Sunday, August 30, 2009


It is challenging to convert a government rented place into a home, even more challenging when a furniture is provided for you too. But there are also some comforting familiarities - the embassy uses the same stock of furniture all over the world and you know what to expect regarding colours and patterns. Plus, we were blessed to be stationed in Beijing a few years ago where markets offered a huge range of fabric, accent details, and reasonably priced tailors, so I stocked on curtains, furniture covers and some interesting decor items. Add to this wise advise of my friend who was an interior decorator by trade and I can say that I am more or less prepared for that challenge, which in no way means that I sail through it with bells and whistles.

This house is unusually big. The first floor consists of a storage room, a laundry room, a foyer and a garage, the second - has a kitchen, a guest room, and a dining room, and the third - four bedrooms. The kids were so unnerved by its grandeur, they requested to share a room. With weeks trickling by and arrival of our HHE the size worked out in our favour - the kids got to have an additional room adjoined to their bedroom, where they can play to their heart content and which can be easily converted to a guest room; my husband had his office; we transferred a big landing on the second floor into a library, and I acquired a wonderful, light lit room where I can write, meditate or just day dream. (Most importantly, I can just close the door and enjoy piece and quiet)

The dinning room caused me the most headache. Its size is around 100 square meters and the ceiling runs up to three meters. As a result what you had is a vast white space, especially disconcerting on the south wall (25 square metres) where it wasn't punctuated by any furniture. In short, the room that was meant to be the heart of the activities - study/dinning/entertaining area- looked cold and hostile.

I looked at it and looked at it and looked at it again and came to the conclusion that the south wall had to be painted. (Ok, I like painting. I think that there is nothing like painting to make the house your own; I even put rollers and trays in our air shipment, so there is a slight chance that I would have found the reason to paint something around here sooner or later.) Anyway, off to the pursuit of paint I went. Hm, it made me sound more adventurous and decisive than I am, let me rephrase - I went with our driver. This is a very important bit because though being originally from Moscow I speak Russian, in Azeri I know only greetings and a bit of numbers, which isn't enough for discussing merits of paint and negotiating prices. And mind you, those prices are definitely lower when you converse in Azeri.)

In the first two stores the choices of paint were limited and the mixing of the paint had to be done by me; not something I was ready to undertake. In the third store choices were much better but three males (two clerks and my driver) got very involved into the process of selecting the colour for me, to the point of trying to sway me into completely different colour family. I aimed for warm yellow tones, they were amoured by something closer to dusty pink. I had to politely disengage myself from the heated debate and strolled around the shop to clear my head. There in a corner I found my colour - calm yellow, exactly what I wanted.

To make the long story short I spent around five hours the next day going up and down the ladder with a roller in my hand (they didn't have an extension rodes that fitted my instruments) but the results are well worth it. The colour warmed up the room, created an illusion of smaller space, and made it looked much more inviting.

Now, what can I paint next?

What do you think?

Do you have any tricks to transform rental quarters into home? Do share.


The Expatresse said...

Is that American colonial style furniture I spy? All my embassy friends hated it.

I once had a house with 6 toilets. It was something like 500 m2 with a beautiful tiered garden in the back and a view of the neighbors vineyard.

Now our whole apartment is the size of your dining room.

VC said...

Yes, it sure is. I think that I am used to this furniture by now.

6 toilets house, wow! It must have been a murder to clean it. But a garden! We haven't had a house with a garden so far, though I work onto putting some grass in the back yard here.

Love you Moscow adventures,

Anonymous said...

It looks marvelous! Much better than pink. If you'd like to do more painting, come to France. My apartment is white, white and more white and -- sorrowfully -- they have even "spraypainted" (as they do here, very strange)the gorgeous gilt mirrors over the fireplaces. (Note that while I have three fireplaces, not one works!)