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Why we built and turned our house into a resort

By Harriet James
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Pikidi resort overlooks the blue waters of Lake Victoria. Photo/PD/Harriet James
In summary

Harriet James  @harriet86jim

When architect Dorothy Abonyo’s husband, architect Erastus Abonyo, received a call that the beach plot they had been looking for had been found in Sakwa, Siaya, they were elated. 

The land had been standing idle for many years and snubbed by potential buyers because of the many bushes around it, but they saw the potential in it.

“When my husband asked us (his family) what we thought about the piece of land, and suggested how we could use it, we were sold out.

We loved the scenery and the fact that it was on the shores of Lake Victoria,” narrates Dorothy. 

With the go ahead from his family, the land was bought in 2016 and they began clearing the bushes and fixing the road to the land.

In 2017, the family comprising of four, all architects, began the process of designing and building their dream house on the land. 

“I am an architect with my own practice, Tekto consult, my husband and our first-born child are architects.

Our second born is studying interior design and architecture abroad. The house was designed by our first born, Teddy Abonyo, who was then a final year student,” says Dorothy, who has been practicing architecture for about 30 years. 

Shared responsibility

To them, building the house was a small project that they felt their son could handle.

Dorothy came in to strengthen the design and add a few details and her husband did a lot of work in the initial stages, such as fencing and setting up structures where people could sleep in.

Dorothy, who became the senior architect to the project, opted to stay and oversee the process of building the home.

“It was frustrating supervising the project while living in Nairobi where I work.

Every time I came to check on the progress of the project, I would find workers have messed things up, which meant we had to start all over again.

So I decided to stay and oversee the project by myself and when I took a break, I would close the entire site until I came back,” she narrates. 

Low business as a result of the 2017 elections that year also allowed Dorothy extra time to focus on the project. 

And in 2018, the three-bedroom house was completed.  It was constructed with as much natural materials as they could find in the area.

For instance, the pebbles they used on the exteriors of the house were mostly picked from their land while the rest were harvested from their neighbour’s land.

Nyanza being a relatively hot place, the house was designed with thick walls that shield the interior from heat penetration.

“When you have thin walls, heat goes in easily. We used cladding, which is attaching a layer of stones outside of a house to safeguard it from the weather effects. 

With the two thick walls, it will take a long time for the heat to penetrate,” Dorothy explains.

The house was meant to be their retirement home, but they changed their mind after realising that the beauty and the set up spoke more and decided to share it with the public.

“We gave it a second thought and opted not to just have this place to ourselves as our boys were now old.

Our second born is out of the country, he may or may not come back and is too old to even want to live with us.

The last born too is on his way out meaning that it’s just me and my husband, so we decided to make it a holiday home,” she shares.

Getting into hospitality

 That’s how their retirement home became a beautiful resort. Having come from the construction industry, the family knew nothing in hospitality except what they had experienced during their travels.

“We have also travelled a bit and in particular, my trip in two cruises one at west Mediterranean cruise with the royal Caribbean for seven days in water really made me learn a bit on hospitality.

Though we were over 5,000 guests, the staff took care of us as if we were five guests and there was no one time that we went to the restaurant and missed food.

Their service, unlike other hotels I had been to, was superb,” she recalls. 

Having unanimously decided that their home would be turned into a resort, the family came together to name it. Dorothy’s choice, Pi Kidi, won. Pi means water in the Luo, while Kidi meant the stones.

The area too was green and lush, so it also functions as a garden resort. “Not many people were comfortable with the fact that you can share your home with strangers, but it’s a new trend, they have eventually gotten used to it.

The boys then came up with the idea of putting up tents saying that their age mates would fancy that. 

So we set up a campsite that’s pretty formal, but we are also thinking of opening up the bush for people who are more adventurous and just want to camp by the water or in the bush,” Dorothy adds.