Thursday, June 7, 2012

tour of our home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addie and Bella's bedroom
I guess reading all those Design Mom: Living With Kids series has me inspired to finally post some pictures of our home here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I mock interviewed myself.  Enjoy snooping around my home.  It's clean too, lucky you!

Q: Tell us about the family who lives here.
A: Myself, my wonderfully devoted husband, Justin, our three daughters Adelaide Rose (5), Arabella Jun (3) and Ashlynn Olivia (7 1/2 months) and our dog Lucy (8).  We also have a housekeeper Eneye, gardener/day guard Teklu, driver Zalalem and two night guards, both named Ghetu who spend quite some time on our compound.
View of the entryway and non-working fire place.  The rock wall in the entryway is pretty neat.
View of the open living space on the first floor.
Q: What's the story of your home?  How did you come to live in it?
A: We heard through the diplomat grapevine that an ambassador to another African country lived in this home before us.  It makes sense to us because the home feels very grand.  I guess it's just luck that this home came to be ours when we moved to Addis Ababa.  It might help that we moved here in January and very few families were moving around so there probably weren't many homes available for a family of 5. This home is brand new to the US embassy housing pool. We are the first American family to live it.  Which essentially means we've had to find all the kinks and get them worked out with the facility maintenance folks. That hasn't always been a blast but we can't complain.  The house is beautiful.
Formal living room with great wall of curved windows
View of the dinning room and kitchen taken from the formal living room
Dinning room with built in cabinetry 

Our first piece of Ethiopian art.  
Q: It seems that you've really made this home your own even with the standard issue embassy furniture. What's your trick to make the space yours? How did you come by your decorating inspirations?
A: Gosh, thanks.  It's always a challenge to personalize an embassy home.  We've collected a lot of art work and decorative items from the countries we've lived in and visited. We were in the Philippines for three years and have lots of great stuff from Manila and other SE Asian countries we visited. We only own one piece of Ethiopian art right now.  I like to stake out the art we want to buy during the first year in a country.  Year two I will do more purchasing. We really like the style of art in Ethiopia so I'm sure we'll acquire a few more pieces. Long before we moved overseas as a family, Justin traveled often and picked up a small bit of art to display in our collection in every country he visited.
hallway on the first floor that leads to the powder room and den
Also, I come from a long line of antique collectors. My mother's home is full of collections (quilts, pottery, miniatures, you name it, my Mom collects it).  She taught me how to scavenge estate and garage sales for beautiful things.  We frequented Good Will and Salvation Army to find treasures when I was a kid.  Some of my favorite quirky things around the house I picked up for pennies at the local Good Will.

Some of my tricks for making embassy housing more personalized are layering our own throw rugs over the embassy issued ones.  This adds color and an added layer of protection from stains.  For the childrens' spaces, I like to use removable sticker decals on the walls.  I let the girls help on the decals in the playroom but for the girls' bedroom I had a very specific pattern in mind.  Being mindful about placement of the decals can turn a sticker collage into a work of art.  Plus they're cheap!
One of the four bathrooms in the home.  This happens to be one of the smaller bathrooms but it's where Justin and I have claimed the shower.  It's the only shower in the house that is halfway decent.

Q. What is your decorating style?
A. I'd say ultimately I'd like my style to be old meets new.  It's hard living in a home you are provided and not one you've had a chance to choose and fall in love with.  Some day when we have a home of our own that we choose to settle down in, I'd like to combine my love for monochromatic white and neutral things, with our international collection, and old things. Phew, that could be tough!  I love the idea of re-purposing items like doors, benches, wood, metal work, frames, mirrors etc for new things.  I'd love to re-purpose an old house, remodel, and make it our home.
The playroom is the largest of the rooms on the second floor.  It has an entire wall of built in closets we use for craft supplies and dress up.  It's a great airy room to play in.  Oh, and it's always in a state of disarray.   
Q. What is your philosophy on living with kids?
The kid books took over an entire book shelf.  Not a bad thing to have too many of.  I love these owl book ends that my crafty sister made for the girls.  I love owls.  The pictures on the wall are framed batik elephants from Thailand.
A: I'd love to say I had an overarching philosophy on anything related to kids before I had them.  It's not the case.  Over time I've become more relaxed and patient about living with kids than I ever thought I'd be.  There is no off-limit space in our home.  I try to keep the toys and kid stuff in the playroom but inevitably there isn't a space in our home that doesn't end up invaded by the children.  Normally, I don't mind.  I love being a family with small children.  The kids and all that comes with them is our life right now.  I can't see the reasoning behind trying to hid that three little girls reside in our home.  I will admit to having moments where I freak out and have to purge every room of kids stuff and throw it all in the playroom. As my husband likes to say, it's nice to feel like grown ups live here sometimes.  I also don't own many things that if broken would honestly make me weep.  The few things I own that are precious are up high enough that the kids can't reach.
A "collection" of memories.  Left to right: framed etching from our weekend trip to Paris (before kids),  99 cent ugly owl from Good Will, print on metal from our honeymoon in  Kauai, pottery from Manila.
Q: What do you collect?
A: I don't really have collections.  I have a lot of vintage jewelry and a good number of pairs of shoes.  I have a thing for vintage soap dishes and cake stands for whatever reason.  I like mirrors and frames and things that are white.  Maybe some day I'll have lots of one thing that is beautiful and I can say I have a collection but I don't really agree with the idea of having too many of one thing.  I prefer one of something really beautiful.  Sometimes having too many of one thing detracts from the beauty of the individual. Plus I hate clutter.  I like items to be thoughtfully curated and arranged to look precise, not messy.

