Karen’s Quirky Container Cottage

Over the course of the prolonged cold and wet season, my wife and I decided to spend our weekends sampling cosy Airbnbs around Nairobi. I was surprised at the number of options, particularly in Karen, where there are plenty of quirky and charming houses and cottages. One place caught my eye immediately – The Container Cottage off Dagoretti Road.

I was drawn to it because of its unique design – two 20ft containers, one stacked on top of the other, with a wooden-clad and makuti-roofed verandah protruding out front. It was also very easy to get to, along Warai South Road opposite The Hub shopping centre.

The cottage is tucked away in a dense garden by the home of Nikki and David Marrian. David Marrian is a very talented artist who has exhibited in various cities around the world, including London, Rome, Kampala and Aspen. Every year I find myself at his stall at the XmasBox Christmas Fair at Marula Manor, admiring his paintings of Mount Ololokwe, Mount Kenya and other stunning landscapes across Kenya. You can have a look at some of his work at www.marrianpaintings.com.

When we arrived at the property, we were met by the caretaker Evelyn, who led us down the garden, past David’s outdoor painting studio, and into the cottage within a private section of the compound. The cottage is screened by a thick wall of vegetation, including a row of commanding eucalyptus trees.

The long rains had flooded the small lawn in front of the verandah, transforming it into an attractive, temporary water feature. There was plenty of wildlife in the garden, including some frenetic squirrels and a croaking Hartlaub’s Turaco. We were joined, too, by the Marrian’s not-so-wild and very friendly dog, Wingu, who spent the majority of the weekend curled up next to us on an armchair on the verandah.

Devoted readers of this column will know that I’m a fan of small-space building projects, featured on TV programmes such as ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’ and ‘Grand Designs’. The success of these programmes is symptomatic of the increasing popularity of the conversion of unusual small spaces into well-designed, affordable homes. If George Clarke ever made a show on Nairobi, I’m sure he would feature The Container Cottage.

The bottom container, or the ground floor of the cottage, has been converted into a living area and kitchen, with a microwave oven, a sink, a fridge, crockery and complimentary tea and coffee. In the opposite corner are two sofa beds and a bookshelf. Wooden floorboards, carpets and Wi-Fi give the containers a homely feel, as do the white and blue-grey walls and window frames, and the scattering of paintings.

A spiral staircase leads up to the top container, where there is a tastefully furnished bedroom and bathroom. A double bed takes up the entire space on one side of the container, and in the opposite corner a bathtub has been built beneath a large window looking out across the garden.

We had a bit of bad luck with a power outage when we stayed, so couldn’t use the bath or the microwave oven, but there were plenty of solar lights and candles to light up the cottage. So instead of having a cosy night in, we drove a short way across to The Hub for an Indian meal at The Mayura, which wasn’t a bad compromise.

For more information about The Container Cottage, and to book a stay, head over to www.airbnb.com. The cottage fits four guests comfortably, and is ideal for a quiet couple’s weekend retreat out of the city.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation