In the once-ruined Afghanistan capital, formerly elegant homes are being revived, surviving the race to tear them down
Down dirt roads and inside anonymous walled compounds, a handful of Kabul’s faded town houses, left ruined by decades of war, poverty and uncertainty, are being restored.
Trina Ibrahimi, an interior designer, lives in one. Built in the late 50s, it has survived the current mania for knocking down traditional homes and replacing them with the enormous “poppy palaces” – gaudy houses known as “narcotecture” (houses allegedly built from the profits of the poppy trade) – that jut prominently on to the street.
The relaxed living spaces are on the ground floor, overlooking a well-kept garden filled with mulberry, pomegranate, apricot, pear and fig trees. Inside, walls are either stone-coloured or painted warm orange and yellow, and the furniture is a mix of local antiques and more modern pieces.
“It’s so peaceful here that it feels as if nothing is going on outside,” Ibrahimi says.
The curved, drop-down ceiling in the living room is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mid-century style, and the hidden yellow light gives off a warm hue. Floor to ceiling windows lead on to the veranda and the geometric screen divider is an original feature. Large, colourful cushions in shades of burnt orange surround a coffee table from Nuristan, a remote Afghan province famous for its hand-carved wood, and where Ibrahimi’s grandmother is from – Designers Guild has similar brightly coloured and striped cushions. The decorative pieces on the table are traditional Afghan wooden containers painted in black, yellows and reds (try The Hen House’s painted mango wood bowls, £9.95). When Ibrahimi entertains, the tables and floors are filled with tea lights. For most Afghans, entertaining is a way of life.
The small sitting room with walls in contrasting shades of putty and sand has traditional toshaks (flat, covered mattresses) on the floor and around the walls – try the Futon Company’s Sleepover Mattress for similar low-level lounging. The colourful cushions are Ibrahimi’s own design, made from fabric scraps and old curtains. The orange umbrella-shaped lamp is from India.
The delicate hanging lamps were copied from ones Ibrahimi saw in India – Graham and Green’s Casablanca tyre lamp is similar.
Ibrahimi got the carved cupboard and bespoke bed on Kabul’s famed Chicken Street. Walls are a neutral sand – try Farrow & Ball’s Archive) – and the room is spare and calm. For similar vintage bedspreads, try TwentyTwentyOne.