The second floor family/TV room nook
Q: What is your favorite space in your home? Favorite feature of the home?
A: I love our TV family nook on the second floor. It's cozy and in the evenings I love to pull the ottoman out, kick up my feet with a beer or a bowl of ice cream and read a good article or flip through a magazine for a few minutes.  We have family movie nights in this room with popcorn and blankets, we eat pancakes in the morning on the couch. It's just a great family space.
wooden desk made of reclaimed wood from the Philippines.  
Hands down, the best part of this home is the size.  It's truly the first home we've lived in that feels like the space suits our family.  Maybe it's because all our stuff gets spread out among the three floors and feel less cluttered.  Maybe it's the extra bedroom and all the storage space.  The only problem will be downsizing when we get back to America some day.  The space in this home is enchanting.
Second floor patio
There are four flights of marble stairs in our house.  Justin calls them "teeth chippers"
I love all the large windows and natural light that comes into the home.  In the afternoon the third floor rooms are lovely for photography.  The open floor plan on the first floor is wonderful too. The ceilings are tall with beautiful crown molding and recessed lighting. It's a great space for entertaining.
The entire third floor is the master bedroom suite.  We are never disappointed that we bring our own mattress with us  overseas.  The bed  was made in the Philippines.  The outer wall of the master suite is mostly windows.
View of the master bedroom from the opposite side.  This space doubles as our panic room.  The main doors have  multiple heavy duty dead bolts and locks.  Every room in the house has a panic button for the security alarm as well.
Q: What's the craziest maintenance request you've had to submit so far?
A: Yikes, there has been a ton. Everything from broken water lines to building baby gates, but the craziest so far has to be asking for the removal of a colony of African honey bees that swarmed into a downspout connected to our master bathroom.  The bathrooms buzzed for a few days as bees were able to fly in and out through a hole connecting the downspout to our hot water heater. My husband was the bee killer and used the vacuum to suck some of them up. It was pretty scary.

Q: When does your home work for you?  What time of the day do things run smoothly?
A: I'd have to say after I've cooked dinner and the girls and I have eaten.  The two older girls run off to play full of after-dinner-energy and the kitchen gets cleaned up a bit by my housekeeper.  When she leaves it's just us girls. I love that feeling of winding up a day well done.  I start the bath and round up the kids and put all three of them in the tub.  I love that sleepy eyed look the baby gets as she starts to yawn when we are getting ready for bed.  Bath time and bedtime by myself can be hectic with three little girls but on most days I feel good about accomplishing so much in the home all by myself.  When I'm nursing the baby before bedtime and I can hear the older two playing quietly together waiting for me to come down and brush their teeth. I get to rest my head for a minute and call it a day.
The little nook in the master bedroom between the bathroom and the walk in closet.  This is my jewelry dresser
Q: How would you finish this sentence: If I had only known…
A: I wish I would have known that living overseas would provide me with such wonder and joy.  I had no idea I had so much learning and growing still to do as a woman/wife/mom/human.  
View of the strange half wall that sort of separates the master suite.  We've made what would normally be a sitting room into the nursery.  There are a ton of pros and cons to this set up.  
Lots of light in the nursery
The two areas are connected without a door.  We might remedy this with a folding screen of some sort.

Walk in closet in the master suite. Messy but pretty darn awesome.
third floor landing


Emily said...

I must say the reclaimed desk, and the bed make meant to go to the Philippines immediately!

Your home is beautiful! Thanks for the tour.

Rebecca Smylie said...

Awesome! You hit the housing pool jackpot!

Noble Glomads said...

Sweet as!

A said...

I won't go look at the floor plan again for our tiny small Moscow are a lucky fs duck!

Just US said...

Your home is beautiful! Thank you for sharing!!

The New Diplomat's Wife said...

love me some queen ann drexel special! this looks like a great house and they did a fantastic job on your bed in the philippines!

Natasha said...

I love the desk and bed frame. I am also really into neutral and white (I think it stems from my love of luxury hotels). My husband sometimes thinks it's too plain but I love it!

Denise said...

So so so love! Everything is just beautiful and airy, colorful and cheerful! We tanked in the furniture department... matter of fact, it'll be on the State auction block the minute we leave. Yours is stellar!

We have some great Dhaka friends enroute to US and then your neighborhood this summer... 2 darling girls in tow. Heard they already inherited 3 tortoises and hope you'll get to befriend them :)

Daniela Swider said...

I loved your house when I saw your first pics a few months ago and it's great to see how you've added your personal touches to make it your own. You've done a terrific job! It's so dreamy and full of light. Makes me want to bid on Addis but then what are the chances that we'd get it or something nice like that, right?

k @ there is fun to be done said...

Thanks for letting us snoop! And I love that desk!

Sara said...

New friends in Addis! Wonderful news. Little girls too. Score! We definitely earned the good embassy furniture after the terrible stuff we had in Manila. We also had an apartment in the oldest apartment complex for embassy housing. In fact, after us they no longer housed US families there. Go figure. I guess it all comes back around though because this house now is wonderful for us. And as embassy furniture goes, this stuff is pretty good. I just with they'd do away with the gold accents and swirly wood designs. Thanks for all the nice comments. I love seeing other peoples homes!

Heather P. said...

Your house is beautiful and it is decorated with awesome style. I love all your creative old meets new ideas.