A couple days ago, my friend came to visit. As Suzy recounted her house hunting travails over a plate of fried “mizuzu” (plantains) and omelet on my couch, I was mentally transported to Kanombe on a hot afternoon in October. A young man, who appears to be in his mid-twenties, is leading me to my fifth residence of the day. He was the third real estate agent in that week alone. We enter the gate of a low-rise apartment complex, painted lemon green and yellow. The sight of the bright colors adorning the building wasn’t new to me, and really, it was to be expected when house hunting in Rwanda. I took a deep breath as we approached the top floor, hoping and praying that this would be it. That by some miracle, my quest for a place to reside was finally over. During the two weeks I spent looking for a home, I had spent a big sum of money on transportation expenses (for both the real estate agent and myself). My patience – and quite frankly, pockets – were running thin. The realtor showed me to the vacant apartment, keyed open the door and ushered me inside. The first thing that snagged my attention was the sudden contrast of a veneer stone wall that looked either like a mistake or an incredibly poor emulation of an accent wall. I am aware that speaking ill of the beloved stone walls that Rwandan homeowners seem to adore, is essentially a death wish, but I stand firm in my assessment. The only other feature of the room was a dreary gray paint job on the remaining walls. It is imperative that I point out that the space was the size of a college dorm room and was intended to serve as both the kitchen and living area. He prodded me to go further, through the living area, and into the bedroom of the flat. I cast a dejected glance around the area. It maintained the gray walls that I’d previously seen in the living room and couldn’t fit a double sized bed. The bathroom was located right outside the bedroom. Bright blue tiles covered the floor, while the walls were yellow. As I took in the apartment, which didn’t seem to be much different from the ones I had visited before, a plethora of questions flooded my mind: Will I ever find what I’m looking for? Could it be that I'm asking too much? Am I being unrealistic? Was this really what $300 could afford me in Kigali? I can still hear the hope in the real estate agent’s voice as he touted the apartment to me. I felt like laughing. Even though we both knew the opposite to be true and he was trying to convince me it was lovely, I didn't hold it against him. This is how he made a living. Over those many days I spent house hunting, I became acutely attuned to the consistent theme that ran through most houses in Rwanda: Impractical architectural design, check. Anachronistic interior decor, check. Tacky furniture pieces, check. Mismatched color palette, check. Bulky corner bathtub, check. Shaggy rugs, check. A source who insisted on being known only as Angela, describes her experience looking for a home. Her current landlord abruptly upped her rent by 33%, necessitating the search for a new place. Over the course of less than two weeks, she has visited around 25 homes. “It is unsettling to see how houses in Kigali are built. They generally look like older houses that are in desperate need of renovation”, according to her. She continues by saying that even if you discover something that is somewhat similar to what you desire, it will be incredibly expensive, located outside of the city and/or located far from your workplace. After our conversation, Angela sighed and said, I don't really care anymore as long as it is located on earth. All I require is a home.” A sentiment I am all too familiar with. When I got home after the Kanombe experience, I told my friend, “I’ll take the next house I visit”. I was emotionally spent and stressed out to the max. Fortunately, I liked the next place despite having to virtually double my budget. The problem of abysmal interior design in Rwanda is beginning to receive public attention recently, and Roland Christian Habimana, the founder of Spaces & Scapes, a nine-year-old interior design company, addresses what he believes to be the root cause: ignorance and misunderstanding. Most people,” Habimana began, “do not know or understand the concept of interior design. Others consider it a luxury when it is in fact, a basic requirement for a home. Living in a place that best fits your lifestyle is crucial, and that can only be done through good interior design.” For instance, the majority of us are unproductive at work simply because our workspaces are not well-planned or appropriate for what we do, which is a tremendous loss in this era where time and efficiency have grown to be the most valuable resources we rely on. He also emphasizes the need for more publicity to promote and inform the public about interior design. “Although architecture and interior design are related professions and services, the majority of us market it as ‘decor’ or ‘something fancy’”, he claimed. Another problem that plagues the real estate scene in Rwanda is the scarcity of apartments in comparison to independent houses. This situation, at least as far as I could tell, has everything to do with the culture. If you intend to relocate there, you'll realize very quickly that Rwandans have a propensity for seclusion that I have never been able to fully understand. “It is a cultural thing”, Habimana explains, “We have subconsciously developed an individualistic, private lifestyle, which makes our preferred residency orientation toward a single house rather than an apartment because we inherited it from our elders” According to him, in the past, a family sharing a large compound would nevertheless have various living areas. So there would be one hut for the father of the house, another for the boys and/or daughters, and so on. What Rwandan landlords can do differently While it might be too early to say that independent houses are losing popularity in Rwanda, it is safe to declare that their demand is starting to wane. The few apartments in the country are branded “luxurious” and typically come with exorbitant prices. More middle class people - especially the younger generation - would go for decent-sized, affordable flats if landlords built more of them, making a good return on their investment. Furthermore, they need to become used to collaborating more with professionals like architects and designers. These specialists add a lot of value to their projects by, among other things, understanding more about the development and being able to suggest the best options in terms of context. “As a result, they end up saving money and getting something unique and eye-catching that will draw in more buyers if they ever plan to sell,” Habimana says. He discussed imported furniture and accessories in response to design trends that should be abandoned. “The majority of these imported goods are most often fake and soulless. We currently have relatively nice furniture that was Made in Rwanda from quite high-quality materials that might be durable enough for future generations. He also noted that “despite the rich importance and beauty of imigongo patterns, many people tend to frequently misuse or overuse them. They do not represent the entirety of our cultural legacy.