One of the first things you will notice about Edwin Musiime’s house is the fact that it is on a small piece of land. But somehow, there is a compound with three sections ; the one on the right, covered by only grass. Adjacent to it is the section with grass interlocking pavers, and then the last section has only pavers, leading to an open garage that can host at least two big cars and two self-contained staff quarters that are near the fence covered with wall cladding tiles.
Musiime is the host of The Property Show, Uganda’s premiere housing and construction TV programme that airs on NTV every Sunday night. He is also the chairman Homes and Property Expo Uganda and chief executive officer of Crest Group, a real estate management and development company.
The story of his house is nothing but a mesmerising one, for instance, it is a house of three floors, with a guest bedroom, what he calls a presidential suite, gym, waiting room and two balconies all built on a plot of 12 decimals. This is smaller than a 50x100.
Found in Buziga, his home is not easy to locate, for instance, it cranes through the buildings next to it, but the road to the actual place is never clear.
Buying in Buziga
We went through a back-and-forth series of directions before the actual route was found, but this is all part of this house’s history. He says when he bought the place last year, the family that owned it had placed it on the market for two years. “But no one wanted to buy the land because it did not have an access road,” he shares.
His plan was to buy it and build a road. He did exactly that at Shs95m, he negotiated with his neighbours in order to access the property that would later host his home.
“Surprisingly, only days after I bought this place, someone called the family offering four times the price I bought,” he says.
Musiime refers to the house as a model home for his NTV Property Show. Initially, the house would have been in Munyonyo. There was a piece of land he had picked interest in but had failed to acquire it because he did not have money at the time.
“SK Mbuga took that one, he is famous around for buying land,” he says, adding that in real estate, it is important to always be as liquid as possible since with land, you may never know when a good deal will come through. “In my case, I have two brokers that I usually ask to be on the lookout. People sell land for all sorts of reasons, some are migrating to another country and simply want to sell it off.”
He says most times, this land comes at a price less than the market value and one can only exploit it if they are liquid.
Brick by brick
Musiime says he grew up in Buziga and later rented there. Aspiring to have a house in the same vicinity was thus never far-fetched. In fact, the apartment he rented is visible from the balcony of his home now.
“Staying close to the project is a building experience you can never buy,” he says.
He adds that he was able to monitor the progress of his future home from the balcony of his apartment and even when he would come down to the site, he was never in a hurry to leave.
Since he usually works from home, Musiime reveals he could see what the builders were doing at any time.
“When people supervise projects on phone, many things can go wrong, site supervisors tend to leave sites for side gigs.”
He says for him, supervising his money was valuable and of course, notes that it was important for him to see things work.
A house of three floors, two balconies, and a number of improvised spaces that include an outside kitchen, he had to install a slab more than once. “I almost gave up after the first slab, it had been expensive - 450 bags of cement, but I had a dream,” he says.
The real estate enthusiasts, however, says his social capital played a very big role in the entire process, for instance, he says through his network, he knew where to get good deals for different materials such as cement, pavers or even iron sheets.
“When we did the evaluation for the house, it was close to a billion shillings but my network with brands, I managed to get good bargains, and discounts.”
Planning for the space
But remember, he had 12 decimals, here he wanted the house, some green for life, a parking lot and workers quarters. “As a person that is building the house, you cannot leave everything to the engineers, you must also get involved,” he says.
Courtesy of his company, Homex Uganda, he had an initial design that he supplemented with Top Touch, another architect firm.
The architects had told him achieving what he wanted was going to be hard; “but I am a guy of faith and I believed this was doable.”
They did all they could to be on the same page and Musiime says he believed they could have been two floors but because of the many demands he had, a third floor was inevitable.
A hotel in a home
Musiime says he loves hotels and because of this, he wanted his house to feel like one. He wanted it to be as refreshing as possible.
Having visited Morocco and Dubai various times, he let cultures from these countries influence his interior. Two of the art installations your eyes meet have a great Marrakech (Morrocan City) design feel to them, draped in white, the non-wall room divider gives off a holy place feel, yet the rest of the house reassures you that it is a home.
Some of the outstanding things of course include the spontaneity of the entire home. Some of his ideas are surprising for a home, for instance, the 3D wall panel installation that protrudes from the wall without taking lots of space. The 3D installation was done at Shs150,000.
Martha Kugonza of Lotus Interiors, Kampala, which did Musiime’s installation, advises that people should get professionals to do the installations.
About his use of local materials and professionals, Musiime says: “You only have to import when you have to, most of the things in this house were made by Ugandans,” he says.
His modern kitchen shares space with what many Ugandans would refer to as a dining room, while just outside it, is another balcony where he has an outside kitchen for foods that cannot be prepared in a modern setup. Of course, like many modern houses, this too, boasts of some great art works, some are of his family while others are bible or simply spiritually inspired.
And then mirrors, they add freshness and surprise to the rooms, from an angle you can see furniture in an opposite room and if not keen enough, the mirror will make you believe you are looking through a door.
In three floors, he managed a master bedroom, mostly used by guests, a children’s room and his bedroom that he refers to as the presidential suite, all these are self-contained. However, he has a general toilet area for visitors.
For his day-to-day work and faith, he has an office and a prayer room.
He says the reason for having one general bedroom instead of one for boys and another for girls; “children eventually grow up and leave, you don’t want to be old and the house has become too big for you.”
Moving into his house
Musiime moved into this house three months ago, he says building a house was something he knew he had to accomplish thanks to taunts by both his mother and one of his associates that had told him without a house, he was not yet a man.
On the day he moved in, he says he felt different; “For over a week, I could not sleep. I was pacing up and down not believing I was finally in my own house.”
He believes once one gets land, they should not wait but start construction immediately.
“The mystery is in beginning, just begin and grow slowly with your project.”
If you had to start over, what would you change
Philosophy on construction
Have an idea of the house you want even before you have the land.
I had an idea which was in my office and I would look at it.”
He also adds that people should not fear locations they desire; “just be patient and the land you want will avail itself, the land you want will drop.