Moran Munyuthe, the Lamu-based architect and furniture designer, loves Mid-Century Italian lighting and still prizes his signature Mashirbirya side-table
Munyuthe began designing furniture serendipitously, after considering the decor that would fill a house he was in the process of building. Having graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins and completed stints at architectural firms in the UK and Italy, he moved to Lamu, Kenya, where he set up Saba Studios – close to the culture and artisans who inspire his collections of handmade chairs and tables.
One artist everyone should watch?
I really enjoy Toyin Ojih Odutola’s paintings; I’m a big fan of her figurative work. Her striated textures are mesmerising.
An important element of your everyday style?
Lamu’s very hot, so I like wearing shirts in light, breathable fabrics and a wrap-around sarong.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Recently, I was at a friend’s house in Lamu. The house was restoration, done in the Swahili style. What was really interesting were the Art Deco lamps and light fixtures that combined very well with that style. In terms of design, these two styles are centuries apart, so the aesthetic fusion was unintended. I greatly enjoy these types of unforeseen aesthetic hybrids.
The designer with whom you’d most like to have lunch?
Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House. If he were alive, I’d love to talk to him about his residential projects, my favourite being Can Lis – a vacation home for his family.
Favourite furniture item you own?
This may be slightly self-indulgent, but it’s our Mashirbirya side-table. It’s simple, modular and light, which makes it a very versatile piece.
What’s on your decor wish list?
I’m a big fan of Mid-Century lighting from Italy. The Pietro Chiesa floor lamp with fabric screens to soften the light is probably my favourite item at the moment. It’s proportioned so well!
What were the first decor objects you owned?
I was transient until I was 25, so the first items I owned were the Mashirbirya chair and side-table.
The design or collection that changed your life?
While visiting a friend in Copenhagen, I went to the Bagsværd church, designed by Utzon. It has an amazing skylight that looks like a rolling cloud. It’s extremely poetic.
The colour you can’t get enough of?
The shade of cured lime walls in old-town Lamu. It’s a living material that ages as the building ages and produces fantastic organic beige patterns.
Favourite material to work with?
I love coral stone and wood. We’re working on a collection that combines the heft of the two materials.
Quotation by which you live?
’A profound design process eventually makes the patron, the architect and every occasional visitor to the building a slightly better human being.’ – Juhani Pallasmaa
Decor trend you’re loving?
Architectural materials such as concrete and terrazzo being used to make domestic objects.
Photographs: Getty Images/Gallo Images/Alamy; Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York