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Turning residences into commercial properties

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Many homes in city suburbs have been successfully modified into commercial spaces. PHOTOs/Tony Mushoborozi.

Converting homes into commercial spaces extends their life cycle while simultaneously filling the demand for housing. As more residential areas become hubs of offices and shopping malls, homes in city suburbs such Lubowa, Najjanankumbi, Kololo, Naguru, Kamwokya, Ntinda and Bukoto are undergoing rapid modification.

Many of these properties were self-contained homes with amenities such as kitchens, pantries, closets, and more features designed to fit the lifestyles of their wealthy occupants. While many of these properties undergo major modifications, others are simply repurposed to for instance add common areas including comfortable, well-lit spaces where laptop-toting employees can work.

Many of these properties are so well suited to their target demographic that it is easy to forget that just a few years ago they were private residences. In addition to their accessibility, these properties often feature an abundance of outdoor space and spacious rooms required for their new purposes.

Why now?

This sort of metamorphosis is becoming increasingly common. With the lingering pandemic reshaping the economy and hybrid and remote work becoming established options, more people have moved out of these residences for the comfort and more affordable peri-urban homes.

The pandemic accelerated conversions, property owners are anxious to venture into the world of commercial properties which promises more income from less space. The conversion are popular as they are typically 15 to 20 percent less expensive than new apartment buildings, with faster completion times and lower material and labour costs.

While one can rarely go wrong with property modification, they, however, demand ingenuity and nerve as every property is unique. However, while some of these buildings provide unique opportunities that you might not get in new construction, they often have outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that often have to be replaced.

Many homes in city suburbs have been successfully modified into commercial spaces. PHOTOs/Tony Mushoborozi.


Lucy Wamimbi, head of residential agency at Knight Frank, observes that residential properties repurposed into commercial spaces hold significant appeal for startups. These converted spaces offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional office spaces, making them more accessible to new businesses.

Despite their residential origins, these properties provide proximity to the Central Business District (CBD), ensuring convenience and accessibility for tenants. This combination of affordability and strategic location makes converted residential spaces an attractive option for startups seeking to establish a presence in prime areas without breaking the bank.

Drawing from her experience as a property manager, Cissy Namaganda, says there is a notable trend for certain businesses, particularly those not reliant on foot traffic to prefer residential environments.

These properties offer a distinct advantage in providing a quieter and more serene atmosphere compared to bustling office blocks. This tranquil setting creates an optimal environment for focused work, allowing employees to immerse themselves in their tasks without the distractions commonly encountered in commercial areas.

Namaganda emphasizes that in the absence of constant hustle and bustle, employees can engage more deeply with their work, fostering creativity and efficiency. This heightened focus enables young and delicate companies to navigate the challenges of their early stages with greater resilience and success.

What to consider when modifying residences for commercial use

Interior design

Namaganda advocates for a paradigm shift in the approach of property developers, urging them to transcend the mere consideration of whether residential properties can be repurposed for commercial use. Instead, she emphasizes the imperative of reimagining and optimising the space to suit its new function.

This entails a holistic approach that prioritizes both functionality and aesthetics, while also ensuring compliance with prevailing health and safety standards. By doing so, developers can create commercial spaces that not only meet the practical needs of occupants but also foster a welcoming and secure environment for employees and visitors alike.

According to Camilla Kabagyema, an expert at K’wanzi Accents Interior Design, there are strategic design strategies that can be employed to seamlessly transform residential properties into appealing commercial spaces. Kabagyema underscores the significance of colour psychology, recommending lighter colour schemes to maximise brightness and openness within the space.

 This deliberate choice not only enhances the visual perception of space but also creates an inviting atmosphere conducive to productivity and well-being. By opting for colours that reflect light, such as soft neutrals and whites, confined areas can be visually expanded, mitigating the inherent constraints of traditional home layouts.

Furthermore, Kabagyema emphasizes the critical role of branding integration in shaping the overall ambiance of the commercial space. Aligning interior design elements with the company’s branding identity serves to reinforce its corporate image and values, thereby eliminating any lingering traces of residential aesthetics.

This seamless integration of design and branding communicates a cohesive narrative to visitors, encapsulating the essence of the company’s ethos and mission. Kabagyema advocates for close collaboration between interior designers and branding teams to ensure consistency in logos, colours, and overall company character throughout the space.

This collaborative approach facilitates the creation of a distinctive and immersive environment that not only reflects the company’s identity but also resonates with employees and visitors on a deeper level.

