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Mainstreaming of interior design

Mainstreaming of interior design

With the Capital’s growing appetite for innovation and commercialization, the interior design industry has exploded in popularity in recent years. Property developers and professionals have started showing genuine interest in the way buildings are designed, accessorised and marketed; and if there is one thing that the market is saying, it is that the future belongs to interior design.

The city’s design scheme is inspired by trends from all over the world. Property developers are eager to embrace global design, in everything from products to styles, allowing designers to experiment with different materials and merchandises.

While exploring the design market in Addis, one can find a surplus of inspiring interior décor items, giving indication to what kind of materials and products are in high fashion. Many modern high street stores and show rooms display locally produced furniture full of neutral shades of colours like beige, grey and brown as a base; they also use small accessories with bold colours to add a pop of colour to their design schemes. Off- white and pastel coloured wall paints are used to create contrast with dark brown furniture.

Walls are adorned with artistic pictures and paintings. Plastic and ceramic tiles that mimic wood and marble are widely used. And ceilings are usually decorated with framed gypsum boards and spotlights. Even though gypsum boards are considered “a cliché” by most designers, the ease and versatility of the material, the ever improving workmanship and the possibility of incorporating contrasting materials has kept it alive. 

However, at the higher end stores, the trend is varied. Wallpapers seem to be enjoying the resurgence. The flexibility of the material, alongside numerous quality and design options, means that it can be used in properties ranging from small condominium studios to multi-million Birr developments. The use of gypsum boards to create textured walls has risen in popularity ever since elaborate companies such as the Saro-Maria Hotel and Awash Bank started using the style. All sizes of architectural plants, bright lights, textures and striking patterns are used to create melodramatic shadows; adding another dimension to the design schemes.

Large standing lamps and oversized light shades are also all over the market. And local woods such as Wanza are back on the spotlight for their cultural, authentic appeal. Cultural articulations, whether on furniture, doors or accessories are one of the most experimental attempts in the market where identity and context are the driving factors.

The introduction of modular interior design through brand chains is being commonly used throughout the capital. Familiar brands such as Kaldis Coffee, Ethio TeleCom, Ambassador Garment and Trade, In-n-Out Burger and others have consistently used interior design as one of their marketing tools.

Hanna Yohhanes, a renowned Interior Designer, known for designing interiors for notable companies such as Zemen Bank, The Lime tree, and Cactus Communications is excited to discuss the progress of interior design market in Ethiopian and the trends in the industry.

“Not more than a decade ago, interior design was considered overindulgence. Everyone in the construction industry, the foremen, the engineers, and the suppliers were labelled ‘interior designers.’ Most did not understand the need for interior designers,” she remembers. Hanna says, after the rise and popularity of commercial buildings, illustrious restaurants and corporate offices, the sector seems to have a promising a bright future.

“Gone are the days with massive furniture, junky fixtures and bland coloured paints considered to be decent enough. Clients are warming up to different shades of colours. People are now inclined towards modern and lightweight furniture, they are choosing sleek designs that have a touch of contemporariness,” she says.

Indeed the world of design is fluid and ever changing. As opposed to the design scene in Addis, the western world hosts multiple shifts in trends as quickly as every three to six months. Hanna argues such a slow-paced progress in our country is not without reason.

 “The main driving force behind the change in the trends is not style but the budget of the client, technical know-how of professionals and builders and most of all, availability of materials in the market. There are restrictions on quality imported items in Ethiopia and interior designers are now turning to custom furniture design. We do what we can with what we have,” she explains.

According to an anonymous Architect and Interior Designer who have been in the market for more than two decades, “Fee ranges for interior designs are quite wide. For example, a hotel developer with a very low budget can get an interior design job done for around 100,000 Birr. The standard asking price for the same kind of job is 600,000 Birr and depending on the status of the designer, this price can go higher. Similarly, the interior design fee for big shops and cafes can range from around 80,000 Birr up to 100,000 Birr. Site supervisions usually range from 25,000 Birr - 30,000 Birr a month for hotels, but it is often a lump-sum figure for shops and cafes. (fees cover both design and supervision fee).”

“And for those who cannot afford to hire professionals in the interior design sector,” he says, the city gives them some options such as decoration offices established under the category ‘decorating and painting services’, architectural consulting offices and freelance service providers.

Yordanos Tesfaye, an Architect specializing on Commercial Interior Design, is a keen advocate of using styles that are less likely to go out of trend; and such styles are also more budget friendly. “Nature Inspired-plants are inexpensive ways to create a laid-back environment. Good Lighting using floor-to-ceiling windows or LED lights creates a similar type of dynamic which is wide-awake workspace. Simple Furniture-open space is also always in trend; clutter free environments are low-maintenance and sophisticated,” she says.

Most designers have the knack to forecast the progress of a trendy design and to foresee its next advancement into an upcoming trend. This allows their design to stay up-to-date. Hanna and Yordanos predict the wide spread use of printed decors such as stickers and patterned fabrics in the upcoming future. Local artisanal products and custom made furniture, open and airy spaces with light weight partitions and eco-friendly design are also mostly likely to be the design of the upcoming years. “It will remain being modern, with combinations of local and imported materials, designers will use high ended heritage based approaches,” they anticipate.