Saba, a new line of “contemporary Swahili” furniture, opened its first storefront in Lamu in December 2017. Created by Moran Munyuthe, an architect turned furniture designer, the Saba furniture blends traditional patterns with modern style.
Moran, who trained as an architect in London and Rome, returned to Kenya to build his mother’s house in Lamu. As the project progressed, he found himself sketching furniture for its rooms, applying architectural elements – like the star motif and wood lattice traditionally used in Swahili homes – to tables and chairs.
In partnership with Lamu craftsmen, Moran produced the furniture in hand-carved mvuli hardwood. His first two pieces – the Mashirbirya chair and side tables – debuted in a Nairobi pop-up shop in early 2017 and quickly proved the demand for the line’s quality craftsmanship.
He’s since expanded the line to include desks, cabinets, and mirrors, all with the signature star, as well as limited-edition pieces, like the Usitu daybed. Originally sketched as a gift for a friend, the daybed reimagines the traditional Swahili bed with clean lines and modular panels that allow it to ship flat and to convert into a single bed.
Saba Furniture Co. are currently raising money with their Nyota campaign, a fundraiser to enable Saba’s participation in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New york. You an find more details about taking part here. There are 19 days left until the campaign ends.
Moran is producing just seven daybeds [update 25.01.18: Due to popular demand, these are now being made in a larger quantity], working closely with his craftsmen for a month to perfect each piece. Four of the seven are sold, and he’s already sketching his next signature pieces, a series of beds and bedside tables. Designing fresh collections keeps him creative, he says, and balances his long-term architecture projects with the short-term satisfaction of bringing a beautiful piece of furniture to life.