I’ve done literally thousands of transformations over the decades but to be honest, these Before and After photos are the most dear to my heart.
Very First Before and After Transformation:
We all have our own calling – We just realize it at different points of our life.
Growing up in remote areas of northern Nigeria in the 60’s as a young girl wasn’t a natural environment that typically fosters interior design skills. However, it did teach me to be resourceful and creative. It taught me gratitude and team work. It also taught me that everything doesn’t have to be perfect in order for it to be ‘perfect for me’.
I built and designed my first house when I was about 6 years old with my dad. It’s actually one of my favourite childhood memories of him since he believed in my vision.
How it Started:
I will never forget the day a family from Ohio, USA arrived in Nigeria to work with my dad. That was the day I met my friend Sheila. We were the same age and were inseparable. I had never seen anyone with red hair or freckles before, and she had such a strange accent I could hardly understand her.
When they travelled abroad on a ship, all their possessions followed in huge wooden crates. That was just the way it was done back then. It was so exciting seeing these huge boxes being pulled up on a wagon. I sat eagerly in amazement as I watched all these fascinating items being unloaded. I wondered what they were going to do with everything. They brought a telephone which was so silly since there was no one to call since no one else had a phone!
Anyway, I was extremely intrigued by these huge wood crates and I begged my dad to keep one once they were emptied out. It was the perfect size for a playhouse, and I could visualize it perfectly. I guess it’s similar to how you give a child a special gift on their Birthday or Christmas morning and they are more interested in the box than what’s inside in it.
I’m sure at the time, my dad thought I was crazy, but he agreed, and we started to work on it together. He always made me feel so important and special. I know deep down he loved doing it as much as I did once he got into it. Building this house taught me the basic rules of design that I still apply today.
I’m the blondie on the right and my best friend Sheila is on the left. We were 6 years old.
Start with the foundation. The foundation of your home is the most important thing. We placed this wood crate up on cinder blocks to help reduce hook-worms, termites and to help make it a little more level in the sandy soil. No point in having a house if it’s going to sink in the sand in the dry season or be flooded in the rainy season.
We decided where we wanted the door and windows to be. Since I didn’t have any furniture to put in it, I didn’t have to worry about a floor plan lol. I let my dad cut them out with a very old hand saw.
I learned how to make some tough decisions. We only had enough paint for either the interior or the exterior. I still don’t know where he got the paint. I remember wanting to paint the inside since that was where I was going to be playing, but he explained that it was more important to paint the exterior to protect the wood against the harsh sun. I loved how my dad even painted a Canadian maple leaf on the door. I know you can’t tell by these old photos, but the trim was bright red and the wall were white. How Canadian can you get?
My Grandparents came over and visited us for a month and they were very impressed with my little Canadian House.
Negotiation and Budgets:
All the other houses, huts and shelters around us had either thatched roofs or metal roofs. I wanted a thatched one. As you can see in the first photo, the wood was in really bad shape, so it needed to be covered. Dad negotiated a price with a few of the local craftsmen to build a thatched roof and while they were working my mom would constantly bring them food and water all day. Then she gave them a huge basket of food to take home to their families. Everyone was happy.
This is Pindar. My parents adopted him (unofficially) after they found him on the street since he had no family and he lived with us. He was a huge help to our family.
Design is all about learning on the job with a bit of trial and error. It turned out our windows were too big so inside got extremely hot with the scorching sun. I went to the market with my parents on our bikes to visit the tailor. Since it was a far distance, I sat on my dad’s handlebars the whole way. That alone was very exciting. I was allowed to choose some fabric to make drapes. We didn’t have curtain rods, so we nailed the fabric into the wood above the windows. When I wanted to let the sun in, I rolled the fabric up and attached it to the nails. That was my first attempt at making a Roman Blind without even knowing what a Roman Blind was . I also cut a piece of the fabric to make a carpet for the floor since I didn’t want to get splinters sitting on the rough wood. It was very convenient to be able to shake all the sand out every day too. I really wish I had photos of the inside of the house but I’m grateful that I at least have these ones. Most of our slides were stolen.
I really didn’t have any accessories to work with. I used to always bring in some fresh flowers from the garden since they were so pretty and colourful. I had one doll who had a blue coat with a white fur collar (which Sheila gave to me when they arrived, along with lots of new clothes and shoes), a bike, books and a ball. However, I was never bored and was very happy. I had lots of pets to keep me company (cats, bush dogs, lizards etc.) and I made beds and blankets with the left-over fabric for them all. Did you know that an empty matchstick box is the perfect size for a caterpillar bed? Well it is, and they look extra cute with a little blanket covering them. <3
Other than my pets, Sheila was the only other person allowed in my playhouse! It was a magical place for me where all my imagination could be expressed. Oh, the conversations , make believe games and giggles that went on in there were amazing!!!!