7 ways to make your space more liveable without breaking the bank – by Banke Ajagunna

Banke Ajagunna is the Founder of Decor Nigeria; an interior design company that specializes in designing functional and aesthetically appealing spaces for corporate and individual clients.

When you hear young professional, the first thing that comes to mind is budget. We’ve all been there and some of you are still there.

That being said, with the minimum wage in our Motherland, design for a young professional may seem far-reaching and unattainable.

In this article, Banke shares a few ways to make your space more liveable without breaking the bank.

Wall profiles

Wall profiles (also known as wainscoting) are usually seen as expensive because you only get to see them at high-end stores or homes but they are really not as pricey as you’d think.

They can be very affordable when made locally. Wall profiles make for a fantastic alternative wall finish than good ol’ wallpapers.

Additionally, if you are an old soul and intrigued about design in the 18th century – signifying a period of opulence and extravagance- wall profiles could give you that beautiful renaissance feels that you’ve always dreamed about.

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Make the most out of every space, they come freely but like free things, you might not appreciate it till it’s gone.

You may be tempted to stuff a lot of unnecessary decorative pieces in your home but don’t fall for it; ISSA TRAP!

Declutter as much as possible to give your room the much-needed airiness. Also, the spaces that bridge the gap between inside and outside can become the greatest allies in designing.

Restyling your balcony, back deck with natural furniture, plants if you like, will create an added extension to your home.

Wall shelves

You can easily put this together with a piece of wood and wall brackets for support. This design tip is very flexible and adaptable as it gives you the chance to choose your preferred style and also paint it to any color that suits your taste, anytime.

Wall shelves can be placed in the living area or the bedroom. Books, accent pieces can be kept on this shelf, making it look full but beautifully arranged.


Mirrors have earned status as an effective interior design tool used to fulfill practical purposes and a multitude of creative motives.

Whether you want to add a polished touch to your interiors, make a statement with wall art or amplify light and space, a thoughtfully chosen, a well-positioned mirror is an answer.

A mirror in your space simply lets the light in, placing it next to a window or opposite a window increases the amount of light cast inside a room, thereby making the space if small, appear larger. It can be used in a shallow room, hallway, bedroom, etc.

Pro Tip: Place your mirror strategically so it reflects the best part of your room.

Repurpose Furniture

Grandma’s bookshelves and tables are great items to repurpose. A good coat of paint will completely change the look of a piece and allow you to fit it into any space.

A pair of old end tables can be painted and given a contrasting top to make an entertaining coffee table or dining room table.

Using pieces that have been used before and reimagine them in a modern way, and depending on the design style, it can also be refurbished to look antique. Sofas and armchairs can also be reupholstered in a new fabric to give a more modern look.

Infuse Some Greenery

A lot of interior styles now includes bringing the outside, inside. It has become a full-on movement in interior designing and has tons of benefits, from mood-boosting to cleaner air.

Bringing natural plants it isn’t the only way to decorate with plants, you can still do so with a plant print wallpaper. Luckily this method is quite in vogue and gives you all the same peaceful and happy feelings as live plants.

Artificial plants are a plausible alternative to live plants because they require little or no maintenance and can also give your home a greenhouse vibe.

Art Prints

Art prints are a cost-effective way to bring color and texture into your space while also making you look like a connoisseur of fine things.

Here, you need to be a bit selective because some art pieces shouldn’t be seen on your wall; they are just too busy and distasteful.

Think of art as the stylistic icing on the cake that is your home and is sure to select what you like. Always consider the ideal scale and proportions when installing your artwork.

For instance, small art prints can be placed in clusters or you can centralize a single large piece of art at eye level thereby making it the focal point of your room.

White Beddings Are A Must

Hard to maintain but it’s a trick that keeps on giving. You are probably wondering how a couple of plain white sheets will make a difference in your home.

White is the lightest color, it is very achromatic and is associated with light, goodness, purity, innocence, etc. They may seem basic and boring but a most noteworthy benefit is that using white bedspreads helps soften and counter the other colors in a room; bringing it all together.

If you are not sold yet, you can add colored throws and cushions to make it look cozier.

On the plus side, it looks quite hotel-like and inviting.

Final Notes: If you follow these tips, you might be tempted to call in sick at work just so you laze around in bed but that might not be a good idea.

However, you can rest assured that you will always return to a warm and cozy home after a long day at work. Nothing beats this feeling!

For more interior design tips and tricks, visit www.decor.ng. Photo credits: Pinterest

This article was written by Banke Ajagunna.

Banke Ajagunna

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Senanu Arkutu: I decided to follow a passion that I hadn’t realised was a skill

Senanu Arkutu: The high quality is here in Africa but you have to do quality control Click To Tweet

Senanu Arkutu is the founder and CEO of DAAR Living, an interior styling firm that is diversely African, layered and interwoven, antique and contemporary, with European and Arab influences.

While pursuing a career in Reproductive Health and International Development, she realised she had a flair for interior design after decorating her own home. Spurred by the compliments she received, she gave up her day job and opened DAAR Living in 2013.

Senanu is also the set designer for the hit series, An African City. Her flagship store opened November 19, 2016 in East Legon, Accra, Ghana.

How does one switch from a career in international development to interior design, and what transferable skills have helped you in your new calling?

Hahaha! It was time for a change after a 12-year career —that I loved, by the way. I decided to follow a passion that I had not realised was also a skill until I designed and decorated my own house, and the warm compliments started coming.

Transferable skills from a career in sexual health and family planning, I find new ones every day! But the most important one to date is listening to client’s concerns and finding an appropriate solution that is sensitive to their specific needs and feelings.

Conducting consultations helps.

You’re Ghanaian but grew up in Southern and West Africa, which obviously have influenced DAAR Living. Where else do you draw inspiration from for your décors?

…And East Africa where my personal style probably leans towards. I draw inspiration from my mum, my clients, other designers, art and culture, trends, life.

Daar Living
DAAR Living

What have been your highest and lowest points since starting DAAR Living three years ago?

The highest and lowest points all come together in establishing our first store.

I hired an established design and construction company to carry out the design changes I wanted done to the retail space. This was a team that the landlord was comfortable with as they had done some work for another retail space in the same building, which I had seen. The experience was a disaster. They were rude. Communication, follow-up and quality control were terrible and on top of that, a four-week job took them four months to complete! My rent money just went to waste (Accra landlords insist on two years rent upfront whether you are a start-up or not).

The highest point was the night I laid out and merchandised my store for the first time and went outside to see what it looked like from the shop window —I had a moment! With a physical space all done up as I wanted it, and DAAR Living signboard up in lights, it suddenly seemed like DAAR Living finally actually existed.

Senanu Arkutu's highest point was the night she laid out her store for the first time Click To Tweet

In an interview, you voiced your desire to see African arts and crafts showcased in other ways besides a market setting or market style setting. Would you mind elaborating?

I would love to see more of quality African art and crafts being showcased in all their glory in a contemporary retail, gallery-like space, and not always in a busy market where it is not easy to see the skill and beauty of the piece. You do not see this often in Ghana or the rest of the continent, except in South Africa and, now, of course, Alara in Lagos.

The new DAAR Living store aims to be the contemporary retail space showcasing African functional art and craft in Accra. We want to be front and centre in this emerging story.

Senanu Arkutu: I'd love to see more quality African art & crafts in a contemporary space Click To Tweet

You’re the principle set designer for the hit African series, An African City. How did you get the deal for the show and end up collaborating with Christie Brown, who designed some of the beautiful clothes on the show?

Nicole (creator of An African City) and I are good friends. We believe in each other’s work and see the value and strength in collaborating. I offered my house for use in season 1, and by Season 2 the AAC team had realised the added value of set design and how it plays a large part in story-telling. DAAR Living was better established by then, but there was no budget allowance for set design, so Nicole turned to me and Nana Spio-Garbrah of Blueprint Africa (Assistant set design). Of course, we were glad to help Nicole, and there was also the added potential exposure An African City could give.

As for collaborating with Christie, when I began DAAR Living I wanted to launch a brand and begin building it and its community immediately. I knew that the products and services on offer may change slightly, several times, but the concept was clear and would remain the same. As a client and lover of Christie Brown, I could not get out of my head how pieces of mine reminded me of outfits of Aisha’s (founder of Christie Brown). So I called her with an idea for an exhibition that brought interiors and fashion together to launch my brand and she loved it! She encouraged me, offered her then new flagship store for the launch, and the rest is history.

DAAR Living

How does DAAR Living ensure on-time delivery and high quality across all its offerings, especially since décor and furniture pieces are sourced from across Africa?

Good question. The high quality is here in Africa but like everywhere else you have to do due quality control. This is my job and it takes a lot of back and forth but we get there.

For on-time delivery, firstly, I do not offer items for sale that are not already ‘on the shelf’ —online or in the physical store. Secondly, if a client is making a bespoke order and I think it should take two weeks, I have learned to double the time duration. This way, I am always on time and often early which is always a joy to customers.

DAAR Living lays a heavy emphasis on colours. If you were to choose a colour that represented your company, which would it be and why?

It’s impossible to choose one. Probably, it’s the reason the DAAR Living logo is black and white with clean, simple lines. The backdrop best highlights all the diverse colours, art-forms and cultures of Africa.

What does the future hold for DAAR Living?

Many wonderful things all leading back to my development background of improving livelihoods.

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Lulu Mutsikira: My opportunity came from my frustration

As a person who believes in following their dreams, you can only imagine how much it excites and inspires me, when I see someone I know personally, do exactly that. Following her dreams fully and wholeheartedly and succeeding at it!

Lulu Mutsikira, founder of Nama Saya, who can be contacted via email, began her company when she left the corporate life, in pursuit of her passion. Nama Saya is an event styling and interior decor company. The multi-faceted boutique agency specialises in full-service design and planning of interior & event spaces.

