Nairobi’s real estate scene has grown steadily over the past few years. This has resulted in development of rather majestic houses which don’t hold back in opulence. These new entrants, plus the old gems from the colonial era, are the driving forces on the Nairobi luxury housing scene.
Here, we profile 10 of the most luxurious homes
Lone Tree Villas – House No. 3
In the upmarket Rosslyn, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by a myriad of luxurious homes, but one of them stands out epically. Lone Tree Villas House No. 3 is an exquisite five-bedroom house built in classic Dutch style. It is designed by leading Nairobi architect, Tom Bowman, and the interiors are done by Karen Baillie of Pink Interior Designs.
House No. 3 of the Lone Tree Villas is adorned with casement windows allowing for light and ample air circulation. The house is one of ten elegantly designed houses sitting on five acres of lush, tranquil gardens planted with banana, acacia, and jacaranda trees.
The decor inside is inspired by the authentic upmarket European look, accent walls in the drawing and dining room have been carefully wallpapered, while key statements are in the form of Kenyan artwork and artefacts. Rooms are uniquely dressed in a chic contemporary form. The drawing and sitting rooms have a dressed stone fireplace in each, and the study is intimate and warm. Mahogany flooring runs all through the ground floor of the house. A grand ensuite bathroom has a signature slipper bath over which a cut glass chandelier hangs. All of the ensuites are tiled to a high spec with cosmopolitan sanitary ware. All internal doors are of Shaker-style proportions with high-quality ironmongery, with the main door made of bamber coffee wood with doom wood panels.
Hogmead is a country home situated in the prestigious suburb of Karen in Nairobi. The residence is set on a ten-acre estate. It has six large ensuite bedrooms, six ensuite garden rooms, 12 staff rooms, a standby generator, and a water treatment plant.
The name Hogmead alludes to many warthogs who visit the gardens with their small piglets, as well as ‘mead,’ a drink traditionally enjoyed on honeymoons.
Hogmead has a spectacular view of Ngong Hills while overlooking the famous giraffe centre.
This family-inclined residence with quiet acacia-lined lanes is valued at $6.5 million, making it one of the most expensive homes in Nairobi.
African Heritage House
In Mlolongo, overlooking the world famous Nairobi National Park, lies an iconic imposing building titled African Heritage House. It is arguably Kenya’s most beautiful building. The old railway, having been built more than 100 years ago and dubbed ‘the lunatic express,’ separates the house from the national park. Its location makes it a bit hard to access, and one might be excused to think that they are attempting to get through a maze with the prize being the inexplicable splendour of the house. Then, when you find it, a red frame gate smack in the middle of wilderness welcomes you.
The long driveway leading up to the house ushers you to the classy imposing walls, adorned with various African architectural designs.
Alan Donovan is the owner and a designer of the house. He is also an art collector, so rightfully the house is filled with artefacts from all over Nairobi, which he has spent decades collecting. In his own words, he is an incarnation of an early man: “To those outside its magnetic spell, Africa may seem incomprehensible, fathomless, in the primordial past. Yet, wherever we are in the world, every one of us had an African ancestor that much is almost certain. Africa is the cradle of humanity,” from his book My Journey Through African Heritage.
African Heritage House is basically a museum of African art. The house was built between 1989 and 1994 and had no master plan according to Donovan. He simply finished the plan as he went on.
The orange building design is reminiscent of the Sudan-Sahelian architectural style and one might think it is a piece of Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali, which has somehow found itself in East Africa. The perennial rains experienced across Kenya made Donovan use locally-mined stone blocks from Athi River quarries instead of mud bricks.
The grandiose tower pays homage to the towers of the palaces built for Nigerian Emirs. The floors are fascinating. The pieces, which include Lamu and Moroccan doors, Moroccan brass, as well as Swahili plasterwork all have a backstory. Other pieces have the art meshed together with Nigerian gods donning the Kisii soapstone pieces that stand in the changing rooms next to the pool.
The walls are painted in the style of Kasena people of Northern Nigeria, while some rooms have painting styles from the Kenyan coast. The decorative poles set across the ceiling are Mangrove roots from the Kenyan coast.
The house has faced demolition threats in the past following the construction of the standard gauge railway, but it has come out of it successfully. The house was named a national monument in January of 2015, and it is currently under transition from private ownership into a trust for the people of Kenya, the people of Africa, and the people of the world.
Enkaji House – Karen
Ever wondered what a traditional African house would look like as a 21st century high-end incarnation? The Karen Enkaji House achieves just that.
Enkaji is a Maasai name for a house. The houses are traditionally built on a simple frame structure the shape of a loaf using materials like twigs, soil, cow dung, and grass. The frames are made of timber poles fixed directly into the ground, these being interwoven with smaller branches and twigs placed closely together to form a matrix. Hard wood from Oiti trees is used due to its resistance to termites.
