Sorry to have been MIA, but you can imagine the chaos of the last week. Today is Day 6 (I’m still counting) and I am coming up for air for the very first time. Since I can’t seem to think about anything else other than getting the house in order, I’m hoping you might like to come along with me this week and give me a hand.
For any latecomers, we have just moved to Doha, Qatar after 9 years in Tokyo, Japan. As international locations go, they are as different as night and day in every way, including housing, and in particular the actual houses we chose. Where my Tokyo house was small, with low ceilings, as you might expect, it was also wallpapered and carpeted (like absolutely every other expat dwelling) with an off-white/beige color that was simply unchangeable. As the urban density is so great in central Tokyo, houses are tightly packed, thus dark, and while my deep brown wooden floors were lovely, they positively absorbed light. Now there were plenty of houses in Doha that matched this same description, but we held out for a house in our favorite compound – an older one of course, it is me after all – with high ceilings, gracious lines and a very white palette in lieu of beige. I had 24 hours to pick paint colors and I have to say I did pretty darn well!
A quick photo tour of the house just prior to the movers arriving will give you a sense of what a lovely clean slate we had. The house features arches everywhere, from the front doors and entryway…
…to hallway pass throughs. Tile floors are de rigueur here because of the heat and I am enjoying the luminescence they give the interiors. Ours is actually whiter than it appears in these photos.
I think it was the arched windows that sold me on the house. I can’t wait to take down those curtains and hang new ones up at the ceiling’s edge. Thank goodness I chose the Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist for the living room/dining room. It is the perfect gray, with no shading in either color direction, although ironically this photo of the living room makes it seem blue…
…while this photo facing the opposite direction towards the dining room looks green. In person it is utterly perfect. I can’t say that enough times – perfect! If you have been following along, you’ll notice the can lights have been changed to small frosted glass covers and I am not actually sure I like them any better in terms of looks, although they are definitely an improvement in terms of function. You can see the small walled garden patio is an absolute clean slate as well.
The master bedroom has the most charming windows…
…and an arch leading to the dressing area and bathroom.
The other bedrooms are all bright and sunny and their paint colors are perfect.
You get a real sense of the tremendous sun coming in all the windows from these photos – I have not played with the exposures at all – and the need for cool colors inside.
What these empty room photos don’t demonstrate is the huge volume of the space. If you are sitting reading this in a giant new house in the USA, it won’t seem like a big deal at all, but I have never had space like this. The TV room downstairs has this nook, which didn’t seem that big…
…until we unpacked this antique shop tansu. It took up almost an entire wall and almost reached the ceiling in my Tokyo house and in my mind’s eye I had imagined it would fill most of this space.
I ran and unpacked some silkworm trays and baskets (the movers thought I was a bit wacky!) to help deal with the volume, but you can see that even they don’t fill it. I am excited and a bit daunted by the opportunities this creates. It certainly will make the fabric bill big – the curtains need to be very looooong!
The real compromise in choosing this house (besides the through the wall Japanese air conditioners – Argh will I ever escape them?) is the kitchen. Older properties are designed with the assumption that kitchens are for maids. We can’t imagine why the ceiling is dropped so low or why it has to have panel flourescent lighting, but it does. The dishwasher is out because it is getting replaced (yay!) as are the washer and dryer. At least this compound seems to be very responsible about making repairs. A plus is brand new white cabinetry (some of it illogical) and black granite counter tops, but there are the most awful terracotta-ish tiles on the walls, which ruins the space as far as I am concerned.
My sweet husband tried to fool me into thinking the tile was only really on the back splash – not! – and thus inconspicuous.
You can see that is not the case. So as I stew on the conundrum of what to do, I ask myself WWJD?
Before you go and think I’ve gone religious on you, it stands for “What Would Jenny Do?” as in Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook. She has just left NYC and moved home to Arizona where in the space of less than two months she has already radically transformed her house mostly doing all the work herself in such a fashion that I cannot imagine she ever sleeps for a minute. She took all kinds of uglies and made them fabulous – as she always does – especially when it comes to doing impossible things like painting tiles!
She turned this faux brick floor to this in her laundry room…
and this same floor to this in her kitchen.
And I know Steve at An Urban Cottage painted his backsplash tiles, from this to this. Steve, if you are reading this, how did the paint hold up?
So the question is what should I do? Paint? Wallpaper? Re-tile? Unlike Japan I think there is some flexibility in what you can do to the houses here. Something has to be done and I have a visual idea that would tie the space together with my antique pine table and Hitchcock chairs, but no sense of how to accomplish it. I think that will need its own post!
Please bear with my self-centeredness in these coming weeks. I do have upcoming posts on porcelain hibachi coming as well as a new Provenance post on bone inlay over at Cloth & Kind. I’ll be updating the shrine sale schedule and have a few new spots to tell you about. I’ve already found my first great antique shop here so there will be a new Shop Talk coming too. And while we are at it, remind me that I need to update the About Me page on this blog!