready, the client takes a much longer time before they pay up, and most times when we go to purchase the materials the prices have shot up and it is not professional to go back for extra money to the client after the quote has been agreed upon.
H: What are some of the projects you undertake?
C: We do residential, hotels, and offices (corporate and commercial) spaces. Our services involve consultation, space planning, furnishing, soft furnishings, room arrangements, decorating the bars and restaurants, 3D visualization (artistic impression), designing, and building.
H: What is your experience as an interior designer in Kenya?
C: From my experience, I feel the architect has taken the role of the interior designer and yet he focuses on the exterior so we find that we have very good exteriors with nonfunctional interiors. The architects hardly involve the interior designers in the original design concepts. Generally, most architects work on the outside structure and yet on their portfolios you’ll find they have listed interior design as one of their services. It beats me.
H: What is the greatest need/s in the industry?
C: Just the way architects have their own association, we need one where we’ll be able to device ways of educating citizens on the importance of space planning, interior architectural functionality and use of color which is one of the main principles in interior design. Just as a side note, I have met many clients who are willing to spend so much money to have great interiors but they are skeptical on spending it because they have encountered so many dishonest interior designers in the industry such that they cannot trust anybody who poses as a legit interior designer. We therefore need to educate the citizens on how to tell a professional from a quack.
H: On average, how many projects do you undertake at a given time?
C: It depends on the magnitude of a project. If it is small residential projects, we can have about 4-6 projects running concurrently and if we have big ones, mostly corporate and commercial and hotels, we can have about 3-5 projects running at a time.
H: Every artist has a specific area that he is really good in, where he can get really creative in without much effort, what’s yours?
C: I would say Gypsum ceilings and color schemes.
H: Do you have a few images of the projects you have done in the past, or maybe currently?
C: Yes, you can check out our website Inconcept Interior Design Studio Ltd – we’ll be updating it soon.