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House of Rose Repose

My friend Rose used to be my desk buddy; we shared a rented office space and sat side by side alternating the wearing of distraction-shooing headphones while typing madly, with the drinking of tea and gossiping wildly. 

I've mentioned Rose before, she now lives in Dakar, Senegal, where she alternates writing about the arts and culture, taking photographs of well-honed wrestlers and sewing things in excellent fabrics which she sells via her little company, Rose Repose (such as these ace cushions and aprons made of African presidents). And now we get to nose around her house. I love to see how differently people decorate their homes in different countries: I knew Rose's flat in London, and it was beautiful – but very London, even with her trademark fabrics all over it. This is very different – and an inspiring ode to recycling. So I'll hand you over to Rose for a tour...

"When I first saw the house I now live in, it was pretty much uninhabitable. Overlooked by developers and ignored by the owner, the garden was a jungle of creepers and the gazebo was rotten. The front door had rotted right through, and the bathroom had just a shower pipe coming out of the wall, and a ceramic shower tray on the floor (which I have taken out to make a bird bath for the garden). 

"The kitchen shelves, above, are where I keep my treasured things: my Wifi radio, a painted glass tray (top shelf) from a Dakar artist, a water jug from the Danish Design Museum, my Japanese coffee grinder, some little retro dishes commemorating the Glasgow transport system found in a Dakar crockery shop, and my much-loved Mason Jars from Kentucky in Rose Repose quilted covers.

"The room above is where I work on Rose Repose creations when I don't have house guests. The bedspread is one I made last year from South African fabrics and white linen. My cutting table was made by my metal recycler/furniture maker friend Laye. We went deep into the bowels of Dakar to find an old set of French louvered doors which he cleaned up to use as the fabric shelf on the bottom. The slats let the air in. 

"I spent a month working on the house to make it liveable (even though I only rent it) and now I'm reaping the benefits. It's the end of the rainy season so the garden, above and below, has come to life and a family of frogs has moved in. 

"I bought this watering can, above, by the side of the road. It's made out of recycled aluminium, but the holes are too big so all the water comes through the hose at once. Still, I love the shape of it.

"Outside the kitchen door I have my herb garden, above, and a beautiful shop banner from Vlisco, the Dutch wax cloth company. Vlisco is one of my favourite 'African' fabric makers (you can read about these kinds of fabric here and my friend got me this in the Congo. I'm sure it wasn't meant to be given away but it makes me happy every morning when I drink my coffee on the kitchen step.

"I re-built the gazebo in the garden, installed hammock hooks and Malian hammocks, and thatched the roof. After some weeks of searching, I found a man who came with a lorry load of grass from the Gambia, leapt on the roof and sewed it all together. On Friday nights I get out my film projector and we watch movies projected on the wall. There's no cinema in Dakar so we have to make our own fun. 

"I love this mirror in my kitchen. It's made from cut-out circles of oil drum, as is the top of the kitchen bench, below, both made by my very talented metal welder friend Diedhou who will make anything out of metal, as long as you draw a picture of what you want. 

"Another clever recycler is my Senegalese-Togolese friend Laye who made me a pot hanger from scrap metal and Coke bottle tops. 

"Laye also made me my bag hooks, below, from scrap, where I put my shopping bags collected from all over. Some are Rose Repose (the two on the left and far right) and the middle ones were gifts from my  favourite Danish designer

"The poufs are made from old washing machine drums which I found in a neighbourhood of Dakar which is a recycler's heaven. An old man was selling them from a 10 foot pile of scrap metal; he held my handbag while I climbed the heap to choose the good ones. I made the cushions from scraps of colourful jacquard left over from making Senegalese outfits and after much searching, found someone who could cut me rounds of foam sponge.

"I have big windows in my house, rare now in Dakar, so I get lots of light inside. My living room is home to my beloved banjo, my set of Rose Repose Presidential cushions, above, some photos from my wrestling series, a coffee table made out of old aluminium sheets from a printing factory and lined with pages from the daily wrestling newspaper and the local celebrity glossy, Thiof.

"On the other side of my living room are my other treasured things: a rug from Morocco, some stacks of fabrics collected from all over west Africa, a telephone I found in a junk sale around the corner, a gravestone head from Niger (middle left), my 1960s Russian stacking hedgehogs made from scrap gun metal (centre), and perhaps my favourite thing of all, my tilapia fish miniature coffin by Kane Kwei, from Ghana. Funerals are big in Ghana and this artist became famous for his coffin-art pieces which paid tribute to the person being buried. I was lucky enough to pick up a mini one last time I was in Accra, where I keep my matches.

"When I was in Mali, I interviewed the son of the famed photographer Malick Sidibe who is now running the studio. One day he photographed me in a Malian pose, and I got it framed in an over-the-top west African way.

"My veranda has a lovely comfy armchair which I got dressed up in fabric from my local salesman. 

"Some hot water bottle covers, above, that I'm working on for my Christmas sale, with the scraps left over from the bedspread.

"A few years ago my dad made me this sewing box, with a needle pad on the inside of the lid. It's one of my most treasured things.

"This, below, I use as my chest of drawers. I recently acquired a set of shelves which were too big for my living room, so I asked Diedhou my metal worker friend to make a set of drawers from oil drums. It took a lot of trips to his workshop to get them right, but they ended up just right. 

"Dakar doesn't have much in the way of furniture shops. "Everything has to be imported, at great expense, so the only people who import something as luxurious as furniture are the wealthy Lebanese community, who have their own style, which is not really mine. There is a local market for furniture, but the pieces are very tightly packed with foam and quite glittery and shiny. There is an ex-pat market for second, third, fifth hand furniture, but this is also very expensive, though I've picked up my chairs and sofas from departing Americans and had them refurbished by local upholsterers.

"I like having things made, since I have quite specific demands, but sometimes it's just that I got inspired by something and wanted something made out of it (like the washing machine poufs). It can be expensive (just because it's scrap doesn't make it cheap) and frustrating, because things go wrong, things get broken in the process, things are late or get forgotten completely. But when it turns out right, it's just the most exciting feeling.

Buy Rose's textile creations at Rose ReposeAnd read her post about a wonderful house in Mali, covered in amazing 1960s and 70s tiles.


  1. Fantastic!!! Your home looks BEAUTIFUL :-)
    George xxx

  2. Wish I was reposing in your gorgeous home, Rose - and what a lovely site Kate. I have been getting lost in your interiors!

  3. OMG synchronicity is at work here! Just came back to my book mark on your site and there was a message from you!

    I am Well in Walworth right now thanks, I hope you too are holding up against the complete lack of degrees.

    I'm off to mooch around your homes again now! x

  4. Hi, i LOVE the chest of drawers from an oil drum, Do you know where I could buy / commission something similar? I can't see anything online.

    thank toy so much, Katie