When I bumped into Lulu in a car park, as she was leaving a client’s apartment, we had the best catch-up in her car. We discussed the rise of local designs in South Africa, incorporating heritage into everyday living spaces, starting a new business venture and juggling being a family woman and an entrepreneur.

Event styling is not a term I’ve come across before, please tell me a little more about it.

The event styling business was born from frustration at the event industry when I was planning my wedding. I was struggling to find exactly what I wanted in one place, and the cost of sourcing from multiple suppliers just wasn’t worth it.

So, I decided to buy everything for my big day myself with the long term ambition being to then go into a hiring-out style business part time. The styling bug hit hard and I became addicted to making tables beautiful. I no longer wanted to just hire-out, but wanted to be there from beginning to end, to ensure a holistic and connected event was achieved.

While the wedding was a catalyst, I had been saying I will do this kind of thing for years. The interior decor story is a similar one, I have always loved making interior spaces pretty and my first flat was such a project. I was so happy with the final result, and so was everyone else surprisingly, so I knew there was something there. Then right after my wedding, a friend asked me to do her boyfriend’s home, and that he would pay —I did it and loved it and that was that, I was sold.

I can imagine that must have been very exciting, and the start of a new business venture?

A few happy clients later and a course in interior design, it’s the thriving part of Nama Saya. What really cemented Nama Saya as a business idea for me is the realisation that so many people are hungry for someone to take away the stress of “creativity” from them.

While many may view this kind of career path as easy, it certainly isn’t —constantly thinking up fresh ways to reinvent ultimately the same thing, is work and you either have it or you don’t.

What’s encouraging, especially from the interior space, is that people are really starting to recognise that and are willing to pay for the service of having a professional eye reinvent their home.

Nama Saya 4As it is known, “customers are the lifeblood” of any business. Who would you say is your clientele?

Surprisingly I don’t have a specific type of client. I have individuals from all walks of life. The events clientele is mostly couples looking to tie the knot and needing some help with the creative direction of their big day. Most have a colour in mind but not much else, so it’s up to me to put the pieces together.

The home clientele vary from just out of varsity individuals who want to spruce up their spaces, to wealthy business people who are building a home, the spectrum is very wide.

So on top of being your own boss, you’re a wife and a mother, how do you juggle family life and being an entrepreneur?

I don’t! Seriously though, it’s an incredible struggle and it takes a lot of work and understanding from your family.

Luckily my husband is on a similar journey so he understands 150% that right now, I am building and that will take time. The long term ambition is definitely to strike that balance, but right now, I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. Let me know when you catch wind of the secret.

I’ll be sure to do so. So with various projects and an array of clients, which project has been your most exciting thus far?

You know, every project fills me with excitement, perhaps because I am still growing.

They are a God-send; I treat every single event or home installation with as much excitement as the next. I am currently working on a huge home project that makes me both sick to my stomach with nerves and giggly with excitement!
Nama Saya 17

With South Africa taking an interest local design, fashion, music, experiences and everything in between, what would you say is trending in terms of design? What local styles, trends and brands, give a space that truly South Africans feel?

Local has always been lekker! It’s about time we caught the train that has long been on the move, there are so many local designers doing amazing things for the industry.

From an interior perspective, it’s not so much a particular brand, but rather the African influence used subtly to make a true statement in the home. I recently did a home installation where the client asked me to use Sesotho blankets as upholstery for her headboard —the result was magnificent and really so reminiscent of true pride in the heritage of our county.

Wow, that sounds really beautiful. People actually wanting to incorporate their heritage into their everyday living spaces – would you say that this is a growing trend?

I am finding out that individuals are starting to really insist on a space in their homes that reflects them from a heritage perspective; it is really very exciting to see.

We are very blessed in SA to have traditional ceremonies as part of our wedding process. What a complete feast for the eyes, from the bridal fashion, to center-pieces to floral selections, you see some amazing local designs come through. The local influence is no longer rudimentary but planners and stylists are really pushing themselves to create amazing things, very refreshing!

Nama Saya 5What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

Nama Saya must start seeing real traction and penetration in the market. The foundation is being laid and we really want to get all the proverbial ducks in a row so that we can really maintain sustainable growth.

There are a million companies doing what we do, the real differentiator is how we go about creating that experience, the back-end is a critical piece to that.

So for me 2016 speaks to foundation and growth!

Lastly, for the woman who is sitting at her desk, being inspired by you to follow in your footsteps and take on entrepreneurship, what advice do you have for her?

Plan! So, so critical! This journey isn’t easy. In fact, from day 1, you will realise there are about five million factors you didn’t take into consideration, and that’s fine. The journey is one of learning, but if you can avoid some start-up pitfalls, definitely do. Other really important aspects are;

  • Your already existing network as a starting point.
  • Your friends are your friends because they are your biggest hype men; let them be your first level sales agents.
  • Networking, your business will not grow if you don’t go out there and tell people it exists. Use social media.
  • Networking events are also critical to get word out for your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your small wins, and even your falls —strategically though! (You don’t want potential clients to know that your wall fell! *laughs*). People love to feel like a part of a journey.

We want to know what amazing things women are doing in your communities. Tell us about them here!