Truth be told, we all love free things. So, when #ASKTID by The Interior Decorator popped up on our Instagram feed we had to stop and look. Simply put interior decorator, Jordan Awori, run a 24-hour social media campaign where she gave free consultations to anyone and everyone who threw an interior design and decor question her way. Intrigued by this gesture – which she successfully pulled off – and her interesting blog, TDS caught up with decorator to find out more about Awori:
Did you always know you wanted to go into interior décor?
[Laughs] No. When I was doing my International Baccalaureate (IB) Courses at Saint Mary’s I was so sure that I wanted to be a civil engineer. But then my friend convinced me to attend her art class and a month later I dropped my technical classes and switched to art. By the second year, my interests were gravitating more to product design, the process of making things and how they’re fused functionally in a space. When I joined The University of Nairobi, the product design classes introduced me to interior design and décor. However, I leaned more to Interior décor which is more like product design.
What’s the difference between an interior designer and decorator… can you interchange the terms?
Interior design is like plastic surgery, it’s more structural and harder to change. It answers questions like ‘where should this pillar go for balance’s sake’. On the other hand, styling and deco is more makeup artistry and beautification. But the problem I’ve witnessed here is that people approach interior décor like a DIY scene; that if you watch two YouTube videos you too can be an interior decorator. Misconceptions like this, as well as, the huge gap in the market when it comes to sourcing décor items or interpreting fundamental décor principles is the reason why I started the blog on my website.
So, you write as well?
Yes, and interestingly this is the only thing I can write on! I used to be a contributing writer for Carol Mandi media – particularly True Love East Africa Magazine and Home & Living. But now I concentrate on my blog to educate people about what interior décor is. Because there’s no way people in my industry will get clients if people don’t value what we do… and the only way they can truly value is to educate. That’s why it’s so important that the blog comes across as me having a conversation with a friend. So, you won’t find complicated jargon on there. You’re supposed to come in and learn something very easily and discover novel places. That’s also why I introduced the travel aspect to the blog. Local tourism is growing in Kenya and restaurants are putting in the effort to look good. I started to do reviews of places based on the interior décor because it plays a significant role in your overall experience.
What are your top restaurant or hotel picks in Kenya?
Dusit! I love their work because it has spunk and pizzazz. You can tell they were adventurous and really went for the creativity. There’s nothing copy-pasted about it. Unlike a lot of hotels that feel very template-oriented. They have a wow-factor. I like the new Nyama Mama restaurant in Westlands as well.
Although I’m getting tired of the wabi-sabi look. It’s just everywhere now. It’s the trend that works with imperfection as its charm such as like at Wasp & Sprout … it’s like when every restaurant was copying the Java aesthetic… now their doing the eclectic, mismatched thing.
Are you more commercial or residential décor inclined?
Residential! It’s the bulk of what I’ve done and I like it because you get to connect with the client. I find that because you’re working on a space they’ll be using daily, you develop friendships and it has that individualized touch. Nevertheless, I am also interested in commercial spaces, such as restaurants and hotels, to be in touch with what is going on out there. I worked with a firm that specialised in hotel spaces for two years to learn all I can on the commercial space. Once I gained the needed expertise it gave me the push to take my consultancy to the next level in 2017. Hence the introduction of the blog.
What is the biggest misconception you encounter from your clients?
Asking me to ‘copy-paste’ a décor concept. It can be with a single item, for example, when clients tell me that they like a sofa because they saw it at their friend’s house and now they want it. Though, they haven’t considered their own space may not accommodate it. Another favourite is when they come with an image of a mansions décor and ask me to replicate. That décor works in that house in the picture because it’s 10 times bigger; with great lighting.
Do you have a signature décor style?
My style is not to have a style, I come as a clean slate. Despite my own style preferences, my job is to figure out what the client’s style is aesthetically, and then utilising my skills to understand what combinations work and what décor rules to play by or bend a little.
And what process do you use to figure out their style?