Based on the above, The Karen Enkaji House takes a parabolic shape organized around a covered terrace as the focal point with centralism as the main concept borrowed from the traditional planning of the Maasai Enkaji. Other conspicuous features incorporated in the design and symbolic of the ancient African architecture include the use of threshold and circulation spaces as living areas, as well as a recessed oblique entrance with a covered porch, thus creating an inviting reception space as you access the house.
Traditional Mali architecture is richly expressed by use of exposed longer-than-usual rafters echoing the exposed timber beams and framing openings with thick piers as in traditional houses. The low-pitch butterfly roof allows the building to maintain its flat roof aesthetic. Curtain walling, openings framed by thick piers, cantilevers, and strong vertical and horizontal earthen-textured facades complete this interpretation of African architecture.
The Enkaji House is luxuriously designed to modern green building standards by incorporating sustainable use of materials, energy efficiency, BMS and rain water harvesting, among others.
The main façades of the building face East and West, contrary to conventional planning in Nairobi, where the larger side of a building is positioned to face North and South. This was intentionally done to facilitate passive thermal control, capturing and retaining sun heat and leading to stable temperatures throughout the house. A smart building system has been incorporated in the building, remotely controlled in a computer program to monitor certain features in the house including lighting fixtures, audiovisual, security, and the lawn irrigation system.
The first sight here – Well, apart from the tall gorgeous giraffes, is the elegant brick facade wrapped in vibrant climbing ivy and the spacious outdoors. Giraffe Manor is one of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings. It is located approximately seven kilometers southwest of the C.B.D., the upmarket Karen neighbourhood. This plus the gorgeous occupants, towers of Rothschild giraffes, makes it rather unique. The giraffes are known to delight in sticking their long necks through the windows to be fed treats. The giraffes date back to 1970’s when Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville first adopted and orphaned Rothschild, and then another. Soon enough, they had a sanctuary for the endangered species. The giraffes are nurtured on the estate until they are ready to be reintroduced into the wild.
Giraffe Manor is set on 140 acres of indigenous forest, and the inherent beauty encompasses the grounds and the building. Giraffe Manor was built in 1932 as a house for Sir David Duncan of the Mackintosh Family, famous for ‘Mackintosh Toffee’. The house was built using the architectural design of a Scottish hunting hotel. The west side had a view of the nearby Ngong’ Hills, while the south had a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a long way off on the Tanzanian border. Giraffe Manor has changed hands over time, but it fully retains the feel and the beauty of its initial days.
The interior designs retain the look of 1932, as oakwood finishes arise from the neo-classical architecture of the era. This forms an exciting contrast as the colour scheme keeps close to the nature emulating the soft, warm brilliance of the surrounding Savannah grassland. The arches on the openings have also not changed since then. The decor is gorgeous and the interior is adorned with tasteful giraffe artwork and sculptures.
Giraffe Mano’s rooms vary in size. There are six rooms in the original house and four in the new building that replicates the original manor. The six suites are named after key figures that shaped its history during the Melville’s tenure, including those first Rothschilds, Daisy, and Marlon.
House No. 12, Magnolia Hills Estate, Kitisuru
House No. 12 of the Magnolia Hills Estate particularly came to the forefront a while back through a viral introduction video, but its story is a bit longer than that. It started in 2005, when a developer bought 24 acres of prime land in the cool, calm suburbs of Kitisuru,near the International School of Kenya.
The estate itself is built as an American suburb. The 40 houses settled on the estate are enclosed behind an electrified wall fortified by 1.5 meters of no-man’s land, rigged with cameras, floodlights, and motion detectors. The interior gates are operated via intercoms from the houses or via remote control.
House No. 12 of Magnolia Hills was designed and developed by architect, Mehraz Ehsani, who also designed The Tribe Hotel (which made it onto Conde Nast Traveller’s HOT LIST 2010), as well as The Village Market (his architectural design won the coveted International Council of Shopping Centers’ Design Award).
The house is a family home surrounded by water like a minuscule island on land. It has an art gallery adjacent to the dining room marked with uneven orthogonal wall niches with accent lighting, as well as a gym, a spa treatment room, state-of-the-art fitted kitchen finished in black granite and black glass with cappuccino machines, microwaves, a fridge and oven, a jacuzzi and fountains. The floors are covered in granite and bamboo that covers 12,000 square feet. House No. 12 has two kitchens and a library that slides away to expose the den and a dining area. The living room is fitted with a sound surround system.
Access to the higher areas is provided by the granite and mahogany stairs amid the lounge and dining area. Next to the lounge, a den and office overlook the pool and natural vegetation from the comfort of massage chairs and a fireplace. The home office is located on the third floor along with the balcony overlooking the greenery of the suburbs. The large detached guest wing comes with its own private entry, kitchen and bathroom.
