At once spacious and cosy, Abba's apartment in Cameroon's capital is the perfect blend of local decor and memorabilia from abroad. With a teapot from China, curtains from India and books from home, she's made her space into a comfy, colorful corner of the globe.
Though the space is temporary (Abba only plans to stay in Yaounde for a yearlong contract) she's invested time to make it her own. Bright pagne from the local shops show her love for Cameroonian flavor. These kaleidoscope-inspired couch covers anchor the room in vibrancy while accents provide added sparks of color and personality. A curtain in the doorframe leading to the bedrooms also nods to the country's traditions for interior decor.
Treasures made and collected abroad -- like the handwoven table runner from Senegal -- bring memories from years of travel under one roof. Abba especially loves the long curtains she made after taking a woodblock printing class in India. Just like the beautiful patterns on the curtains were selected with care, so too are all the elements that make up her home away from home.
Closer Look: An Interview with Abba
Q: In ten words or less, how would you finish the sentence “Home is…”?
A: Home is a space for relaxing, being creative, hosting and drinking tea.
Q: Please pick a few objects, places or viewpoints in your apartment that really make it home for you.
1—Books! I grew up in a house with built-in bookshelves and I was always putting the books in alphabetical order. Books are a remnant of my childhood because my parents were reading to us all the time.
2—There is a stuffed monkey from childhood that I still really love. He even had his own passport at one time! I know it seems juvenile, but he's important to me.
3—I took a woodblock printing class for a week in India and really love the curtains I made during the course.
4—Tea and spices are a key part of the kitchen. I love cozying up on the couch with a cup of tea on the weekend. Having a good tea collection allows you to ask: "What tea is right for me today? What fits my mood?" Spices remind me of my mom and her cooking.
Q: If you had to furnish your home using only one store, but the budget was limitless, which would it be?
A: Second-hand shops and thrift shopping!
Q: Besides your apartment, where else do you feel most at home in the city?
A: Aisha's house (a Cameroonian friend from my time in Peace Corps). In Cameroonian culture, it is normal to just swing by and visit at any time. I called once before coming over to make sure it was ok. She chided me because Cameroonians just show up, they don’t call before visiting. Aisha is ethnically Fulbe, who are well known for their hospitality. I am offered food and tea every time I go over, and am always relaxed in her home.
Q: Besides where you live now, what city could automatically feel like home to you?
A: Any city where I have lived for at least a year would feel like home because I feel at ease by knowing a place. Addis Ababa felt like home because I knew the people and the places to go. New York could feel like home, but it changes so quickly that it is more difficult to go back and adapt. Every city changes, of course, but New York changes at lightning speed.
Q: Is there an aesthetic from another country that especially resonates with you?
A: The fabrics from India, Islamic Art from the Middle East with Arabic writing and designs from Turkey. I really love so many of the homes I've visited in the global South. Many of the homes are like a secret garden -- they are so enchanting behind closed doors.