Ghana can spark a firm sense of curiosity in you, a feeling of belonging. Streets are paved with modern day entrepreneurs of all ages, selling you everything from brukina, a millet-based dessert drink, to delightfully toasted coconut flakes through your car window. The smell of goat kebabs meets you at every corner and with your fabric in hand, every seamstress meets you with a smile. So it may catch you off guard to be driving down what seems to be just a dirt road, paved with homes and right before you reach the end of it, it’s the Bamboo House.
You might feel as small as Will Smith did pulling up to that house in Bel Air once you realize East Legon is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Ghana and the Bamboo House is about to make you feel like Hilary. Though humble in its intent, the architecture is louder than life with sprawling columns to greet you and two large gates that scream exclusivity. However, after spending sun-kissed mornings by the pool and cocktail hours at the adjoining outside bar, you may not want to leave either. Inside, each room has been thoughtfully designed to instantly garner a sense of ease and comfort amongst anyone who steps foot in it.
Bamboo House’s moniker is no accident. Bamboo, known for its versatility, is currently being grown in 36 African countries and has over 2000 different uses. Africa Renewal still considers it untapped potential in Ghana due to challenges with commercial planting, despite the number of businesses using the “wonder plant” to create environmentally friendly spaces. At Bamboo House, it graces the halls, bathrooms and ultimately is a part of the structure – reminding you of how many natural resources are right at home in Africa. For Vernell Akyeampong, it came naturally to explore the possibilities of his homeland, and later, water seeds his parents planted long ago.
Building a Vision to Honor One’s Roots
But Akyeampong wasn’t always the businessman that he is now. Today, he is the owner and operator of Bamboo House GH, a luxury lodging property in the East Legon area of Accra. Before building the property, he navigated between security jobs and retail work while consistently seeking spaces to let his creative flag fly. As a true expression of his art and vision, Bamboo House exists as a representation of his perspective and desire to honor his roots.
Born in Brooklyn but raised in Ghana, Akyeampong spent summers in New York until he was 16. Upon moving back to the States, he pursued a degree in civil engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he planned to project manage construction builds and make a life for himself. “Every time I came back to Ghana, I saw a new opportunity, but I never had real plans to stay,” says Akyeampong. He took a job at an engineering company in Brooklyn but kept Ghana in the back of his mind with the desire to start a project there. “I had a 10-year plan to return, which turned into five and the timeline got even shorter when I finally decided it was the right thing to do,” he recalls.
That timeline got shorter after he was laid off and almost immediately, he made the decision to return to Ghana. With an interest in impacting society, he was set on creating an affordable housing property that was sustainable and renewable. But his fate as a property owner was in question when he received a call to take on a new position that offered an attractive salary, benefits and no relocation woes. With no real plan on how to get started on his own property, Akyeampong headed to Ghana anyway and sought counsel from his mother who owned a few properties in the area. Unfortunately, government regulations put the idea on hold and Akyeampong knew he would have to scale his original concept back. However, these setbacks would not deter him but instead fueled him to make a way.
When a Vision Comes to Life
It took some time for the Bamboo House to be brought to life, but now at two years old, it sports seven suites, a full kitchen, family room, outdoor pool, bar and a lounge area. It provides the freedom of being in a home with hotel appeal and top of the line service. Art covers the walls as you make your way down to lunch and the design of it all suggests that Akyeampong was mentored by renowned architect, David Adjaye, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to architecture. Inspired by some of Adjaye’s most prominent work such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture and privy to the fact that Adjaye was of Ghanaian descent, Akyeampong was inspired to fulfill his own vision.
A vision that even celebrities have become a part of with guests such as Teddy Bruckshot from the movie “Shottas” and music artists R2Bees, Falz the Bhad Guy and more. It’s hard not to feel like a local celebrity yourself when you may run into diplomats and ambassadors alike in the hallways or checking out on the day of a commercial being shot. But Bamboo House can still be called home through simple benefits like having access to making your own meals in the shared kitchen space. However, Akyeampong also offers private chef services at the request of his guests and on special occasions. He is a man of options and happily presents them for anyone open to them.
Bamboo House is not only a place for many to now call home when traveling within Ghana, but interested parties are able to rent the space for weddings, shoots and social events. Reflecting on his journey and continued path to understanding his roots, Akyeampong says, “Once you put a seed in the ground, it’s going to grow.”
Akyeampong is quickly becoming a pioneer of luxury hospitality in Ghana and most importantly, he is doing it his way.