10 ways to deck out your temporary home

10 ways to deck out your temporary home

by Stacey Peters
Stripes Europe

Military life is colorful, but military housing is not! Your rental or on-base housing will most likely pair light beige carpeting with white walls to create a 360-degree panorama of ho-hum. The typical military family moves every 3 years so it makes sense to develop a method for making your temporary housing feel like home as quickly and easily as possible. It’s up to you, your creativity and need for practicality that will turn an empty slate into a haven you enjoy coming home to every night. 

If you long for color, but dread repainting when you PCS, there are a number of options that might inspire you to create a home Martha Stewart herself would be proud to call her own. And on a budget that won’t leave you confined in it. 

Stick it
If you are a DIY kind of person, applying fabric to your walls could add splashes of color and texture. Apply liquid starch to your walls using a paint roller, adhere fabric and smooth out air pockets and wrinkles. When you are ready to leave, simply pull the fabric down and wipe with a damp sponge. 

If pasting sounds like too much work, paint or staple colorful fabric to large canvasses to create depth and interest to those bare walls instead. You get the effects and the canvasses are completely portable to use in your new home. Buy coordinating thumb tacks and simply tack a wall border to the wall. It only takes a small amount of spackling to fill in the holes and no damage to the dry wall. 

If you still want to paint, paint an accent wall, stripes or boxes that frame your artwork or the sofa. Paint wooden knobs or drawer pulls or paint plain tiles with washable paint or decals. Find out when the last time your on-base quarters were painted, you may not have to repaint when you leave based on the painting schedule. I also painted cabinet doors once; housing said if the next occupant liked them, they could stay. I wonder if they are still red. 

Art is what you make it
Relive your travels and create interest with the textured mats, masks, photos and paintings you’ve collected during your tour. Grace your home with Moroccan brass trays, Japanese silk tapestries, and batiks from Taiwan. Cover your floors with rice straw mats from the Philippines or a hand-woven Moroccan rug. Make collages using postcards, ticket stubs, brochures, maps… whatever interests you. Choose photo mats that add a pop of color, resist the urge to hang a single picture when a grouping will create that WOW factor you crave, frame your own photography, needlepoint sketches or children’s artwork. Your only limits are the confines of your creativity. 

Get personal
Go from house to home using personalized vinyl decals, monograms, and personal quotations. Turn your favorite travel photo, your hometown or a landscape that inspires you into a wall mural using paint (if you have the talent or know someone who does) or from one of the many websites, such as Hovia in the UK. Usually, it’s as simple as uploading a photo, choosing the size and having a few people to help adhere it to the wall when it arrives. Done, almost instantaneous drama! 

Playing with patterns

Pattern your home
Stripes, blocks and dots are a great way to add depth and spice to your home and they are much easier to paint over when the time comes. Don’t just limit yourself to the walls; bring the patterns down to your military rental furniture, accessories and even the floor. Use fabric paint on inexpensive paper lamp shades, place a color-blocked throw on the back of that nondescript sofa or add a decorative rug to define specific areas in a large room that otherwise lacks a focal point. When you don’t have carpet, area rugs cuts down on the echo and covers the hard, cold floors. 

Rummage for second-hand furniture and decor at garage sales, bazaars, thrift stores and the numerous antique markets found in Europe. Bargains can be found everywhere, sometimes even on the side of the road. The largest bazaars located in Germany take place in Wiesbaden and Ramstein during September. 

Utilize your housing office warehouse
They can supply you with wall lockers, dining room sets, sofas, beds, dressers, etc. None of it will be Pottery Barn chic, but it will allow you to use your imagination. Dress it up and make it work, but be sure to return it in the same condition it was signed for or you may end up buying it! Don’t forget the Self-Help Center located on post. They provide paint, seasonal flowers and other items that will save you time and money in the long run. 

I hate wall lockers!! Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all you have to store your clothing. Try dressing them up with fabric, shelving paper or door mirrors. Top them off with baskets and voila you’ve found loads of vertical space. Dress up that plain white modular shelving with wallpaper, paint or decoupage. Or just combine several to create the illusion of a more expensive wall unit, wine rack or shoe display. 

Add drama with ceiling-to-floor drapes

Go glam
I love floor-to-ceiling drapes. Try covering an entire wall with them to create depth. Longer drapes can be puddle at the bottom for extra drama. Create your own curtains with sheets, they already come with a hem you can slide an inexpensive shower curtain rod through. Use mirrors on the walls and in your furniture to reflect the light and cast sparkles of light as the sun moves around the sky. Candles come in many shapes and sizes and produce warm ambiance and aroma. Add pops of color to your chair cushions, and throw pillows. Cover glass doors with beautiful see-through self-stick vinyl. 

Create a focal point
Every good room needs something that sets itself apart from another. Unfortunately, military quarters don’t usually come with fireplaces, chandeliers, bay windows or cathedral ceilings. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create drama on your own. Hang a huge piece of artwork or iron frame, wrap Christmas lights around a large twig ball and hang from the ceiling, or make a collage of mirrors in similar frames of differing sizes. 

Stairwell living
Don’t forget to spruce up the entryways to your home. A few well-placed plastic planters or flower boxes filled with brightly colored flora will liven up even the plainest stairwell or walkway. 

Double duty
Buy furniture and other items that can perform two or more functions. Buy a sofa bed instead of a sofa, for example. Acquire a coffee table with storage drawers or use a steamer trunk. Buy footstools that double as storage space. Buy or make a decorative screen that can also serve as a room divider. Hang area rugs on the floor or the walls, as they not only add color but they provide some sound deafening. Use an old door, fence section or standing screen as a headboard. A daybed can be created out of a single bed or an outside bench -- just add a few pillows. 

Finally, all your furniture should work together, since any two pieces may eventually end up in the same room. Military decorating must be flexible since you will be living in houses and apartments with different layouts. Today’s nightstand might be next year’s end table.

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