Something Borrowed

 “Things that are not popular in Zambia, and why?. … plan homes simply because of our culture.” (

My friend, Musonda Chilanga begins by mentioning vending machines and working payphones in the quest to answer his own question, but what is relevant to this platform is the house planning aspect which he later states. He further goes on to state how far house design and planning has come in layout, from long hallways and dark rooms to be replaced with half walls and naturally lit spaces.

All in all, Musonda tries to explain why the open plan design cannot and will never work in Zambia. His head is right in the right place of course, however way you look at it, and the reasons for this are very simple (please check his blog) but the ultimate reason is that these schemes have been tailored for the western culture and therefore imposing them on our Zambian culture would only prove futile.

This nonetheless, is a follow up feature on an article I wrote on the impact of Chinese aesthetics on interior design and how China has fuelled imagination for centuries, titled;

Oriental Design Style; A Debutante At The 2015 Cotillion Ball, published on 11th May, 2015, via WordPress. (Check previous posts.)


It also serves to break new ground, one on which exotic styles can be borrowed and used harmoniously, and with utter regard to local culture as is discussed below but with the expenditure of some of the characteristics of the Oriental design.

  • Bamboo or repurposed timber pergolas for patios;
  • Natural stone or chipped tree barks for driveways and paths,
  • Water features for relaxation as the sound of flowing water is considered as harmonious,
  • Hand adorned lanterns for lighting,
  • Round windows or moon windows with shutters can be the best look for this style for the bath,
  • Prints in the interiors,
  • Persian rugs for warmth and sound control. Alternatively, special floor mats made from reeds can also be used,
  • Sliding interior doors made out of bamboo and sliding exterior doors made out of timber,
  • Orchids for flowers indoors and outdoors, and
  • Flexible walls or furniture to partition interior spaces as and when needed.

Zambia like the world has until recently made strides to evolve in scheme by embracing the design of the day and furthermore by going green. Interiors are now more flexible in their use, and are in this manner designed mostly with natural or repurposed materials. This is very eco-friendly and is an efficient use of resources.


Beholding the future, it can be hoped that the Zambian design eludes inserting concrete walls and instead utilize designed furniture to divide up space as this aides with flexible arrangement of living space.


Shared ideas of creativity, craftsmanship, play and imagination can be hoped to underpin spaces of this revolutionary order, with this, a bedroom can effortlessly become a living room or a dining room by simply moving around furniture or joinery. This order is sure to prove viable especially as most households in Zambia are more of extended than nuclear ones as is the case in the Northern Hemisphere.


This revolutionary order endeavours to keep a much uncluttered room with plenty of space and minimal furnishings. As it is based strongly on craftsmanship, accessorising turns to be fundamental to pulling off this look. The objects for display are flexible too as they are usually exhibited seasonally and later put away in storage. Suitable objects here are curios that signify the African culture. This determines the focus of the room, and more so with displays of artwork by local artists within the community. By incorporating, living plants such as Aloe Vera and Orchids, eco-friendliness is realized.

Today, since design has evolved with architecture, the user’s wellbeing is in so doing at the center of design. This consequently calls for discipline; henceforth certain rules have to be abided by to keep simplicity in a space via the use of natural materials to connect to nature. A few potted plants and shrubs are added to bring in nature’s goodness to achieve a comforting and serene hub. Wind chimes can also be added as sound plays a critical part in making the room a far more pleasant space.


With the rampant power cuts suffered in Zambia, a few carefully placed candles on sculptural lighting installations can go a long way especially also in curbing down the running cost of electricity use.

Since the user is at the center of this design style, a small water feature at the entrance or in the backyard is a requirement as the sound of flowing water is considered harmonious. This brings in the element of fluidity and doubles as a stunning sculptural installation that becomes the focal point.


At long last, the environment is somewhat saved by the use of such sustainable materials and sustainable techniques for application; a space with an impeccable and exclusive appeal is consequently achieved.



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