There are two kitchens with black granite flooring aligned with glass and stainless steel fixtures and fittings that include white goods (e.g. cappuccino machine, grill, fridge, dishwasher, microwave and oven) built into the cabinets. The entrance to the house is simply stunning, as it has a pool and a waterfall with an enormous swivel mahogany door that exerts opulence to the awe-inspiring front facade. All rooms have gypsum ceiling and intricate moldings to indulge in.
The house was specifically designed to serve a large family or double as an ambassadorial house with large dinner parties. The interior was furnished by Bo Concepts, who provided very elegant furniture. The house can easily accommodate 200-250 guests and boasts a BBQ area gathering space.
The building materials for the house were sourced locally and abroad, with the bulk coming from China.
Most of the houses we have focused on have been wildly extravagant in their structure and designs, sparing no details and going to great lengths to bring out the best. The Querol House is quite the opposite as it is a minimalist gem tucked away in Karen’s Windy Ridge, Nairobi. It is a gorgeous abstraction of a little Savannah inside a one=acre plot. It a creation of Alberto Morell, an adept architect.
The house is discreetly camouflaged by its own facade, an almost bunker response to the street, and opens up to the inside into a modular framework that references its own concrete formwork. It is a one-form building, the architect’s signature in simplifying the concept and occupation of space. The ‘box’ divides the site into graduated sectors, a main public area and an expansive backyard that opens up into a pool area and unfettered horizon experience.
Stark contrast is evident all through the concrete, the whitewashed walls and timber carefully and almost seamlessly weaving to form the vertical and horizontal elements of the building that ultimately encompass the building’s weather barrier. The austere and minimalist facade is broken a little bit by the functional windows.
For the cold season, the house has eight fireplaces – a circular space on the platform, a fireplace in the living room, another in the study, 4 in the bedrooms and a sauna at the other end of the patio. The patio is connected on the ground floor of the house establishing three main parts – living room, kitchen, and study/library, which are situated in continuity and without doors between them. The living room is fashioned with a double space that connects the two floors through a staircase built with planks of cedar. Linear cupboards and the line furniture designed specifically for the house are made of African mahogany.
Miotoni Ridge in Karen has a development of 14 mansions. The location is also one of the most prestigious places in Nairobi. The major attraction here is a red-tiled villa nestled in the middle of the landscaped garden.
The spacious property oozes of luxury. It has hardwood floors, Venetian finishes, designer furniture, and five ensuite bathrooms. With a fully fitted Italian kitchen, this is a house designed for the ultra rich.
To cap it, the Miotoni Ridge compound boasts a swimming pool, a gym, a lake for recreational activities, and state-of-the-art security.
Gigiri hosts one of the largest expatriate communities in Africa. It is also home to the United Nations offices in Nairobi, while being considered one of Kenya’s most posh suburbs. Here, there is a chiselled limestone house built into a hillside and topped by a heavy sloping roof.
London-based Jonathan Woolf Architects designed Lost Villa as a home for 11 inhabitants. It comprises three blocks that cluster around a cloistered courtyard, forming separate but linked spaces for immediate family, grandparents, and household staff.
A softly sloping roof binds the three buildings together, and an opening in the supporting wall leads into the walled courtyard. Limestone blocks were hand-cut and distressed to give the walls the appearance of ruins. One two-storey block situated on the lowest part of the site is oriented to take in views across the forest valley, with family bedrooms and a livingroom on the upper floor, and a guest suite below.
The overhanging roof provides shade from the sun and protection against the rains. Residents can walk over its gently sloping surface, as it was intended as a place to promenade and obtain better views of the scenery.
Two of the three blocks are single-storey, minimising the impact on the terrain, while the third is a chunky two-storey structure that occupies the foot of the site.
Carved dark wooden doors, collected from travels in India and Africa, are incorporated into the interior. Solar panels generate electricity for the building, while rainwater is harvested in tanks beneath the courtyard.
Scandinavian Home, Muthaiga
Muthaiga, also know as ‘Beverly Hills of Nairobi,’ is synonymous with luxury. The Scandinavian Home is a 5-bedroom house surrounded by natural spring water with five layers of 37-mm thick bulletproof glass.
The bedrooms are ensuite with walk-in wardrobes. The house has two kitchens and a kitchen yard doubling as a children’s play area.
Security wise, in addition to the bulletproof glass, the house is rigged with Bang & Olufsen audio features.
The home’s decor is clean and minimal, but the beautiful Japanese garden will have you in awe with its natural spring water, four ponds in which three are fresh water, one is salt, each with different fish such as goldfish, koi, tilapia, and a variety of other seawater breeds. Adjacent there is a salt water heated pool.
The Scandinavian Home has a Granny Cottage, a staff apartment, and a hide-out cabin, all self-contained.