Structural modifcations

Namaganda underscores the inevitability of structural modifications when repurposing residential properties into commercial spaces. She emphasizes that certain alterations, such as merging bedrooms to create an open floor plan office, may necessitate breaking down interior walls. In such cases, Namaganda stresses the importance of consulting with an architect to ensure that the structural integrity of the building is not compromised.

“When it comes to altering the interior layout of a building, even minor changes like removing a single wall, it is essential to involve an architect,” Namaganda asserts.

She emphasizes the significance of referring to the original structural plan to safeguard against potential risks and ensure compliance with safety standards.

Furthermore, Namaganda highlights the importance of implementing security measures to protect the property from theft and vandalism.

She notes that while less extensive modifications, such as installing burglar-proof bars on windows and doors, may not require architectural input, they are nonetheless crucial for enhancing security. Given the susceptibility of business spaces to theft, these modifications play a pivotal role in safeguarding valuable assets, such as computers and equipment.

Namaganda stresses that propert modifications require careful planning, collaboration with professionals, and proactive measures to ensure the safety and functionality of the space.


Ben Lubwama, a seasoned security expert, underscores the complexity of security considerations when transforming a residential property into an office space. He emphasizes that beyond basic measures like burglar-proof bars, a comprehensive security plan is essential to safeguard valuable assets and sensitive information.

Lubwama notes that while homes typically lack the robust security infrastructure found in commercial office spaces, it is imperative to address potential security vulnerabilities before establishing an office.

He suggest engaging a reputable security company to conduct a thorough assessment of the property and identify potential risks. This proactive approach allows for the implementation of tailored security solutions to mitigate identified threats effectively.

“In many cases, significant modifications may be necessary to enhance the property’s security,”  Lubwama explains.

This could involve measures such as permanently closing certain exit doors or adding electric fencing to the perimeter wall. Lubwama emphasizes the importance of seeking guidance from a security expert to determine the most appropriate security measures based on the specific needs and risks associated with the property.

Furthermore, Lubwama highlights the role of security personnel in maintaining a safe and secure environment. Whether through the deployment of security guards or the implementation of access control systems, he stresses the importance of integrating human and technological resources to ensure comprehensive protection.

Overall, Lubwama’s insights underscore the critical importance of prioritising security considerations when repurposing residential properties for office use. By partnering with security professionals and implementing robust security measures, businesses can effectively safeguard their assets and create a secure working environment for employees and clients alike.

Repurpose home fixtures

Residential properties often boast a range of fixtures and features tailored to domestic needs, from closets and kitchen islands to bathroom cabinets. Yet, when repurposing a home into an office space, experts advise against wholesale removal of these elements. Instead, they advocate for creative adaptation and repurposing to meet the demands of a professional environment.

Mark Tugume, an experienced interior designer, proposes innovative strategies for leveraging existing fixtures. For instance, rather than demolishing the kitchen island, it can be transformed into a functional space for holding standing meetings, fostering productivity and encouraging succinct discussions. Similarly, cabinets and wardrobes can be ingeniously repurposed as storage units for files and office equipment, ensuring efficient use of available space while maintaining organisational effectiveness.

By repurposing these fixtures, businesses can capitalise on the inherent functionality of residential spaces while seamlessly integrating them into the professional realm. This approach not only preserves the character and charm of the home but also enhances the functionality and productivity of the office environment.


Experts caution that not every home is suitable for conversion into an office space. Factors such as the nature of work conducted within the office space, its expected level of foot traffic, and the need for specific amenities like a spacious sitting room for use as a reception area all play a vital role in determining suitability.

For instance, if the office is expected to accommodate frequent visitors or serve as a bustling hub of activity, a larger sitting room may be necessary to fulfil multiple functions effectively.  Ultimately, thorough evaluation and consideration of these fundamental factors are crucial in ensuring that the chosen home can seamlessly transition into a functional and conducive office environment.


Residential modifications have  become increasingly popular, driven by the desire for comfort and convenience.

 The shift towards remote work has led many businesses to seek office spaces closer to suburban areas, away from the crowded city centres.

As a result, numerous homes have been repurposed into offices, with a notable concentration in suburban neighbourhoods.

Cissy Namaganda a property manager says staff comfort should be priority when selecting a home for conversion into an office.

 Factors such as a well-designed kitchen where staff can prepare snacks and beverages on the premises, outdoor spaces along with secure parking facilities, are essential.