How design affects our daily lifestyle.

How design affects our daily lifestyle.


Hey there, welcome back to our blog.

We did something different this time, our creative lead, Fola, sat with Pro Architect, Ololade Babajide-Suleiman of OCA Design, over a zoom call to discuss a little about the psychology of design and how it affects us. Ololade who’s a licensed Architect has been in the practice of Architecture for well over ten years, and in this chat, she shares from her wealth of experience.

We know you’ll find this Q & A session very insightful as we discussed the pros and cons of what to look out for when house hunting, buying or building your home.

Enjoy reading!

Fola: So how should we address you, Mrs, Arc. Mrs Ololade?

Ololade: Ololade is brilliant, so just say Ololade, that’s perfect for me. So if you just address me as Ololade, that will be perfect.

Fola: Stunning, Okay Ololade thank you for honoring the invitation and welcome to Charis Décor and Fittings blog feature!

Ololade: Thank you for having me.

Fola: Ololade tell us what is so spectacular about you that someone needs to know.

Ololade: Well I’m a Licensed Architect of about 10 years but practicing for 13 years. I like to say I’m a Nigerian Architect, I’m not based anywhere, if you want me to be in Borno I’ll be there, in fact, I’m talking to you now from Akure. I’m very passionate about properly implemented Architecture and housing generally; I believe that Architecture can affect one positively when it’s done right. I’m very glad to be here. thank you for having me.

Fola: Thank you so much again! Meanwhile, having studied Architecture with you for the first 4 years, you were one of those people at the school of Architecture that I loved seeing their work especially your sketches.

Ololade: Wow, my goodness haha. I still do my sketches, and now it’s even better with technology using my digital pen, I don’t need a pen and paper anymore. I simply sketch anywhere on my device, thank you for that.

Fola: First let’s have an introductory thought on what the interior design style is in Nigeria? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of the western design style infused into our designs so much that what should be the “Nigerian design style” is somehow lost. Please tell us what you think about this.

Ololade: I would describe the style as vernacular, and vernacular doesn’t necessarily mean a good thing. Hear me out. In layman’s terms, vernacular, is you taking and using something from here and there without any intentionality to it, I mean no proper detail to it. Which brings me to the question of, why do you use certain things?

Design has rules. I know that a lot of people want to believe that art is free and without rules, but if it wasn’t with rules, why and how would it then be taught? You have people teaching abstract art today. So if abstract art and abstract artists didn’t have rules, how do you then teach it? That means anybody can take a pen and a brush and do it. Why do you need a course to teach abstract art? Why do people go to art school? The reason is because the rules are not necessarily scientific, but they exist. The principles are not necessarily scientific, but they exist.

What you find in Nigerian Interior design today, and not just interior design, but also in architecture, is that many people go against the rules and just do what appeases to them. It’s okay to have inspiration boards but it would be nice to do things with more intentionality. Draw references but create intention with it, everything must be done with purpose such that anyone who sees your design can tell what you’re trying to create. We haven’t been intentional about infusing Nigerian cultural elements and you can see it’s a missing factor needed to accurately define our design style.

Fola: So I know Designers and Architects create a niche for themselves and rather focus on what they believe is their strength; do you think our style of design in Nigeria is dictated by the brief from the client or by the Architect / Interior Designer?

Ololade: I think it’s a mix of both, and I’ll tell you why I think so. The environment affects every design – I mean, that’s where you draw reference from. Things like, funding and the economics of the business play a huge role on what type of clients the interior designers or architects take on. Simultaneously, the client’s environment, cultural background and economic capacity is also partly responsible for the design style in Nigeria.

I’ve been fortunate to work in Lagos and I’ve seen different personalities of clients. I can tell that people’s backgrounds play a great role in their design taste. As a designer, it will be unfortunate for me to shove down my taste on my client, especially if it’s a good paying one, (remember, economic reasons) As a business owner, choosing to accept or reject a project is a personal decision and I will not fault anyone who decides to take on some jobs and do it according to what the client wants. So sometimes, the budget and taste of both client and designer, affects the overall direction of the design style which may be without a Nigerian staple.

Fola: Okay to our main question, for a Nigerian going out to shop for a new house or setting out to buy or build, please tell us as an Architect, what should they be looking out for?

