Natalie Anderson – the minimalist

Natalie Anderson is renowned for her minimalist but vibrant touch to corporate interiors. Since 2007, her company Design Express, has developed a reputation for converting bland, function-driven environments into an inspiring space of creativity. She works with local and regional artists to design bespoke pieces for her commercial clients. Attached are a few of her completed works.

Amma: What is the signature touch of DESIGNEXPRESS?

Natalie: A minimalist clean backdrop with a contemporary Ghanaian element

Amma: What inspires your design process?

Natalie: I am inspired by materials, colour, manufacturing processes, technology and various cultural styles from Ghana. I am also inspired by anything and everything my senses perceive. Finally as a well-anchored Christian, the Holy Spirit is a creative genius and a constant source of inspiration.

Amma: What difficulties do you face in the interior design industry?

Availability of resources which includes; materials, furniture, technologies, finding good carpenters, welders etc, can be tedious.

Amma: African decor used to have a stereotypical safari look or animal print. What is the contemporary style for someone in search of the ‘African touch?’

This look was defined through the perception of Africa by non-Africans – not by us. A Design Style should be a reflection of one’s cultural identity and influences. Personally, as a New African Woman, I don’t identify with a leopard or elephant. I’m inspired by my rich Ghanaian heritage, my present surroundings and explorations, as well my everchanging vision for contemporary Ghanaian Design.

Amma: How do you find your pieces?

We keep updated with various vendors, sometimes it’s stumbled upon by chance, other times we have a specific product in mind and custom produce it.

Amma: What role do African designers have on the international market?

I can only speak for Ghanaian interior designers- we have a responsibility to place our footprint on the international stage. We have so much to say in terms of design that has been left unsaid. But first, What is Ghanaian Design? We must collectively as designers make a conscious effort to define this in order to promote it.

Amma: Is there a viable market for interior design in Africa?

Definitely. It may not be obvious, but it exists and it’s growing. With encouragement and promotion (just by focusing on good, creative, quality, professional work that testifies) it will continue to grow.

Amma: Do you have a favourite room/place to decorate?

We mostly work on Commercial projects so It’s always fun designing a Breakout area as this is the “play zone” in a very function-driven work environment.

Amma: What is the best tip for decorating a your favourite room?(living room, bedroom, porch etc.)

First, try to visualize how you want to use the space. Ask yourself what you will do in that particular room? Next, pick a concept- define your colour palette and look & feel. This will keep you focused when selecting pieces.

Amma: When you are not designing what do you do?

I’m either at church or attending a church activity or spending time with my very entertaining 5year old daughter

Luxury by Eva Sonaike

Before she established the eponymous lifestyle company, Eva was inspired by her rich Nigerian heritage to create a luxurious line of home furnishings. She has successfully carved a niche in high-end home accessories by using projecting an African theme on luxury velvet and high-grade leather. Renowned for offsetting traditional African textiles with contemporary designs, the Eva Sonaike collection is stocked in elite boutiques in Europe and Nigeria.

Amma: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Eva: My inspiration comes from many things that surround me. But I think it is important to look at my upbringing and childhood. I grew up in the South of Germany, Freiburg and am of Nigerian origin. So I was always surrounded by German traditional furniture, art and culture, as well as West African artifacts and fabric and Yoruba traditions. The combination and appreciation of the two cultures definitely shapes and influences my inspiration. Whenever I am out and about, especially when I travel and I see something, whether it is a great pattern on a wall, an exotic flower or a beautifully embroidered garment on a market, I take notice and often these images come back when I am working on my designs.

Amma: What kind of challenges do you face?

Eva: I think the challenges that every business person faces; to keep the business running and growing. My background is in journalism, so I have no formal training in textile design or business studies. The design process and colour choices come natural to me – I have always been drawn to styling and drawing. But combining this with running a commercially successful business, managing staff and making business related decisions can be very challenging. But I love the combination of the two disciplines. It keeps me on top of things and I love a challenge!

Amma: How do you find your pieces?

I don’t find anything. Everything is designed by myself.

What role do African designers have on the international market?

A very important one! Things have changes drastically over the last decade and more and more African designers make a name from themselves and their aesthetic on the international market. The Africa continent was associated for a long time with famine, war and corruption. And African designers were associated with floating, colourful robes or over ethicized clothing. In the last decade African designers proofs that they can be commercially successful and that our Aesthetic goes beyond what was previously associated with Africa.

Designers such as Duro Olowu, who are internationally acclaimed and people like Michelle Obama are wearing his garments. Jewel by Lisa, who collaborated with L’Oreal and is stocked by high end retailers are only a few to mention. And the interiors industry is following rapidly. We were the first African –inspired brand in London, that was stocked simultaneously by Selfridges, Liberty and Fenwick of Bond Street and our cushions, bags and furniture can now be found in top department stores and boutiques all over the world. Which means that African designer and their aesthetic go now hand in hand with other luxury designers from all over the world.

Is there a viable market for interior design in Africa?

Oh yes, there is. The property market I West Africa is booming! I go to Lagos and Accra every year and every time I come there are new luxury property developments popping up everywhere. And people ‘back home’ are very proud of their own aesthetic and are very fond of supporting their own. Especially when it comes to luxury interiors, there is a large market. We are officially launching the brand in Lags next year, despite being stocked in Temple Muse (Lagos most luxury concept store) since 2010. I waited so long, because I think now is the right time to be there.

African interior design used to have a stereotypical safari look or animal print how things are changing

The word ‘African’ is so broad, as the continent is very diverse. I can only comment on the West African look, in particular Nigeria. The look is very much influenced by Western contemporary design often with an Italian luxury touch. But what I love about it, is that people are using traditional fabric, such as Aso-Oke or Kente, which works perfectly as an interior fabric and are using accessories that are home-made or by designers like us. And art also plays and important role. West Africa is full of great contemporary artists, whose sculptures and paintings can be seen in many interiors in local homes.

Do you have a favourite room/place to decorate?

I love to decorate bedrooms. For me the bedroom it is one of the most important rooms in the house, as it is a calm room where you relax and unwind. It is a very spiritual space and I love to incorporate this in the designing process.

What is the best tip for decorating your favourite rooms

Your favourite room should be a reflection of yourself. Whenever people come to my house they can feel that I live here. So best is to know yourself and surround yourself with items, colours and patterns that reflect yourself. And take you time. Rooms don’t come together over night. It is an evolving process.

What is the signature touch of Eva Sonaike?

Our tag line is ‘Bringing Colour to Life’, which is reflected in all my work. We use a batik texture for the base of our designs and then apply colourful motifs, depending on the theme of the collection. It is contemporary, but with an African touch.

 When you are not designing what do you do?

I am a mother of two and a wife, which is a great joy and blessing and takes up most of the time outside the office. And in my spare time (which is very limited) I love socializing with my friends, and I am a Zumba and Pilates addict.

See Eva’s line at www.evasonaike.com