So I want to relieve you of the suspense I left you in as of my last post and show you the current chapter in the story of my striped curtains. They have never looked better and ironically seem to have been custom designed for their new home framing the little charming arched windows that made me want this house in the first place. The rest of the bedroom has been updated too and I want to talk a little bit about that process, especially in response to all the inquiries I have been having lately about how to think about changing or modernizing a space when you have limited resources and no ideas on how to start. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the items in our bedroom, but here in Doha (and to a certain extent in Tokyo) they had started to feel too ‘Paris flea market’ if such a thing is possible. Almost all the furniture is 19th century antique French – even my winter duvet is made from antique document print curtain panels sourced at les puces. The tiny French night stands shown below in our Tokyo bedroom were purchased originally for a New York bedroom so small that there was barely 18 inches on the side of the bed and both they and the sweet lamps were completely insubstantial in our new cavernous Doha bedroom.
By choice and by the default based on availability I talked about last time, the rest of the house had brightened with a more modern eclectic mix and the bedroom needed to join in that party. For years in Tokyo I had been dreaming of getting my gray painted walls again but now, with the gray tiled floor, everything felt too gray and too subtle. The room was screaming for some color punctuation, although I did not want to lose its overall soothing vibe. So the starting point was to think about what might be easy to change like textiles, bedding and accessories, using a Pinterest board and inspiration photos as a way to narrow down choices and test combinations.
My main inspiration came from two very different bedrooms, by two very different style designers. The first one, by Bunny Williams is in a formal Park Avenue apartment, full of gorgeous storied antiques. The mirrored bed is a 1930s piece by French designer/artist Serge Roche. The headboard is upholstered in a spectacular Indian-inspired silk embroidery by Naeem Khan. You can see more of this space in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Social Diary.
Vignettes of collected objects and art, as well as simple white ruffled linens against a soft color palette speak to the antiquarian in me. Much of the furniture is from a similar place and time as mine.
The other bedroom is in a 1940s home in Charleston, designed by Angie Hranowsky and featured in Lonny Magazine. It is often referred to in blog posts on ‘boho glam’ or some other silly name as it unexpectedly combines casual elements such as a rattan headboard with a more glamorous material like the mirrored nightstands.
The lavender is of course my long standing favorite, but the unexpected surprise of the yellow is what really captured my attention, along with the incredible textile mix against simple white sheets.
So what binds these two very different spaces together? You might say nothing, but for me, they are filtered through the lens of what I have to work with plus the feeling I want to create. The Bunny Williams bedroom has a softened pretty formality that I can’t escape with the majority of the furniture I already own. The Angie Hranowsky bedroom has relaxed vibe I’d like to add, along with a color palette I adore. The actual binding between them is in the mirrored pieces (bed and night stands) and the handmade textiles – the Indian embroidery above Williams’ bed and the tapestry, bolster pillow and block printed John Robshaw quilt in the Hranowsky bedroom. I knew an embroidered ethnic textile – I was thinking suzani or something similar originally – would soften the formality of the furniture and bring in the color and visual interest I was looking for. But from a practical point of view, my husband and I are duvet sleepers and nothing will change that. I didn’t want a fussy extra coverlet that served no purpose other than display. As luck would have it, a ready-made savior came in the form of the Safia Embroidered Duvet Cover from Anthropologie. It is so perfect, it’s as if I conjured it, with its Indian applique and embroidery and exact color palette.
Another key component of all the inspiration spaces I was using was mirror – for two main reasons. The original impetus was to add another material, another finish, to all the wood furniture. Part of what kept the room trapped in the past was that lack of variety, and even though the bed frame is painted, everything else is medium to dark wood tone. A mirrored surface provides much needed contrast while also being dressy enough to hold its own with the French antiques. But the second reason – the expat reason of its possible availability – is what truly made it compelling. As I’ve mentioned before, the local population here likes very glitzy interiors so I knew that somewhere out there something along the lines of what I was looking for existed. While my fantasy tables were of the vintage 1940s variety like these on the left from 1stdibs, settling for these brand new ones from the main mass market furniture store here in Doha didn’t feel like such a terrible compromise. The fact that they were also a fraction of the price didn’t hurt and honestly, their modernity, their newness, provides even more needed contrast with the rest of the room.
Other inspiration photos included one detail again and again – simple yellow ceramic gourd or vase-shaped lamps like the ones in the Angie Hranowsky bedroom, here in two stand-out rooms by Miles Redd and Bailey McCarthy. Most are Christopher Spitzmiller, which once again is not available here (although those of you in New York right now can go to the last day of his Summer Seconds Sale today!!!!) nor are there many similar options. This was a situation in which local sourcing just wasn’t going to happen. On a trip to Hong Kong last November I hunted for a pair of Imperial yellow porcelain vases to convert to lamps, but had no luck either.
That left the internet, which is sometimes the only option when you know you want something very specific. I was obsessed with the gorgeous pair of yellow lamps on the left from Palm Beach Antiques Center, but no matter how I tried to spin it, they were way too large and a bit too orange. I’m still in love with their shape and luster and they are still available along with numerous other beauties. In the end, One Kings Lane delivered with this pair of more vase-shaped lamps with a Chinese mount. They were a bargain – especially if you compare similar pieces on 1st dibs (subtract an entire digit from those prices). And for another expat homily, sometimes the price of doing business and living your life is costly shipping. Luckily, I had finally joined Aramax, an international shipping service that delivers here pretty reliably and at fairly reasonable cost. Since the lamps were a bargain, paying their price over again in shipping was worth it. All in, they still cost less than many other choices.
The combination is bringing me great visual pleasure and the functionality of the taller, more substantial lamps and the extra drawer space the night stands provide can’t be beat.
The room is not finished, but has certainly made strides in the right direction. Finding a floor covering is high on my list as getting out of bed to those acres of cold tiles isn’t very nice. In typical expat style I brought a giant empty suitcase with me on a quick trip back to the US a few weeks ago and stuffed it with a giant wool flokati rug. It never made it up to the bedroom, getting hijacked by the living room along the way, where there were also acres of cold tiles. I’d love to add a chaise or other comfy chair to the corner next to the settee, where some old world crystal sconces have been hung on either side of a trio of painterly lithographs by Japanese printmaker Keisuke Yamamoto. What an interesting coincidence that these prints are all about the arches and now they are hanging in a bedroom that is kinda all about the arches too. I happened to stumble across these yellow pillows in the housewares isle of our local supermarket (!) so I grabbed them, knowing they wouldn’t be there if I hesitated. Playing around with other pillow choices on the Pinterest board.
Along those lines of mixing old and new, I’d like to find a great piece of abstract art to hang over the bed, a little like this combo in a room designed by Amanda Nisbet. Although I’m laughing a bit, as the night table lamps remind me so much of my old ones – they could use a little beefing up I think.
Those little lamps have been relocated to atop the dresser, in similar style to the Bunny Williams bedroom. I’m still working on the gallery wall here, grouping antique sketches and etchings.
Miles to go before I sleep…well no, not really. Actually, the house is in substantial shape as I ready myself to leave in two days for the next ten weeks of summer, where I’ll be turning my attention to our beloved beach cottage. See you there!
Expat Decorating…Getting Lucky and Making Do