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:
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).
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.
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!