New Nairobi House Numbers

I support local production on every trip

nairobian craftsman
Guess what he does?
hand painted house sign
Kenyan house number
Now that I have a half-million dollar mortgage, I always need to fix this or that. I am always improving my humble abode. From the little to the big, it’s a constant work in progress I cannot even escape when traveling for work.

There I was in Westlands, a suburb of Nairobi, waiting for my boss. We were going to have dinner at Mediterrane, what turned out to be a five hour gabfest about work. But before then, I was looking at the Westlands city council shops.

These are not African shopkeeper Zen abodes. No, these are old school shanties selling all manner of household goods and services. Goods and services I was wondering if I needed for my home. Studying each shop’s wares closely, the sign shop intrigued me the most.

With all manner of hand painted signs, the artisans involved were churning out visual cues and information for Kenya’s millions. I was first attracted by the funky yellow taxi signs, and thought of buying one. Still, I couldn’t figure out a good use for it.

Then I remembered that I needed new house numbers. The original numbers denoting my abode as 4228 were faded and worn, not really visible from the street. Thinking this the chance to improve my home and buy local, I started brainstorming with the painters.

We went back and forth on number font and colors, until I came up with an inspiration: the Kenyan flag. Green, red, black, with stripes of white separating the colors, I thought it a great background to white numbers. And 100 “bob” (Kenyan shillings) later, I had Nairobian craftsman working on my new house number sign.

Hoping to pick up my sign early the next day, I called the painters and asked that it be ready at noon. I was told that 3pm was the earliest it would be finished. At four it was still missing, as was the head craftsman.

It was only the next morning that I got a call telling me the sign was finished. Rushing to the shop on my way to the airport, I paid the remaining 250 Kenyan shillings and sped off clutching a freshly painted house number in green, red, and black.

To be honest, the sign is not as high quality as I had hoped. It’s obviously a hand painted sign, and pretty amateur at that. Yes, I could do better. But for $8 dollars and with its history, it’s going on my house wall.

Well, that is if the clock-stopping hottie approves.


  1. Wayan,
    I was interested in the one bedroom in petrworth you had available when you posted on metroblogging. i apologize for writing you here, but i couldnt find a way to contact you on your website. drop me an email back. thanks!

  2. I am moving out tomorrow. I got all my shots for time in Kenya.. should I go!?!?! Will I be ok?

    P.s: I am stoked that you got the house.. if you get married, can I come? I figure by then I will have a swedish bf that I can convince me to live with me in NY.

    Thanks for all the inspiring blog posts. I actually think I will dedicate my 20s adventures to you. Okay gotta bike to North Beach!