Around the House

Downstairs

living room_MG_1136September 28, 2012

A couple things to keep in mind here:

First, the photos–they are over-exposed and contrast-y which makes our house look a whole lot cleaner and nicer and brighter than it looks in real life.  In real life, our house is a lot darker and I think our unpainted walls look sort of yellow, which drives me nuts.

Second, this is just our living room and dining room–the most public rooms in our home.  I’ll try to do a tour of some of our other rooms later on but know that none of them will be quite as polished or finished-looking as this one.

I do believe that having a home you feel really good about is sort of a hit or miss thing in the Foreign Service.  It’s often less about design chops and more about sheer dumb luck–whether the furnishings are neutral enough to decorate around, what kind of furniture you’re assigned and whether you can send any of it back.

Sometimes you get ratty 17 year old red couches and once in a while you get nice-enough neutral brown ones.  Sometimes you have space to insert a little bit of personal style and sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you just have to work around a bright blue flowery rug on the floor and sometimes you get the option of something slightly easier on the eyes.

We’ve been on both ends of the spectrum now and while I’m always grateful simply to have a roof over my head and air-conditioning, I’m actually happier with our arrangement here than I’ve been in any of our previous (four) homes overseas.  There are still many, many things I would change about our space if I could, but so far this has been the easiest house/apartment we’ve ever had to decorate.

So was that enough of a disclaimer?  That my house doesn’t actually look exactly like the photos below?  And that I definitely feel very grateful to have lucked out with the house we have?  Ok, good.  Onto the photos:

staircase_MG_1078September 28, 2012

living room_MG_1126September 28, 2012

I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to setting up a house and there’s still a lot left to do in our living room: some white, semi-sheer drapes for the doors, (I took down the heavy beige ones that came with the place) a few more plants and a few more photos on the wall (we’ve got one wall saved for a framing project we’d like to tackle at some point soon).

living room_MG_1074September 28, 2012

Still, it’s amazing what a different coat of paint, frames up on the walls, greenery and fresh flowers can do for a room.  Rearranging the furniture was also a big game changer and Chris and his mom gets total credit for figuring out the current layout.  It was a mess until they suggested pulling the couches off the wall and angling them diagonally in the middle of the room and putting our largest cabinet (the one pictured directly below) across a corner instead of flush with the wall.  After that, everything else fell into place.

living room_MG_1077September 28, 2012

living room_MG_1100September 28, 2012

living room_MG_1133September 28, 2012

living room_MG_1127September 28, 2012

shanghai map_MG_1082September 28, 2012

And since I know you might want to ask:

The couches are GSO-issued couches.  We originally had the standard, euphemistically-termed “mustard” colored couches in our living room and one of these not-really-that-bad brown couches up in our den.  We asked if we could trade the two mustard couches for an additional brown one.  We got very lucky and they said yes.  Mega Posts have lots of things going for them…including gigantic furniture warehouses.

We did get some furniture taken away-though not quite as much as I thought we would.  The only things that left the house entirely were the mustard couches, end tables, lamps and an entertainment console.  We still have a ton of standard-issue furniture upstairs in our house.  The biggest furniture-removal bang for our buck was getting the upper glass cabinet taken off the dining room hutch (good to know: you can technically do that).  The room stopped screaming “GSO!” as soon as that baby went out the door.

The cabinets, alter and black-and-white chair and bar stool are our personal furniture…or more accurately Chris’ mother’s personal furniture.  I am glad though that we thought ahead and brought storage-type pieces because you can never have too much storage.  Also trays and shallow bowls for corralling the clutter of daily life.  They just make it so much easier to keep things looking tidy.

The things stored at Will’s height are all unbreakable items that we don’t mind him playing with.  We hide a stash of Will’s toys in a basket near the cookbook-filled cabinet and the rest of them live upstairs in our den where we make messes and throw toys around the room like everyone else.  It should be said though, Will doesn’t actually play with toys very often so we can get away with not keeping many downstairs.  For better or worse, he’s currently much more interested in nesting mixing bowls, pulling out cutting boards and playing with our garlic press in the kitchen.  And our broom.  Will and the broom.  He takes our dust problem here very seriously.

The dining room table isn’t really pictured in any of these pictures (because it’s covered in the remnants of Will’s breakfast) but it’s your standard-issue table.  When you walk in the front door, the dining room is on the left in front of the staircase, with our personal table and Shanghai map by the back door behind the table.  On the right side of the room we have our two couches facing each other in the middle of the room with an old mahjong table and some layered rugs (not pictured) between them and another back door behind them.

