Decorating a State Department House – Step Two: “Identify Targets, Solutions, and Budget”

This is a follow-up post from admitting there is a problem..
Identify Your Targets
I’ve found, from personal experience, that although I have a good eye, a camera is really the most objective. Starting with the foyer, snap some digital photos of walls, furniture and exisitng decor; does everything hold up, or does a pile of shoes photobomb your potential Home & Gardens success?

I also ended up sketching our areas for rugs, and alcoves for wall hangings/art, and measuring them, so as to have that information handy when scouting for potential solutions.
Lastly I limited the scope of my project to the foyer and area in the stairs and sitting room just beyond, so as to create the initial impression of the house, and not overwhelm myself.

My results:
– empty corners in foyer, on stair landings
– 5’x5’x5″ alcove (currently houses mirror, could do better with a hanging)
– small alcove, needs large candle or art piece
– area below large alcove good for small area rug or low coffee table/side table
– area in front of small alcove suitable for largeish area rug. (we tried putting an armoire there, but this area, see pic, is so out of an M.C. escher sketch that nothing works there, and one is prone to head injuries if not a child on the reverse staircase beneath it. Honestly, what were they thinking?)
– surfaces between foyer and sitting room are empty (no, the use of negative space does not work well here)
– pile of shoes in foyer alcove is overwhelming

Set a Budget
Budgeting will depend on your own FP level, the cost of things in general, etc. A good place to start would be “how much would I spend back home?” I set myself a budget of $500, pretty arbitrarily, but I figured it would work. That’s conservatively 35000 Nrs, possibly 36,000 depending on when I withdrew the money (at a rate of 70-72 Nrs to the USD)

Identify Solutions
It’s not just about adding stuff, but also about having the discipline not to let stuff pile up on surfaces you already have. Get rid of the mail, put school art work on the fridge (and recycle and/or scan the schoolwork from last month/major holiday!), hang up those coats. This will go a long way towards making your sense of organization and creating an impression on family and guests. Clutter attracts clutter afterall.

Each post will have its own solutions, based on whether you’re set on a local theme or not (French Farmhouse, although beautiful, is more trouble than its worth here in Kathmandu), whether you are working with APO/DPO or pouch if shipping stuff in, and just how dicey the political situation is (Motorpool-only or getting around on your own, or even “You may not leave the compound, let us know what you want and somone will get it.”)

In Kathmandu, our theme choices are obviously “southeast asian,” (I’m not hot on golden Buddhas, white ceramic conch shells, or solar-powered prayer wheels though, so we’re going for simplified “essence of” here), and…thats about it. We’re on our first post, so we dont have an inordinate amount of “Ethnoplunder” and we weren’t able to decorate a lot in our dome-home in VA; small footprint and walls that start dodging in at five feet haigh dont make for much wall decor. One last note- remember your HHE weight! Avoid the walnut or palo santo cabinet unless you’re planning on throwing out your encyclopedia collection. And if you do throw caution to the wind, you may be off-loading your stuff before you pack out.

I already had some plants outside, and an idea of what I wanted inside, so I mentally assigned potted leafy, jungly plants to empty corners in the foyer and stairs landings. This I could accomplish with the gardener in tow in our vehicle most anytime. Check.

I decided, though a good way to decorate in the ‘States, that avoiding lamps was key. There are not outlets every 3′-6’ here, and I don’t need to be going out to the electronics shop to replace a bulb every time we get a surge, creating more work for myself.

There are many places to get decor around here, but the easiest place to look for touristy decor is Thamel. It’s easy to park nearby, and the sheer number of shops makes browsing worth my time and trouble. Off I went! Skipped the Bob Marley batique hanging, as we’re not decorating a college dorm. No Nepal flags, we know where we are. Ah, silk embroidery hanging! A gong. A wooden rhino or elephant. A brass buddha. A wooden peacock window hanging. Random wooden carved furniture, some with crazy tibetan coloring, some just varnished. Tonkha paintings. You get the picture.

I also ventured over to a snooty furniture shop where there was some furniture I remember seeing a few months ago and liking. I ended up with a table, or at least half of one.

My Solutions:
– put plants in empty corners, go with large and leafy
– silk embroidered wall hanging as major foyer piece, a 3’x5′ would just fit in the 5’x5′ alcove
– wool embroidered area rug is both less expensive than silk embroidery (and way less than a fancy rug) and can take a better beating from the children
– small semi-circle table makes good place for something beneath the wall hanging
– wooden tuk-tuk chotsky adds degree of charm while not being a china cat with bow.

There is a place that can make bamboo (or cane if you need cheaper) furniture, or you can buy their premade stuff. Some things, like chairs, tables, couches, are quite cool, while a bamboo mail holder or coat rack (yes they are tacky. Just don’t do it) don’t come up to snuff. I had a shoe rack made to the measurements of our alcove in the foyer.

I picked up the silk and wool embroidery from the same place and bartered the retailer down significantly because of this.

To finish it off, the gardener and I picked up plants from one of the many local nurseries and added terra cotta plates to go beneath them so water wouldn’t leak out onto the floor.

Did I meet my budget?
– Silk embroidery + wool embroidery = 20,000Nrs (about $286 USD))
– semi-circle table = 6,500 Nrs (about $93 USD))
– bamboo shoe rack = 1500 Nrs (about $22 USD))
– plants = 5,500 Nrs (about $79 USD))
– terra cotta plates = 300Nrs (about $4 USD))
Total = 33,800 Nrs (about $483 USD)

It’s a decent start!

3 Replies to “Decorating a State Department House – Step Two: “Identify Targets, Solutions, and Budget””

  1. Striking and beautiful. Very well and tastefully done. Can you send me a “before” picture (besides the pile of shoes with no reference) so I can really fully appreciate your handiwork?

  2. Beautiful! This has been a most informative exercise. I love your ordered process and successful outcome. Well done!

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