Franckly Friends: At the home of Sheila Ndungu, the soft light is the main character that shows brilliant design at its best

When the pandemic forced Supercell employee Sheila Ndungu to work from home, she began to see her home in a new light. Ndungu’s two-room apartment in Helsinki is beautifully laid out with both contemporary and classic design that will last for long and retain their resale value.

Sheila Ndungu
Franckly Friends is a column that visits the homes of interesting individuals and delves into stories behind their design treasures. This time we meet Sheila Ndungu, whose work in marketing at the gaming company Supercell has taken her on business trips around the world.

Hi, Sheila! Your home seems to be bathed in light, even in the bleak Finnish winter. What does color in interior design mean to you, and how have you incorporated color in your home?
“Before the pandemic, I was constantly traveling as part of my work, and home was primarily a place where I more or less just slept when I was back in Finland. But when I began working from home every day due to the lockdown restrictions, I started to look at things around me differently. It was always super-gloomy in the winter, and I felt like the gray was creeping all the way into my apartment from the outside.

In choosing my home decor, I wanted to bring light and warmth into my home. The white walls reflect light well, making bright colors stand out beautifully and accentuating the light effect. My large yellow velvet sofa practically creates a yellow glow around it. Now my home has the radiance of sunlight, no matter the season.

I was born in Kenya and have lived in various parts of Africa, Europe and the United States. However, my roots are in a place that is full of color and light. Maybe that’s why these things mean so much to me and make home such a cozy and happy place.”

Vintage GUBI Pacha lounge chair
Designed by Pierre Paulin in 1975, the Pacha lounge chair is nowadays in GUBI's collection.  The Vitra Occasional Table LTR was designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1950. 
Vintage &Tradition’s Formakami JH4 pendant lamp
&Tradition’s Formakami JH4 pendant lamp is a playful reimagining of traditional Asian paper lanterns.

In your home, Nordic design classics combine beautifully with contemporary design. What is your relationship with design, and what are the guiding ideas behind choosing things for your home?
“I only became interested in design recently, when I had time to explore it after the pandemic started. It’s important to me that my home looks exactly as I want it, not like anyone else’s. I really appreciate Artek’s sleek, minimalist furniture, for instance, but since it just doesn’t feel like “me” I chose a different style of furniture for my home.

“It’s important to me that my home looks exactly as I want it, not like anyone else’s.”

I love characterful furniture. For example, I have commissioned a unique dining table from Gustaf Westman in Sweden. His designs are just insanely beautiful. I always think for a long time before I buy, so that I can be sure it’s not just a flight of fancy and that I’ll really be content with it for a long time. It doesn’t matter to me what others think of my home and interior decor choices.”

Yellow sofa in the living room
The yellow velvet sofa radiates summer-yellow sunlight throughout the room. The painting is by a friend of Sheila’s. A traditional Kenyan toy on the window sill reminds her of the light and colors of her native country.
HAY Colour crate, M, lavender
The apartment has a casual storage solution using HAY’s Colour crates by the wall.
Light-hearted details in the home
There are several playful details in the home that have personal significance for Sheila.

How are the furniture choices you’ve made in your current home different from before?
“Moving to this apartment was a fresh start for me, and I wanted the decor to reflect this. It’s been wonderfully inspiring to decorate it with new, fresh-looking design finds.

My previous home was furnished with old, dark wood furniture that felt too heavy for the place, and for my life situation. Each of those items of furniture found a new home where they would be truly appreciated.

The fact that I moved into my new home on New Year’s Eve also had symbolic value, emphasizing the new beginning. I sat down happily amidst the removal boxes and watched the fireworks lighting up the midnight sky.”

When the pandemic brought business travel to a halt for some time, Sheila decided to make her Helsinki home a place where there is plentiful summer light, even in winter. “I have chosen contemporary design and classics that will last,” she says.

Is there room for chance in your home decor?
“Life is random by nature. No matter how far ahead you plan, there are no guarantees that things will work out that way. But chance also makes life interesting – and the same goes for home decor.

At some point, I realized that if I like something, I’m sure to find a way to combine it with everything else in a way that really suits me. I feel that my home is a place of organized chaos. That’s more interesting than having things too precisely thought out, or even sticking to just one color scheme.”

Vintage Vitra Panton chair, soft mint
The sculptural design of the unique table Sheila ordered from Gustaf Westman and Vitra’s mint-green Panton chair were highly appealing to her. The light is the Formakami JH4 from &Tradition.
Pre-owned String System shelf
The String System shelf was fascinating to Sheila, as she could build a personal bookcase from it. The black and white artwork is a traditional Rwandan imigongo relief.
A Kenyan mobile
Sheila’s home is furnished and decorated primarily with Kenyan handcrafted ornaments and Scandinavian design classics. A Kenyan mobile suspended from the kitchen ceiling depicts merry dancers in a circle.

You have chosen objects for your home with a long term view. Would you ever consider selling any of them at some point?
“I love the objects I have, and giving up on them doesn’t seem likely right now. However, I like the idea that the things I have could have a new life, if I no longer need them myself for some reason. I have chosen contemporary design and classics that will last. Although I want to be able to be content with my choices for the long haul, it’s nice to know that my furniture also has resale value if need be.

If my life situation changes and I leave Finland, for example, I could give up my furniture. However, I’d be willing to sell them only to someone who appreciates them as much as I do. That means I wouldn’t give up my treasures at bargain basement price, because anyone who really understands the true value of design is also willing to pay for it.

Some time ago I sold a vintage dining table by the Danish brand Fritz Hansen, as there wasn’t really any place for it in my current home. I was so thrilled to see how happy the new owners were with their find. They even sent me a picture of the table in its new home, where it fitted in perfectly!”

Artek Midsummer Dream vase
Sheila really enjoys visual contrasts, and likes to combine small details with large items of furniture. The Midsummer Dream vase is by Artek.
A vintage fan
The vintage fan Sheila received as a gift from her father years ago has already hung on the wall in several different homes. It is the sentimental value that makes it so special to her.
Sporting Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, BE@RBRICK is the third and final collaborative work between Medicom Toys and the Van Gogh Museum. In Sheila’s home, there are several Van Gogh BE@RBRICKs in various sizes.

What other stories are linked to items in your home?
“The fan on the wall has been with me for years. My father bought it for me from a street flea market in Punavuori in Helsinki seven years ago when my parents were visiting from Kenya. It’s made of paper and bamboo, and even though it’s already a bit shabby it has a lot of sentimental value for me. I wouldn’t dream of doing away with it.”

Sheila’s wishlist from Franckly

Akari 9AD table lamp
Kettle 9093
O-Tidy organizer
Aalto chair 611
Petite Friture
Vertigo Nova pendant
Bulky cookie jar
Junior 416 A chair
Little Barn Owl

See also:

More pre-loved design treasures at Franckly >

Text: Selina Vienola Images: Suvi Kesäläinen Video: Joni Tuominen

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