So I have been promising this story for ages and it is a good thing that I hadn’t told it as it developed a surprise ending yesterday. Design resources here in Doha are in some ways more limited and in other ways less limited than they were in Japan, but for everyone back in the USA, it really is a struggle to source items that you all have in such abundance of selection. This story might have been part of a larger post on decorating as an expat – entitled “Getting Lucky or Making Do” perhaps? – but now I think it is entitled to its own show.
Those of you who have been reading along with me these past months know from this post and this post that I snagged 3 French style fauteuils for free early this fall. They have been an integral part of my design scheme for our dining room, which has been proceeding nicely.
Along with the chairs I also got a huge marquetry desk with gold mounts and an inlaid leather blotter. It may sound potentially ugly and it certainly is a bit over the top, but it arrived on my horizon as if it had been an answer to a prayer. As you may also know, I’ve been working on redesigning my elder daughter’s bedroom. Her Pinterest board is full of Moroccan shaped upholstered headboards in interesting fabrics, monogrammed hotel linens, simple night stands and gourd/vase-shaped porcelain lamps. Basically, it is a look that is super popular right now and in her case, Ashley Whittaker has been her go-to designer for inspiration.
Circumstances make it such that like the Whittaker room below, we too bought the IKEA Malm 3 drawer dresser to use as night tables. There are not a lot of other choices to be had and its simplicity and large storage capacity is unbeatable. We discussed using mirrors and O’verlays to create our own IKEA hack and make the Malm look like the dressers above, but decided we were perfectly happy with it on its own.
The trouble for me in all this was that the room had become too full of bright white furniture and was starting to feel childlike or worse perhaps, have that blogger-on-a-budget look. It needed some weight, some gravitas, some wood to ground it. Had I been at home, I would have trotted off to some antique/consignment/thrift shop and picked up an interesting wood desk in an afternoon. That isn’t possible here so I thought a bit and realized that what might be perfect – and more importantly available – would be a French style desk. As I have mentioned before, decorating here has a tendency to run to the super ornate brocade/damask/gilded avenues, but a piece or two plucked out and used in a tongue-in-cheek manner in a different environment could be perfect. And certainly a little OTT can be just right for a teen’s room. I mentioned it to my family that night at dinner and my daughter thought it sounded like a fun idea.
The very next day I was visiting a friend over at her large compound (think gated community if that word is just too weird) and as we were taking a walk we passed a villa (glamorous sounding but basically a house) that is used for compound storage. In the open car park stood a bunch of washers and dryers, metal bed frames and other detritus, but more importantly a huge desk in full Continental style with ormolu mounts and dark blue leather top. It was so exactly what I had been thinking of that I couldn’t believe it. Even the leather blotter was blue! It was covered in sand and dust and had just been sitting out there getting ruined. Tucked in a corner under cover were the three chairs, so dusty you couldn’t see the color of their upholstery. While not antiques in any way, they were good pieces of furniture with definite potential and needed saving. My regret from that day is that I didn’t think to snap a photo so you could see how trashed they were getting.
My friend proceeded to call her compound manager and over the next few weeks they determined that nobody needed or wanted the furniture and they gave it to me gratis. Because they were free I was particularly satisfied with them – one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth after all! I spent a good day cleaning them and I worked on the desk with some lemon oil and slowly it emerged. Since the room is in no way finished, I don’t have real photos, but here is a quick snapshot. We are planning to turn the tall vase into a desk lamp and be sure to note my small IKEA hack – I painted the legs of the Snille desk chair with old gold spray paint to make the modern chair integrate with the antique looking desk. The room was really beginning to come together.
So the closing of this post should have been some kind of musing on fate and luck. Instead, I got a call yesterday from the aforementioned compound manager. It turns out that the furniture didn’t actually belong to the company that leases all the properties and is actually the personal property of the Sheikh who owns the compound. And guess what? He wanted it back! So as of today, I no longer have accent dining chairs and my daughter’s books and papers are on the floor of her room. I feel a bit paralyzed about going forward. Do I look for just the same things? Do I try something different? I love the serendipity of the find and now that has been snatched away. Your thoughts?