Monday, June 28, 2010

Borrowed furniture

With few exceptions, Foreign Service apartments come furnished. The US government buys these furnishings in bulk. They find a pattern they like and buy it all. 1000 dressers, 1500 highboys, 2000 couches and love seats with 5 different styles of chairs (captain, arm, easy, rocking etc.) in complimentary patterns to match. Every once in awhile someone will get lucky and arrive to their assigned post at the beginning of phasing in the newest generation of furniture, but usually every apartment interior looks the same. There are myriad upsides and downsides to living like this, but so far it has made things pretty easy for us. We've had the same pattern in both Caracas and Lima and we actually lucked out. Dark green is ideal for small people. When we left Lima, we weren't assessed any fees for property damage. We were diligent about keeping the furniture in good condition, but even still kids will be kids. We have been pretty successful this time around too. A few cushions have split seams, and the dining room chairs will need some scrubbing, but for the most part, I'm very proud of our ability to treat our borrowed furniture with care. Or, almost.

Isaac is a budding artist. Okay, so he's not a child prodigy or anything, but he does love to color. He has ample coloring books, scrap paper, and butcher paper at his disposal and he uses them liberally. But, sometimes, he forgets and colors floors, walls, doors, people, and whatever else happens to get in the way of his flowing creative juices. We say "only color on paper" a lot around here, but occasionally the non-paper surfaces are just too tempting. His latest aberration was in the form of a desk chair. Just an ordinary desk chair to some, but to me, with it's white canvas seat cover, an accident waiting to happen. And happen it did. Several times. I guess he just couldn't help himself, over and over and over again. So, on a recent stateside trip I bought some replacement fabric and thought that I could do the re-upholstering myself. Ha! Who was I kidding? I have neither tools nor skills. The chair is solidly constructed and there are lots of screws involved, and, most importantly, it doesn't belong to me and I'm trying to avoid having to pay to replace it. I put it on my list of things to get done, knowing it might not and then moved on to the next item.

Then a few days ago as I was driving on the same street we have driven on everyday for 2 years I saw it, my salvation. A hole in the wall upholstery store. I've passed this store a hundred times, and hundreds like it. Shops not much bigger than a large bedroom stuffed into whatever space they could find. Cobblers, luggage and leather repair stores, tailors, electronics and small appliance repair stores, ribbons and notions stores and on and on. They are everywhere. Usually without storefronts of any kind, places you have to know about to find. They are so much apart of the landscape that when I told Kenny about the place, he wasn't sure where I was talking about until I pointed it out to him this morning. On my way back though, I didn't pass by, I stopped. They quoted a price, $13. I made a deal and returned with the chair. Tomorrow it will be ready and good as new. Fascinating, no? So much for living a glamorous life abroad.

the chair
the damage -- not exactly Van Gogh
the street -- yes, from up close, most of Caracas looks like this
the hole in the wall


Lauren in GA said...

That is pretty great that you can get it fixed.

I laughed at how you described how Isaac sometimes colors on, "people and whatever else happens to get in the way of his flowing creative juices." I love it. You are very understanding. Creativity like that simply cannot be stifled.

Jessica said...

Cute, cute blog!

I (well, really Ryan) would be SO STRESSED OUT if we had to live with other people's stuff. I can't even imagine the veins in his forehead.

Glad you can get it fixed.

Shannon said...

Familiar looking chair. Ours looked pretty much like that. For some reason our small shop vac ended up at post in spite of it being clearly labeled storage on the box. It turned out to be a blessing as we scrubbed the chair then were able to suck the dirty water out of the cushion so we didn't end up with water marks. Not quite as white as it once was but still good enough that we got away without paying for it. Personally I think that most of our stuff was already labeled for auction since it is all 10 years old. Guess the next people will get new stuff.

Abraham said...

There are some cute chairs in that Tapiceria! When are you guys coming to DC, and where are you gonna live (aka, lets be neighbors!). :)

Jenibelle said...

Your design is adorable. Do we get to see the finished chair? In the US, you could at least quadruple or more the price per chair. One advantage of South America!

OnCallMom said...

thirteen dollars? Okay, I'm going to start shipping furniture down there to be reupholstered. It would probably be cheaper to pay shipping than the prices we get quoted here! Can't wait for you guys to be back in DC. :)

calibosmom said...

I can't wait to see the finished product. Please post a picture of the $13 redo. I love litte back street, hole in the wall kinda places.

Heather said...

Oh yes...we'll be needing a visit to our local tapicero before we leave Mexico...and I can only just imagine how much more damage the my little "angels" will do before we leave!

Rain in My Head said...

Dying to see the finished chairs!! Hope the move goes okay! :)

christine said...

hmm, yes, I remember well that pale, plain fabrics and children just don't mix - or, more correctly, somehow they DO mix, and we'd rather they didn't!!!

I love little shops like that, in whatever country you find them:) Great blog

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