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Elaine Mwansa: Adding local touch to interior design

INTERIOR designing is not a popular trend in Zambia. Most people consider the idea of hiring an interior designer to decorate their homes as a preserve of the rich and famous.
But these are the perceptions that Elaine Chimuka Mwanza of Lusaka is trying to change with the establishment of her company, Taf-Keda Designing, under the label “Chitengefy.”
“It is extremely difficult to get people to buy into interior designing in Zambia. People do not understand that it is alright to ask a professional to help them create a perfect living space in their home. It is unfortunate that people think it’s a waste of money,” Elaine said.
Born in Ndola in 1985, in a family of five, Elaine is determined to ensure that people’s perceptions towards interior designing are changed for the better.
From a young age, her passion has always been designing. This is something she was determined to nurture through her primary education in Ndola before she moved to Lusaka’s St Mary Girls where she eventually completed her secondary.
After completing her secondary education, Elaine re-located to the United Kingdom in 2003 where she pursued a degree course in graphic designing at University of Southampton. After successfully graduating, Elaine returned to Zambia in 2009 and worked for various prestigious advertising agencies including INZY and DDB Zambia.
“I started my company in 2010 but I was doing it in the background while I worked for the various advertising agencies. However, in 2014 I resigned and decided to do something I am more passionate about. I opened my interior designing company, Taf-Keda Designing,” she said.
Elaine said the concept of her interior designing company is to make home pieces and furniture using local chitenge materials.
“I re-decorate homes and office spaces. All our materials are locally sourced; I add an African or Zambian feel into office spaces or homes. I specialised in stools, ottomans and side tables among others.
I do the designs for the products but I have people who do the tailoring as well as carpenters who actualise the concepts of the product,” she said.
As an interior designer, Elaine said the services offered include actual re-decorating of home and office spaces as well as home and office pieces. I also offer consultation services if a client wants to re-decorate their home or office.
“What happens is that a client will hire us for interior designing services; there they will give us in detail an idea of what they want their living space to be regards design and colour scheme and we will advise accordingly after seeing the space.
We then do sketches and lay out for the design. The design is then taken back to the client for approval and when the designs are approved, we advise the client on what kind of pieces to buy,” she said.
Elaine said she usually accompanies the client to help pick out pieces which will assist in making the home look better but the placement and re-decorating of the house or living space is entirely up her.
Elaine said her company is also involved in corporate brand moulding.
She said although many Zambians have not bought into the idea of hiring an interior designer, she has managed to woo corporate clients while individuals would rather just buy her products than hire her for interior designing services.
Elaine said another challenge is that most people are sceptical about buying Zambian products because local products are perceived to be of sub-standards; a situation she said has made it difficult to penetrate the market.
“There are too many misconceptions surrounding local products because people think that local products are not durable and that kills the business especially that we sell local products. That has made it extremely difficult to penetrate the market as a local interior designer.
The other challenge is that people are not comfortable to hire someone else to decorate their homes and would rather do it themselves. We are trying to change that perception. People need to realise that it is alright to hire professionals help to create the perfect living space,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Elaine who, is also a mother of two and a wife, said her business is growing gradually although not at the pace that she would have loved it to. She said her future plans are to expand her company and make her brand a household name for interior designing.
The ambitious, yet soft spoken Elaine, said she hopes to open her own store in future and employ at least 100 workers. She plans to export her products not only within the continent but to other continents as well in a bid to further her career prospects.
“Currently, I only employ three people but not even the sky is the limit for the plans I have for Taf-Keda. I want my brand, Chitengefy, to be a household name, I want the brand to go beyond Zambia and the continent,” she said confidently.