I start with a consultation session, which is more of a conversation to get to know the client better. I begin by asking what may seem like random questions such as ‘’where would you like to go if you’re going on holiday?’ The answer could be the beach because they like the sunset. You can start picking out that they like certain colours associated with this as opposed to someone who likes the beach because they love the ocean. Sometimes we have a favourite colour, say blue, but you may not want to see it every day. Asking questions like this helps to tap into their subconscious on what they like to help create their ideal interior space.
Then comes the visual portion where I go and create a mood board with a few pictures of designs, styles and swatches I think would meet your needs and your likes. Then the next couple of days we work to finalize the look and feel of the space. Once confirmed, we can start sourcing and contracting the relevant parties to bring the vision to life.
How long does this all take?
It depends on so many factors. Is it one room or the entire house being worked on? Are we sourcing or making the furniture items? Do they have existing furniture or are we starting from scratch? Each project has their own unique timeline.
Ask the interior decorator (#AskTID) … what did you learn from that experience?
Kenyans aren’t aware of what we have in the market, such as where to get furniture or fabrics. So, I’m conscious that when I write a blog post I must give ideas on where they can get these items locally. Common topics were the use of colour and how to rearrange their space. But what was shocking was how some many young people wrote in expressing interest in interior décor but didn’t know where to start. A lot of them wanted to be self-taught but they shouldn’t belittle it. You wouldn’t go to a self-taught doctor. And the beauty of today is that there are so many online courses you can take to understand the rules and fundamentals of interior décor. Then gather as much hands-on experience you can.
As an Interior Decorator, who inspires you?
Funny enough the two people that really inspire me are not interior decorators. First is Richard Branson because he has a great balance between work and fun. I also like his zeal and that he’s failed a few times. We tend to fixate on the success he is now, forgetting that he experiments, has ideas, fails and gets back up again.
I know it’s a cliché answer but I also admire Steve Jobs. He took a commodity and turned it into a work of art. What sold me on the iPhone was the box. It was intentionally designed in such a way that it’s an experience, like building up the anticipation of meeting your new phone. For someone to think about a product as an experience rather than just a point of sale is incredible. It’s a philosophy I like to bring with me into décor.
What décor trend needs to stop immediately
Other than vitambas on chairs?
- Red and black furniture
- Making your TV wall busy with bright wall paper and clutter. People need to appreciate that there’s beauty with a blank space. It’s a wall you stare at, make it less complicated
- Popcorn ceilings – I really don’t get how this was ever a thing
Where are we heading trend-wise this year?
I’d have to say furniture with Metallic such as gold, copper and bronze touches, especially metallic mixed with black. A timeless piece to have is a statement mirror because not only for its aesthetics, but also for its functionality such as reflecting light into your space.
What would you like to see change in your field?
The fact that it’s become acceptable that you must waste a lot of money and time going through a lot of bad carpenters to find a good one. The same applies to all areas of the hand-made industry. You find that majority don’t look at furniture with the experience or functionality in mind. I can’t tell you the number of crooked shelves I’ve received. I know that they can be good but they need improved tools and access to training in new techniques, as well as, some pride in their craft.
Most rewarding aspect?
When you convince a client to go in a direction that they’re not sure about because they’ve never seen it in someone else’s house. They’re hesitant at first but when they see the change, they love it.
Concluding thoughts… what can we expect from you in 2017
I’m branching into selling décor items online as well. Because I want my clients to have unique items, exclusivity is undoubtedly a key aspect for me. So, whether the décor range will be sourced or made, it will be in capsule collections.
The iPhone box was intentionally designed to be an experience…For someone to think about a product as more than just a point of sale is incredible. It’s a philosophy I like to bring with me into décor.
In a city that follows the cookie-cutter philosophy, it’s refreshing to find individuals who advocate for experimentation and individuality. With a blog and practice that not only seeks to educate but also problem solve in a fashionable way, she has created an avenue to pursue her passion for elevating things to a better state than they were before. One that we can all benefit from. We can’t wait to see what Awori does next.