No home is made in one day. In fact, homes always evolve. Making a place your own is a process.
When we move to a new home in a new country, it takes me easily 3 to 4 months to get to where I want it to be. It often takes longer.
Most people furnish their home with their own furniture. For expats that is not always the case. While there are expats who get to bring and furnish their rental homes with their own furniture, there are some others who live in rental homes that come with furniture. We happen to be the latter.
I feel fortunate to live in a furnished housing because it is easier when we move overseas. I can’t complain since we don’t have to worry about furnishing the house. That being said, our living in a house filled with furniture that is not in our own style comes with its own challenges.
Let me pose you a question before continuing, though.
What is “home” to you?
As we pursue our family life overseas as expats, a home to me is a sanctuary where my family and I can feel safe, comfortable and happy. In my opinion, where you live or what your house looks like is not as important as who and how you live in it.
Home is where your heart can be filled with love.
Just like how we dress is a reflexion of who we are, I think how we decorate our home is a representation of ourselves. I don’t feel the need to fill my home with expensive furniture and decor as long as I can surround myself with the decorative items and colors I like.
It, however, is easier to be said than it is done. It took me nearly 16 years of expat living to get where we are. After many years of exploring, I feel that I know my style and what I like. At the same time, my style has evolved over time.
In this article, I hope to show you how you can convert your home with some furniture that may not be your style into a home that you feel represents your style.
The very first time I opened the door to see our new home in Manila, I felt as though it caught me off guard.
I opened the front door and there I was in the middle of a living room.
The front door area is the most public space in the house. I didn’t feel comfortable that our living room was totally exposed because of the way it was configured.
I created the division of space by moving the loves eat and have its back face the front door.
I also brought an entertainment center from the family room.
You will see this same entertainment center in one of the photos in the Family Room section.
You no longer walk into the living room.
Rugs make a big difference in the room. I also learned that I am allergic to dust mites when I had dermatitis issue back in 2016. Thus, I decided to send brand new rugs to overseas.
If you bring rugs overseas, try to get the right size for the room. This rug I brought for the living room is 7’10 X 9’10.
The rugs that are too big would make the room look smaller and if you have a rug that is too small for the space, it would not look as good.
LAMPS AND SLIPCOVERS
Decorating with your own lamps personalizes the space instantly.
Do you know that you can take lamps anywhere in the world and use them without fixing anything? All you have to do is 1. buy an adapter for your plug and 2. use a local lightbulb.
Lamps are the best ambiance creator for a space. Make sure you bring your lamps overseas and invest your money in the ones you love.
Another magical trick are slipcovers
Custom made slipcovers are affordable in certain countries. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in Mumbai and Manila where slipcovers can be custom-made at affordable prices.
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of one size fit all type of slip covers. I personally feel that they don’t look good. In that case, I would invest in pillows and pillow cases.
PLAY AROUND WITH THE FURNITURE PLACEMENTS
Finding the best place for your furniture takes time.
Some people have a better sense of space and some others feel that they don’t know what to do.
Try to configure based on the positioning of a door to enter the room, windows and other doors. Think about how you would move in the room.
Do you see that the china cabinet has mirrors in the back? The photo is not in a good quality, so it’s hard to see, but the mirror has a reflection of the front doors. In Feng Shui, it is not recommended to place a mirror facing any door. A positive energy (you can see it as a good luck) comes in, but it immediately bounces off the mirror and goes out the door. (Hey, don’t leave!!) I don’t always strictly follow the Feng Shui rules, but the mirror rule is one of the easiest to follow, so I do. When you don’t know where to put your mirror, I recommend you go search Feng Sui laws for the placement of mirrors.
Plants don’t like me.
The truth is that I can’t keep them alive.
When I did the math, though, I realized if I buy 3 to 5 plants every time I move, that would cost more than the artificial plants I invest in and they can be transferred from one country to another. I do love real plants. They are awesome! For our life style, though, I must admit that I am a fan of artificial plants.
The advantage of moving with some artificial plants is that you can decorate your space with them as soon as you receive your boxes.
A SEATING AREA FOR A BIG KITCHEN
I love our kitchen, but in terms of storage, this space was the most challenging in the house.
The table is a DOCKSTA purchased at IKEA in the U.S. It has been my dream to own it for many years. A round table is great for creating a kitchen breakfast area.
BE CREATIVE WITH FURNITURE
Since we have no storage for dinnerware as well as cutlery in the kitchen, I had to come up with an alternative storage solution. I brought two bookshelves and a chest of drawers from a bedroom to use in the kitchen. I have all the dinnerware and glasses in the shelves. The cutlery and other kitchen items are in the chest of drawers. This way serving and cleaning is much easier and my young kids can get their serving ware on their own. It is important to me that my kids and their friends can help themselves in our kitchen.
Ever since I painted our home for the first time in Jakarta, I’m a fan of painting walls. It is such a pain and a lot of work, though.
May I suggest something?
Painting a wall just a half or 2/3 is a great way to accessorize the space.
It is so much easier.
The half-painted wall becomes a decoration itself for the wall. You won’t feel the need to fill the blank space with wall decor. I highly recommend this painting strategy for a large room.
I painted this room myself (this is the only room I did myself and I hired a painter for the rest) and spent about 3 hours for 2 layers including applying masking tapes. The end result was totally worth the effort!
The best change I made for this room was this lamp shade. This bamboo lampshade is probably overused everywhere on social media, but I don’t care. I love it.
The lamp shades are also universal just like floor and table lamps. You can use the lampshades you brought from your country anywhere in the world.
The entertainment center in the photo was moved to the foyer in front of the entrance door.
The green chair from the family room was moved to the master bedroom.
I moved the sofa forward away from the wall because the TV and the sofa were too far from each other to be comfortable. The back of your sofa doesn’t have to be touching the wall.
HIDE CLUTTER WITH A SOFA
I’m a fan of hiding a clutter behind a sofa, especially kid’s toys. The space behind the sofa in our family room also works as a hiding space for some clutter.
KIDS ROOM – GIRL & BOY SHARED ROOM
I like my kids sharing a room. My oldest is fully into a teenage phase, so she claimed that she needed her own room, which my husband and I agreed and approved.
Unfortunately, my middle child, a girl, did not want to be in the same room as her little brother. He, on the other hand, was so excited to share a room with his big sister.
The compromise for her was to create two separate spaces for the two. She wanted the side of her bed to be against the wall, so we moved the bed.
Another Feng Shui law I try to follow as much as I can is placements of beds, but unfortunately, I could not do well with this room. It is not always easy because of the way rooms are designed and the placement of windows.
TEENAGE DAUGTHER ROOM
I swapped the furniture of this room with the ones in an extra room we have.
The bed was moved from the next to the door to the other side by following the Feng Shui law.
The grey chair shown in the photo below moved to the other kids’ room.
We brought the giant lounge chair from the master bedroom and covered it with the white blanket to hide the color. Blankets are a great tool to hide the color of the furniture that you don’t like.
This is the end of the tour. Thank you for sticking around!
Hopefully you enjoyed the tour of my new home in Manila, Philippines!
If you have any feedbacks, please don’t be shy and leave some comments below.
I love receiving comments from my readers!
Kaho is the founder and photographer of the blog Chuzai Living, a lifestyle blog with a focus on interior design and travel, and a yoga instructor. She is originally from Japan and an adult third culture kid (TCK). She hopes to inspire and empower others through her blog to live fully and happily while living abroad.