Ololade: That’s a good question, I’ll break this down in two parts: there’s the physical aspect and also the psychological aspect that is determined by design. Here’s what I’ll say, take a designer with you to evaluate the space especially if you’re buying. The same way you get a lawyer to inspect the paper work for purchasing, it’s the same way you should get your Architect or Designer involved in the buying or renting process. They see what you can’t see with regards to the structure and general health of the building. So, let’s look at the physical aspects to watch out for in a building:

Is the building healthy? There are so many sick buildings out there and a lot of us like to see the slay-mama looking buildings without paying attention to the main thing, which is , is this building healthy? – are the services running efficiently? The electrical, mechanical and plumbing services should be properly done and maintained; ensure wires are not hanging around in a haphazard manner, check that the walls are healthy with no cracks, are the doors and windows hanging on properly because whether we know it or not, these things affect us psychologically.

Picture source: Canva stock photos.

Along with this, you must check that the overall building is structurally sound. Is the building standing upright? Are there beams and columns holding the building in place? You need to also analyze the spatial arrangement and the comfort level; Are there enough windows for proper ventilation? We definitely need to be paying more attention to these things when buying or renting houses. Does the position of the living room door in relation to the TV wall allow you have a proper layout without obstructions? Will people constantly walk through the living room to get to other spaces or even across the room?

Going with an architect to inspect houses with you helps you identify all of the above and anything else that may be a potential problem which will in turn affect your “daily living”. This also helps to hold landlords accountable for buildings that are erected without proper structural and architectural planning.

Fola: Talking about comfort level and floor plan layouts? We’re beginning to see more open-plan layouts in residential spaces now. From a design point of view, is this effective in the Nigerian climate?

Ololade: I personally do not think the open-plan concept can work for small apartments and I get it, it’s trendy and Nigerians love what is in vogue, but let’s remember that Lagos is not Nigeria, Lekki is not Nigeria. Some layouts we do in Lekki houses will not work in hotter regions. I personally love the open-plan style and will probably do this in my own home – but not without a chef’s kitchen or scullery which is simply a smaller kitchen adjoined to your main kitchen.

The open-plan layout also allows for a bigger entertaining space whereby your lounge opens up to your kitchen and dining. With a chef’s kitchen, I can do all the dish cleaning and heavy cooking in there. For a small apartment however, I don’t quite support it. If at all a client insists, I’ll suggest an open or see-through partition to create some zoning without totally blocking off the kitchen with walls. Additionally, with furniture, you can zone an open-plan space to define the function. This can be done with transparent (glass) partition, book shelves or even a décor feature like a mini-aquarium, tall planters, bamboo slat partitions and so on.

Picture source: Canva stock photos.

However, open-plan spaces require adequate ventilation so you should be watching out for window sizes and positions. I had an experience on site where 1200mm windows were replaced with 900mm narrow window and someone thought it was a good idea. As much as possible, a well designed building should have adequate natural light and ventilation, artificial lighting and ventilation can however be for added support in extreme weather.

Cover photo source: Canva Stock photos

Fola: On a closing note, what would you like to say to anyone who still has questions about all you’ve said?

Ololade: In simple terms, follow “who know road”. If Nigerian landlords don’t make certain provisions in a house you’re acquiring either by renting or buying, then source for inspiration from others who’ve had similar challenges and see the solutions they’ve applied. For designers, find yourself a community that will boost your creativity; Nigeria is fast becoming “export-quality” such that our skills, art, music and culture are now being accepted globally, we should strive to bring in these Nigerian staples to our designs also.

Photo source: Pinterest

I’ll also say that there isn’t any definition of what Nigerian Architecture or Nigerian Interior design as yet but we’ve seen people like Tosin Oshinowo who have brought in textures, patterns and fabrics that are native to some regions in Nigeria into furniture design. I remember my grandfather’s wooden carved door handcrafted by local men of the time; this door told a story of our rich Yoruba culture. Oh I also remember his foldable recliner chair made from real, solid wood. We need to see more of these today to properly define our style, Imagine the Igbo Nsibidi art inscriptions transferred to wall art or furniture upholstery. I think these will make a brilliant design style that we can own and ultimately export globally.

Fola: Absolutely, it will be make a huge world of difference to see more traditional elements in every home and not just in museums or exhibition spaces. Thank you so much Lolade for such an amazing time with us. It was an insightful session with you. Find out more about more about Ololade Babajide-Suleiman here.

If you’d like to understand more about different interior design styles, we wrote a blog about it, click here to read. Till next time, follow who know road.

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