Interiorssneak peeks

In Kenya, Zippy Accessories Remix a Rustic Rental

by Garrett Fleming

In Kenya, Zippy Accessories Remix a Rustic Rental, Design*Sponge

Six years ago, I sold off nearly everything I owned and moved 1,000 miles away from home to an apartment in Chicago, IL. For quite a while, all I had to keep me company was two suitcases of stuff and a blanket. I didn’t even own a bed in those days so, needless to say, I was starting from scratch. While this made settling in time consuming (and by far one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done), I felt so at home in my new apartment that the idea of setting up a new life seemed much less intimidating.

Ashleigh Gersh Miller, founder of clothing company Zuri, and her husband Andrew are two homeowners who are also not unfamiliar with having to figure out how to build a life far from home. Not too long ago they packed up their Brooklyn, NY loft and moved 7,000 miles away to Nairobi, Kenya. At the time, Ashleigh was pregnant with her second child, and navigating a new continent while also trying to quickly set up shop for the family seemed absolutely daunting. Luckily, they came across a rental with so much potential it helped get them excited about their brood’s new chapter.

Situated in a kid-friendly neighborhood, the British-Colonial-style house features many elements that had Ashleigh and Andrew hooked right off the bat: three bedrooms, a home office and a fireplace so grand it begged to be the space’s centerpiece. All of these elements, however, came wrapped in a rustic sensibility that, while cozy, initially left Ashleigh a little stumped. The majority of the couple’s furniture from back in NY was modern and eclectic in nature and didn’t seem like it would sing amongst the Colonial’s exposed beams and throwback touches. While pondering how to make the space work, Ashleigh came across a design trick that she now swears by: the power of color and pattern. By injecting eye-catching pieces with color and pattern, the design disparities have faded away and all that’s left is a cozy nest for the growing family.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Ashleigh and Andrew first began transforming their rustic rental, and now that the home is fully furnished the pair have been able to finally take some time to enjoy the simpler life they lead in Kenya. The two oftentimes sit in their safari loungers listening to Kenya’s nighttime soundtrack on repeat. As the monkeys howl and the trees rustle in the wind, they chat about how grateful they are for the sense of calm they’ve been given by moving to Africa. “Peace is a real luxury,” they tell us, and we couldn’t agree more. Click through to check out their entire African homestead. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Jennifer Huxta

Image above: The furniture Ashleigh and Andrew shipped over from their Brooklyn, NY apartment was modern and eclectic, a far cry from this rustic rental they snagged in Nairobi, Kenya. Throughout the decorating process, Ashleigh found out just how far colorful and pattern-filled pieces — like the cabinet by Lucas Risé — could go in helping bridge this design gap.

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Every member of the family has different reasons for loving the backyard: the dogs adore chasing monkeys around it, the children can't get enough of running amok throughout it, and Andrew and Ashleigh cherish lounging in it while listening to nature's choruses.
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"I love how the colors in the rug play off both the cabinet and the colors of the sofas and ottoman," Ashleigh says.
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This style of Kenyan home features many levels thanks to sporadic steps and vaulted ceilings. The living room -- for example -- is 12 feet tall at its highest point but only 7 feet tall at its lowest.
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The living room's fireplace is so large the family's able to grill lamb inside it on special occasions. Surrounding it are neutral accessories. This color-free palette ensures nothing visually competes with the architectural beaut.
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Long before a life in Kenya was on the horizon, the couple got this West African bakuba rug as a wedding gift. "Who knew it would make it to Africa?!" Ashleigh exclaims.
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This painting was done by Michelle Hinebrook, Ashleigh's best friend from back in NY. They may live a world away from one another, but through works like this they are truly never far apart. Table runner by 45R.
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This space was originally designed to be a guest room, hence the built-in bed.
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Ashleigh and Andrew have since turned the room into a home office and use the built-in bed for reading.
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This vintage drawing board brought over from Brooklyn, NY was a birthday gift for Andrew.
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With 14-foot ceilings and wood details, Andrew and Ashleigh's bedroom is a stunner. The striking piece of art that decorates it is actually one side of the shipping crate the couple's living room cabinetry came in. The maker Lucas Risé painted it on there to surprise them.
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A look inside the home's pantry reveals a unique, curving dividing wall.
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The kitchen cabinets are Congolese cedar, which is now embargoed in East Africa.
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This cooking duo gets some serious use out of their perfectly-patinated yellow pan. "It also provides me with a sense of security against any potential intruders!" Ashleigh tells us.
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The blue chair in Felix's room is situated for him to pick out which stuffed animals he wants to sleep with and what book in particular Mom and Dad will be reading to help him doze off. His storage baskets are made from durable Kenyan sisal.
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The many bedtime options Felix has to choose from.
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"The thing I love most about my home is lying in my garden," -- Ashleigh Gersh Miller
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The mid-century home was built in British Colonial style. Many of its corners were originally rounded, but more-recent additions have squared it off a bit. Luckily these tweaks haven't taken away from the cozy vibe the original circular construction provided.

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Comments

  • What an incredible marriage of modern american furniture with a rustic home in a far off land! Beautifully done!

  • Hi Ashley and Andrew

    How great to see your fabulous design decisions! It’s also great to see how you use the space. The only thing I missed was seeing Felix and Raffi.

    Sharon and Ron R.

  • Ashleigh – beautiful home, in the first picture is that a fabric upholstered wardrobe? I’m confused what exactly it is but I adore it.

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