The paint color is a sort of dusky light brown.  We only painted 3 walls and left one white (it was easier with the staircase).  In certain lights, it looks almost the same color as the original paint job, but it’s actually quite a bit darker.

Again, the rest of our house does not look like this.  Far, far, far from it.   Oh, and remember that any house, including ours, looks a whole lot classier in over-exposed photos!

living room_MG_1122September 28, 2012

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15 thoughts on “Downstairs

  1. I love your big wooden cabinets! I can’t wait to incorporate some more non Drexel stuff into my personal collection between tours; I just hope I have enough time to hunt down the right stuff. And we have those brown couches too. No, I wouldn’t ever buy them myself, but they really aren’t bad.

    • Thanks! The brown couches are totally not something I’d normally buy but holy cow are they such a step up from what we had before that I practically think they look beautiful! 🙂

  2. Nice dining table!!! =P
    We are lucky to be at a post where they will take as much furniture away as we ask them to. It looks great! And as I was telling you before, I want to move and set up a place again hahaah…

  3. I love the cabinets with glass doors! Thanks for the tip about over-exposing photos — that will come in handy when I do my before/after decorating post(s)! I am actually quite pleased with the GSO-issued furniture we have. I was expecting much worse given what everyone has said. I think we lucked out and got relatively new pieces that aren’t worn out and are clean. It’s not exactly my style but nothing is offensive/hideous. Haha.

    • Yay for not that terrible furniture! It’s the same for us here, it’s not anything like my style but at least it’s clean and more neutral looking than some of the older versions of the furniture! Can’t wait for you guys’ home tour!

  4. I love it! So beautifully done. We, on the other hand, are stuck with the mustard standard issue sofas. Any advice on what throw pillow color combinations you would have tried to match if you had kept yours? Oh, and we have have wall-to-wall-floor-to-ceiling windows which sound great and bright except that it’s dark bc there are security bars throughout in a noisy crisscross pattern through even more noisy dark screens to keep the insects out, AND the glass is darkened so that very little light actually gets inside. It makes some degree of sense to live in the dark in such hot weather I suppose. Still, we love our house because the layout is much more ‘normal’ than many other houses here, and we have wood, lots of wood that is just so wonderful to live with. It even makes up for the lack of wall space to make things more personal, but I may just have them take away that upper glass cabinet away. I had thought about it but you just convinced me. Thanks!

    • Oh man, the mustard sofas. Hmmm slipcovers? Do you guys have fairly affordable tailoring in Laos? I’m tempted here to just get a few slipcovers made before we leave in all of the Drexel Heritage furniture shapes! 🙂 Probably won’t do it but would be nice! With that mustard, it’s almost like you can’t do anything but neutral-ly oranges, reds, browns. Although, I think maybe peacock blue as an accent could work? Maybe? Tricky! I could see how the bars and the screens could make huge floor to ceiling windows less wonderful than they sound, and yes, take away the upper cabinet, it does wonders for the room! 🙂

      • Thanks Dani. I was thinking bright multicolor pattern with primarily blue accents. Peacock sounds fun! Have not considered slipcovers bc I would still need to match the two wooden arm chairs that are upholstered in mustard/beige/brown strips (Ick!). Today I removed all the valance from the downstairs drapes that had hundreds of little tassels hanging from them, and untied the tassel tie backs to create cleaner lines. Looks so much better and made me so much happier. It’s these little things 😉

  5. Looks lovely! We have the gold-ish colored sofas/chairs. They’re not too bad, but I bought an Ikea slip cover for the sofa to test it out. My husband isn’t too sure about the cover, but I’m happier with it so far. We are also in super purge mode because as we were unpacking we realized we don’t want to haul this stuff everywhere we go, plus we want to make room for the more memorable items that I’m sure we’ll be collecting from post to post. I think your home looks wonderful!

    • Ah yes, the purging! We’ve actually moved 6 times in the last 3 years which, while not exactly fun, has had the amazing effect of getting us down to just our basic, absolute favorite things, for the most part. Even with all of our heavy furniture (not pictured: a couch that weighs at least 300 pounds) we’re still just barely over half of our HHE allowance!! And, honestly, aside from unpacking the kitchen (the only room in the house where I allow myself to accumulate too many things) the rest wasn’t too bad. So purge, purge away! It’ll make the next move even easier! 🙂

  6. The house looks amazing! I love the overexposed photos. I like to look at my house in that light too. The dark brown couch is so nice. We have mustard. Chocolate brown would be even better though. Well done. The greenery is gorgeous. Love those white flowers you have displayed!!! It looks like a home.

    • Thanks Sara! the brown is really nice–I mean, still not somethign I would buy–but much much better than the alternatives!

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