Frames from Orca, prints of historic Saint-Louis (Ndar) from a expired calendar.
My friend Moira over at Palm Tree Tea did this amazing post giving a tour of her Dakar apartment and how she has made it their home. I loved it. I immediately wanted to do one. And then I didn’t want to because it seemed too personal. And then I did because I love seeing other people’s homes… You get the idea. But what actually convinced me was an article I read on why we should regularly photograph the places/spaces we live because it all changes so quickly.

Mirror, chairs and animal carvings purchased in Dakar, China cabinet from Cote d’Ivoire.
Easier said than done, sama xarit. Capturing your space looking as it does when you live in it but not looking like a total disaster (ahem, nod to the kiddos)… Not so simple. But it was a fun challenge to tackle, and these are the ones I felt like sharing.

Woven mat from Mauritania, Congoleses Pygmy bed as a coffee table purchased from Ibrahima Mopfa here in Dakar. His number is 771748807 and he will be at the DWG Christmas Bazaar.
My number one tip for making a place in Dakar really feel like your home… paint. It seemed like every house or apartment we visited either had chalky white walls or creamy yellow, which just made the rooms feel even hotter. So my genius husband negotiated in our rental contract that we would paint on arrival rather than upon our departure. So when we moved in, it had not been repainted since the previous tenants (moderate levels of ick) but we were able to choose our own palette. I went a little overboard with the blues, but I wanted something DIFFERENT and in COOL TONES. There is not a white or beige or yellow wall left anywhere inside our apartment. 🙂

My favorite wax print used to re-upholster an IKEA chair we picked up at a yard sale. Chair: 15,000cfa ($30). Wax fabric: 8000cfa ($16). Upholsterer: 15,000cfa ($30). Details here:
Tip number two would be to understand that the woven baskets from Thies cost us next to nothing but retail in the US for hundreds of dollars. And they can be used for laundry baskets, decorative potted plant containers, storing kids’ books, holding rolled towels, fruit or bread baskets, massive toy bins, organizing toiletries… Or, you know, just looking awesome.

Bogolanfini (Malian mudcloth) pillow covers by Marietou of Khady Couture. Six Bougies also makes beautiful pillow covers using local fabrics. Find them on Etsy or at Keur Marie Ganaar in Mermoz.
Tip number three if you’ll be here a while is to shop the spring yard sales. We bought what we needed to survive the first year (which, as some friends remember, did not even include chairs to go around the table) and then slowly added and replaced. Fortunately our moving in timed exactly with a family who was leaving, so we were able to buy almost everything we needed at once. Nearly every piece of furniture and all but one major appliance came from yard sales.

Long story short: my husband went on a road trip to Bamako a few years back and returned with a truckload of furniture… and some of it was for me! This glass-top table frames a woven mat and my Reading Man sculpture from Malian hardwood sits there. It’s probably my favorite piece, for some reasons you can probably guess and others that are only mine to know.

Kitchen corner by IKEA, Mali markets and Thies baskets. And more blue walls… 🙂

Apartment life with kids requires creativity. Hence the pool and play kitchen on the balcony. And there’s also a huge tree trunk behind me…

Another brilliant husband move: passion fruit vines (ooh la la!) trained to grow up the balcony wall and into a rooftop canopy. #greeneryindakar

Some ideas work, some don’t turn out as you ordered/expected. The white woven rounds were supposed to be MUCH bigger to make a faux headboard. Oh well. Beneen yoon…

Treasures from when we traveled totally broke. Some of these were literally pulled from trash cans in Europe – and now they live on our wall in Senegal!

This picture makes me sleepy.  The bed was made by a local artisan and is three incredibly thick and insanely heavy slabs of wood fitted together on little stubby legs. The local wood armoire is the same one that every person in Dakar has. The price is usually ‘per door’ and some of them are really huge and take the whole wall. This one does not. 🙂

More baskets from Thies and Bamako.

For the kids’ room, I wanted a place that invited them to play, could be rearranged easily and that can be cleaned up quickly. #thankyouThiesbaskets. The baobab ‘family tree’ on the wall was one of the first things I did when we moved in. It’s a way to keep our far-away family still in their minds and hearts.

Reading nook under the loft bed, with woven chairs from local artisan Isaak.

Toy basket, bogolafini mud cloth meets IKEA and yard sale chairs, and possibly the most brilliant kids' room hack ever: securely mounted D-rings in the ceiling. We have this child's swing, a trapeze bar and a hanging bubble chair. Just swap them out every few months and they love it.
Toy basket, bogolafini mud cloth meets IKEA and yard sale chairs, and possibly the most brilliant kids’ room hack ever: securely mounted D-rings in the ceiling. We have this child’s swing, a trapeze bar and a hanging bubble chair. Just swap them out every few months and they love it.

One item I will never part with is this pirogue (Senegalese fishing boat) wood frame from Rafet décor. Pape will be selling at markets around Dakar and also has a Facebook page.
After all, love makes a house a home. That and plenty of toys and laundry laying around. Just not in photos. 😉