The Madany home is not a boastful one. Its décor was achieved the modest way, with second-hand furniture, paint and personal treasures...
TRENTON — The Madany home is not a boastful one.
Its décor was achieved the modest way, with second-hand furniture, paint and personal treasures.
But it is a true-to-life expression of a family recently resettled in the United States after two decades in Africa, who built their home’s singular style on family and friends’ generosity, a daughter’s vision and their own sense of what a home should be.
“We wanted our house to tell a little bit of stories of our lives,” mother Oetje Madany said. “This is who we are.”
Alida Madany, 20, is the creative force behind the home’s interior design. Oetje and Michael Madany — who have worked for years with Somali refugees — raised Alida in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. She grew up disconnected from the décor tidal wave that hit American homes via HGTV and “Trading Spaces.”
In high school, Alida was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which is related to chronic fatigue syndrome. She started decorating in Africa to distract herself. It became her main escape.
“If I’m in a decorating mood, I can forget how I physically feel,” Alida said. “It’s something I can put my whole self into.”
A global approach
The family moved to the United States two years ago to stay close to Alida and younger sister Johanna as they attend college. The Madanys chose Renton for its proximity to King County’s Somali refugee community. And Alida, who was still sick, became the family’s interior decorator, dreaming up designs from her bed or the couch.
She and her mother wanted the home to convey their Africa connection, but also speak to their own family history. Nods to the family’s Dutch and Lebanese heritage, like a blue dining room with Dutch ceramics and her mother and grandmother’s traditional cross-stitch, are sprinkled throughout the home.
Alida turned the living room into a vivid hub of dark, rich red and bright yellow, where artwork like a collage of an Ethiopian home made by Oetje’s hairstylist in Africa adorns one wall. Matching Ethiopian clay water pots highlight a sideboard, and an Ethiopian coffeepot set covers one table.
Craft pieces like pillow covers and sculptures are grouped in the family room, painted an earthy pink to give it an Arab vibe. The fireplace features a Target screen, while Somali camels carved from meerschaum, a type of soft stone, perch on the mantle. Cowhide stools her parents purchased in Somalia when Alida and Johanna were born grace the center of the room.
Bringing Kenya home
Alida’s room reminds her of her favorite place: the Kenya Coast, with its tropical blue-green waters and white, sandy beaches. She designed her bedroom around a green embroidered cloth she bought in Kenya that serves as a bedspread. The room features a standing triangle lamp made from coconut fiber from the Kenya Coast, which is also captured in a picture on the wall. She built a bamboo fiber picture frame for a poster of Dutch art.
“We definitely wanted it to feel livable and our own,” Alida said.
She and Oetje went to affordable retailers like Target and Ikea for pieces to round out the décor. Alida laughingly points out one camel postcard in the family room that came from Ikea. Pier 1 often coordinated well with her theme, too.
“Before we moved here, I didn’t know these shops existed,” she said. “You can get a lot of stuff.”
A sense of home
Alida has grown to love HGTV and its incredible number of design shows, though she sometimes limits her intake to keep her own creativity intact.
Like any decorators, the mother-and-daughter team yearn for more funds to make higher-end changes, like adding wood floors or changing some furniture.
But Oetje also is proud when people say their place doesn’t feel like the stereotypical American house.
“I have a hard time when houses don’t tell your own story,” she said.
Alida still has a few areas to finish, but she will have less time for décor now that she has moved to Seattle to take classes at Seattle Pacific University.
She will bring mementos to her dorm room, but her parents’ home is the place closest to Africa and its slower pace of life.
“It’s definitely comforting and kind of familiar,” she said. “It just helps us feel like that’s part of us, that Africa’s still a little part of us still, even though we’re over here.”
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org