Having trouble with your Mercedes Benz or BMW? Franklin Karani is probably the person you ought to have called had he pursued what he trained for. Repainting and organizing people’s houses is the path he took instead. Radisson Blu hotel in Nairobi is the latest hotel which he undertook the interior design work. The State House, Juba interior design is also his work and so are many other hotels and establishments in Nairobi including Art Caffe and The Tribe hotel. He is now venturing into Somalia and spoke to Ayan Abdi Diriye of his aspirations in revamping establishments in the country.
What is your vision for Somalia in terms of interior design?
We are looking at a number of projects. A lot of renovations that are coming about with the new Somalia. We are also looking to train young people in Somalia whom we can work with in the construction business. One of the projects we are in discussion is redesigning of the Al-Jazeera Palace Hotel. We hope to make it modern with an Italian touch to it once discussions are concluded.
Why your interest in Somalia?
Somalia is starting afresh. We believe we can create that feeling of peace and tranquility after all the country has been through. A fresh new look. Investors are willing to pump in as much money as they can is a good thing. They (investors) are willing to pay for style and quality and we have the expertise to give them. Quality is key in our work. I’m passionate about Italian designs too. Somalia has a strong influence of Italian design, combine that with their cultural heritage the product is amazing.
The other bit about Somalia is that if for example you invest $100,000, you are likely to recover the money at a shorter time unlike in Kenya or Ethiopia where you will take years upon years to recoup your investment. I believe in Somalia things will be different because there is hunger for change. I have been watching Somalia since the war, seeing people resettling… it has been a long journey. I designed the interior of Grand Royal hotel in Eastleigh, Nairobi. Kilimanjaro hotel too, both owned by Somalis. After working on these projects I felt it was time to concentrate and be part of the rise that is in waiting in Somalia as a country.
Working in Somalia one cannot ignore the issue of security. What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t think Somalia is as bad as it has been portrayed by the international media. It’s the same thing like in other countries in the region; you can get shot at the corner of Kimathi Street, in Nairobi. Even in Somalia you can get shot anywhere.
What different thing/ideas are you looking to offer to Somalis in terms of interior designing?
As a designer one is always looking to give different feels. Mogadishu enables me to give a different twist to what I have been doing. The Italian style mixed with the Arabian touch and a mix of the local culture creates lots of versatile designs. It gives me such a good feeling. I can’t wait! I feel honoured to work there.
How do you plan to attract more investors?
Somalia is a big investment. It will help rebuild the country. We have all sorts of people coming along to work with us; government, individuals and corporations. As we set up these projects we are telling people “come and see our work” We are also hopeful that the elections in 2016 will be peaceful. No investor wants to put in his or her money where there is no political stability.
If you don’t harmonize your home with the colours you like, you will be very miserable. For corporate, what’s your brand? The feeling you want to create should be in synch with that of your brand. Your customers should be able to experience your brand in your décor and design work.
Where are you sourcing the materials for your work?
If it’s Italian style, we shop in Italy. We source for materials depending on the client’s needs however, we insist on quality. Hopefully we can set up plants for some of the building materials. As of now we are transporting every little thing including nails.
What challenges do you anticipate working in Somalia?
Infrastructure is not there hence transportation of goods will be a big challenge. Energy is another so we are looking at the option of using generators. Basically logistics is the anticipated challenge.
Design tip you advocate for?
People have to be real. If you don’t harmonize your home with the colours you like, you will be very miserable. For corporate, what’s your brand? The feeling you want to create should be in sync with that of your brand. Your customers should be able to experience your brand in your decor and design work.