ISSUE 68  |  Africana

An Ancient House in Old Town Lamu

April 18, 2013 9:30 AM

BY Julie Carlson

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Irish jewelry designer Penny Winter recently restored a villa in the heart of Lamu Old Town to its former glory and now rents it out to travelers seeking an out-of-the-ordinary African experience.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, Lamu Old Town is regarded as one of the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. “There are no roads or cars on the island,” Penny says. “Residents and visitors alike move about on foot or by boat. Donkeys are mainly used to transport goods and materials. Working with Kenya-based architects Urko Sanchez, Winter removed a couple of floors to create a courtyard with a plunge pool, add a sense of openness and lightness to the interiors. All four floors of the house open out onto the courtyard, and the upper floors have views of the ocean.

For rental information, go to Amber House Lamu.

Above: Built of mangrove timber and coral stone with elaborately carved wooden doors, Amber House is a reflection of contemporary Swahili style.

Above: Rooms are furnished with vintage campaign style furniture.

Above: Carved wooden screens act as privacy partitions.

Above: An intricately carved bed with mosquito netting.

Above: A carved mantle detail.

Above: A shaded balcony made of carved Mvule wood offers protection from the sun.

Above: A lounging area in the courtyard. Classic Lamu architectural touches such as lime finishes, which allow the walls to breathe in the hot climate.

Above: The plunge pool offers a cool respite to guests.