An interview with Africa - London is the Place for Me
After supporting her from afar for so long, both meeting with and working alongside Africa proved to be an equally inspiring experience for all of us at Poodle and Blonde. From her sustainable living practices, to her business mentality and role as a mother, wife and more. In this interview we learn more about Africa, discuss her retro-Caribbean interior aesthetic and of course the collection London is the Place For Me, an ode to her grandparents, and the Windrush generation
"Our style is our culture and I find it very difficult to separate the two. No matter where we lived in the world, our homes would feel the same and the feeling we’re constantly trying to evoke, is that feeling of stepping off a plane and being hit with the familiarity of being back home"
Africa at home in her guest bedroom. Products featured from left to right. (Nanny's Stripe table lamp in Calabash, Nanny's Stripe wallpaper in Calabash, Tuscon Lullaby cushions in Rootmaster)
Kierra: The fan-girl in me wants to ask a million questions but I am sure there are many reading who have yet to discover your story so my first question would simply be, could you introduce yourself, who is Africa and what is The Vitamin D Project?
Africa: I’m Africa -a freelance Art Director, brand consultant, and writer who recently relocated to the Kent Coast with my husband and our four young children. I’m also the founder of The Vitamin D Project; a lifestyle platform with a focus on a more sustainable approach to interiors, childrenswear, and a real emphasis on social injustice issues - using my imagery as a backdrop to share honest and confronting conversations. The name was chosen at a time that I was self-medicating depression with as much travel as my work permitted. With so many other appropriate connotations, overtime, the name stuck.
You have a very consistent style but how would you describe your interiors aesthetic?
My husband and I are big believers in surrounding yourself (in all aspects) with the things that bring you joy and as a result, there’s a lot of continuity in our lifestyle, clothing interiors and music taste. As is now, my interiors aesthetic is heavily influenced by our West Indian roots and the culture clash between my grandparents in their hay day in 60’s West Yorkshire.
How has your style evolved since your early days of decorating until now?
You’d be forgiven for assuming that my husband takes a backseat when it comes to our interiors, but actually that couldn’t be further from the truth. When we met, my interiors style was awash of shabby chic - whitewashed MDF with a floral backdrop. Hard to believe right? My husband has a background in technical art and set design and has a real passion for wood in it’s natural form. When we first moved in together all those years ago, I worked hard to incorporate his love of raw, natural materials and we soon found a home aesthetic that fit in seamlessly with everything else that we loved in life.
Is there a link between your style and your culture? Is it important that your home reflects your heritage?
Our style is our culture and I find it very difficult to separate the two. No matter where we lived in the world, our homes would feel the same and that feeling we’re constantly trying to evoke, is that feeling of stepping off a plane and being hit with the familiarity of being “back home”.
Africa's hallway. Products featured from left to right. (Money Tree wallpaper in Harvey Vale, limited edition vintage cushions, Joyce, June and Kennedy). Banner from Alice Gabb
I notice you style a lot with vintage pieces. What would you say are the key benefits to using vintage options in your interior spaces?
Before making the move to freelance, I managed a showroom for a large interiors brand. If it wasn’t painfully obvious to me before, working with mass-produced furniture day in, day out -understanding the huge profit margins, seeing the quality control, the reduced intended lifespan of items that were once supposed to last for the better part of a decade - it really did make me fall out of love with “fast interiors”.
Cost per wear is a hugely important deciding factor in anything that we purchase -transcending beyond interiors- and when you purchase a “fast interiors” piece, it’s with the knowledge that much like a car, it will depreciate in value from the moment you get it home. Vintage furniture, however, not only holds it’s value, but depending on what you buy can often increase in value too. We like a home that feels unique and shopping for vintage interiors helps us to achieve that. Lastly, it’s one less item in landfill and if you thought the fast fashion clothing to landfill pipeline was problematic, just wait until you see what our satiation for ever changing new interiors is causing.
Let's talk about the collection, London is the Place for Me. Tell us the story behind the choice of name?
Taken from the hit calypso song by Trini born Lord Kitchener in 1948, “London is the place for me” was captured in a live, impromptu performance upon his arrival on the Empire Windrush. The song, for me, sums up the excitement, the hopes and the dreams that so many of the Windrush generation arrived to the UK with and I couldn’t think of a better name for our collaboration.
Watch London is the Place for Me by Lord Kitchener
It really is a perfect name, and with it being Black History Month here in the UK, what an ideal occasion to bring awareness to the Windrush generation, and in such a beautiful way. When thinking of the British-Caribbean home of this time, what are the key styling trends that come to mind and how does this collection nod to that?
I’d say the strongest common thread is a sense of pride. So much pride taken in spaces that were often sub-par and unfit for purpose due to racist landlord practices. Homes in all their forms became sanctuaries from the outside world -ownership status was irrelevant and possessions held such value because they represented a journey. I know that that lingering legacy lives on in so many Caribbean descendants homes today and I wanted to create a collection that wouldn’t look out of place in my grandparents homes 60 years ago, but would also fit seamlessly in ours today.
Africa, thank you so much for talking with us! The collection is stunning and represents a significant part of both Caribbean and British history. You have re-imagined some of our best-selling prints beautifully, thanks again for collaborating with us on this one-of-a-kind collection
Africa at home with founders Whinnie Williams and Kierra Campbell. Products featured (Money Tree wallpaper in Harvey Vale)
To find out more about Africa and the story behind London is the Place for Me, check out the product range where all descriptions include personal snippet's from Africa herself
Photography by Kasia Fiszer
Beautiful collection and a wonderful read.
This was a lovely read for a thoughtful collection I am in love with it all!
What a perfect collaboration – stunning!