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Interior deco in the Foreign Service

I’ve wanted to write something about interior decoration in the FS but never really knew what. I’m not exactly good at decorating, nor do spend a lot of time or money on it. Yet it is immensely important to me that each and every house I live in truly feels like home.

I noticed I go through a cycle every time I move: when I arrive I’m very disappointed, if not outright upset, about the looks and layout of our assigned housing. There’s always just enough hideous furniture, smelly sinks and overload of empty space to make me despair. I think part of it has to do with jet lag, and part of it is because my taste is too different from what the Drexel Heritage line has to offer.

When my stuff arrives, I make a big push to turn the place around. For a few weeks I’m obsessed with transforming the house. The local conditions and availability of supplies makes this much easier in some places than in others. In most countries I lived there was no IKEA or comparable store where you can buy furniture and textiles for reasonable prices.

So my interior deco routine takes this into account. With a little help from Amazon, I admit, I make our house look completely unique by doing a few simple things.

Wall art

We’ve collected a large collection of wall hangings from everywhere. We make a point out of buying at least two medium/large pieces each posting (one per year, on our anniversary) so we have a big variety of colorful and personal art and pictures to light up the rooms and hallways. We get all of our stuff framed nicely, which is often cheap abroad.

Our own couch

The couch is the centerpiece of our living room, so we wanted it to be ours. It’s an L-shape, which you can’t get from the embassy, and it transforms into a large bed if necessary. We also have our own book cases and a large rug, so our living room feels the same no matter where we are, which feels kinda nice.


Every country has paint shops. I’ve painted the walls myself many times but when labor is cheap I let others do it. It’s a super simple and affordable way to customize rooms. This time around I really focused on the kids rooms. Their rooms looked plain boring, so I looked on Pinterest and picked the cutest design I could find to copy. The first picture is my son’s room. He loves it and has never spent more time in there happily entertaining his friends.


Many, many FSOs have a big collection of oriental rugs and we are no exception. It took some time for me to warm up to them (I thought they didn’t match my modern furniture) but now I’m happily rolling them out all over the house. They remind us of our adventures in Pakistan and Armenia, and the kids love playing on them. For an overview of our rugs see my post Carpet shopping insights.


Plants are the finishing touch to our interior design and this is where my husband comes in. He leads the charge in the plant nursery and spreads them across the house; the small ones inside and on top of bookshelves and the big ones in empty corners. He takes care of them as if they were pets. We always feel sad saying goodbye to our nicest plants at the end of our tours and make sure we give them a nice new home.



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