Our Home Tour: Horn of Africa

I’ve been inspired lately by Taking Route’s blog series on homes around the world. And even though we aren’t currently in our home in Africa right now and when we go back we will actually be find a new place, I thought it would be fun to do a blog about the place we did call home from 2016-2018. It was Ezra’s first home and our first home in the Horn of Africa, and it will always hold a special place in our heart.

I’m also going to try and link some of my favorite things to bring back in suitcases for decorating, because sadly Target, Ikea, and Hobby Lobby haven’t cracked the market where we live. However, there are a few new places that popped up about a year after moving there that have provided a few affordable decorating options! But it’s still nice to bring those cheap Amazon and Target finds from home.

And speaking of home, I’m hoping this helps inspires me for our next place. In case you are interested in our crazy timeline of events our 2019 house hopping looks like this:

Baby Girl arrives end of December 2018

We pack up our belongings and move out of our temporary housing here in the states and head back to Africa mid-March 2019

We find a place to stay for a week or two as a family of four until we move into our supervisors house in April

We house sit for our supervisors while they are away, and slowly try to find a few necessary things in storage (baby bassinet, blender, etc)

For the summer, we make the mass exodus to ???? (location to be determined based on our language needs and availability) If you haven’t been following along or heard me talk about it, everything shuts down for the summer because of the heat. Our programs come to a stop, locals leave to visit family in neighboring countries, and expats take the chance to visit home or brush up on language skills in other countries.

So for the summer we will be living out of suitcases in another country (as we don’t plan to return to the states for summer 2019 due to cost) and hopefully we’ll stock up on a few needed things and escape the heat.

Then in September we return to our host country and begin searching for our new place!

So yeah, home is very relative these days, and I’m about to become super nostalgic for our old/first home in the Horn of Africa.

 The view from our balcony. We had apartment complexes all around us (despite what many people though that elaborate building was) and an empty field to the right. That field gained quite a few things over the months we were in this place. There lived as sweet family there who owned a restaurant on their property often frequented by construction workers and guards. Toward the end there was a giant container out there and usually a pack of goats.

The view from our balcony. We had apartment complexes all around us (despite what many people though that elaborate building was) and an empty field to the right. That field gained quite a few things over the months we were in this place. There lived as sweet family there who owned a restaurant on their property often frequented by construction workers and guards. Toward the end there was a giant container out there and usually a pack of goats.

The Living Room

We were lucky enough to find an apartment that was mostly furnished. The year we moved to the Horn of Africa there was an influx of refugees coming from Yemen and needing apartments with furniture, so most of the places included everything. Now (only two years later) that’s nearly impossible to find, but it also means cheaper rent since there are way more places for rent. However, it also means we have to buy some furniture when we return…a very costly expense in our country.

As a side note, I LOVED this dining room table! It was a beautiful wood and huge! I would decorate it for each season and we did family meals, language study, projects, you name it on this place. One of my goals is to find a table this size for our new place. It’s perfect for having friends over too. It’s hosted many of holiday parties and random get togethers.

BEFORE PHOTOS

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 And speaking of holiday parties, here’s a shot of our set up for a Christmas party with some of our team members. Our place also came with a white patio table so we pulled it in and set it in the middle. This should give you an idea of how huge the living room/dining room area is that it can fit a table for 8, another table, two couches, and three other pieces of furniture! And what’s crazy is that I’ve seen a lot bigger living rooms that ours!

And speaking of holiday parties, here’s a shot of our set up for a Christmas party with some of our team members. Our place also came with a white patio table so we pulled it in and set it in the middle. This should give you an idea of how huge the living room/dining room area is that it can fit a table for 8, another table, two couches, and three other pieces of furniture! And what’s crazy is that I’ve seen a lot bigger living rooms that ours!

 A closer look at the couch. I actually replaced this couch cover with one I got on Amazon. I like the fitted couch cover look better, so that was an easy fix. And if we need to take it off to wash, we have an extra one ready to go. I bought the couch off of our teammates who were retiring for a mere $8, finally a deal that won’t break the bank! (I’ll include links to everything below) I’m also planning on bringing back pillow covers for these three pillows—still searching for the perfect ones, but so far Amazon looks like my best option. The curtains we brought with us from the States and have actually had them since our first apartment as a married couple, I may have even had them before that?

A closer look at the couch. I actually replaced this couch cover with one I got on Amazon. I like the fitted couch cover look better, so that was an easy fix. And if we need to take it off to wash, we have an extra one ready to go. I bought the couch off of our teammates who were retiring for a mere $8, finally a deal that won’t break the bank! (I’ll include links to everything below) I’m also planning on bringing back pillow covers for these three pillows—still searching for the perfect ones, but so far Amazon looks like my best option. The curtains we brought with us from the States and have actually had them since our first apartment as a married couple, I may have even had them before that?

 Here’s the couch with the new cover on it. Not amazing, and I probably would have gone with a different color if I had seen it in person, but the price was right!

Here’s the couch with the new cover on it. Not amazing, and I probably would have gone with a different color if I had seen it in person, but the price was right!

 Another look at the living room, when it’s not set up for a party. We also had an old elliptical machine we found in our team storage that we put in the right corner. I eventually added an exercise ball and a few hand weights. You really need some sort of inside exercise place because it’s so hot and I still don’t feel comfortable running outside by myself.

Another look at the living room, when it’s not set up for a party. We also had an old elliptical machine we found in our team storage that we put in the right corner. I eventually added an exercise ball and a few hand weights. You really need some sort of inside exercise place because it’s so hot and I still don’t feel comfortable running outside by myself.

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 Our balcony which opens from the living room

Our balcony which opens from the living room

 One of my favorite things about our house is this bookshelf. Another buy off a family who was moving and we were lucky enough to get to send a ton of our stuff over on a container. So I packed those plastic buckets full of memories. The decor has been rearranged quite a bit over the years and of course we’ve added a few things, but this is the general idea. It contains our wedding photo book, our wedding guest book, things people made for us for our wedding, and of course photos and some of our favorite coffee table books. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to eventually paint this thing white, but the wood on it is much prettier than a lot of our other pieces so it will probably depend on if I have any paint left. (I bought a paint off of Amazon that’s similar to chalk paint, so no sanding required. I did not bring this in a suitcase so I’m not sure what the rule is on that, I was able to get it over on a container, but I’ll link it below too)

One of my favorite things about our house is this bookshelf. Another buy off a family who was moving and we were lucky enough to get to send a ton of our stuff over on a container. So I packed those plastic buckets full of memories. The decor has been rearranged quite a bit over the years and of course we’ve added a few things, but this is the general idea. It contains our wedding photo book, our wedding guest book, things people made for us for our wedding, and of course photos and some of our favorite coffee table books. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to eventually paint this thing white, but the wood on it is much prettier than a lot of our other pieces so it will probably depend on if I have any paint left. (I bought a paint off of Amazon that’s similar to chalk paint, so no sanding required. I did not bring this in a suitcase so I’m not sure what the rule is on that, I was able to get it over on a container, but I’ll link it below too)

Some other things we added to the living room:

  1. A rug. While I wish I could have afforded some beautiful rug that brings the whole room together, it just wasn’t possible. I mean, even in the states rugs are expensive! But we did have access to the US military base and we bought an off-white carpet rug that ended up being perfect. The main reason is because when Ezra was still crawling (or learning to crawl) the tile floor was too much. Once we got a rug, he immediately started crawling! Plus rugs are just great.

  2. Target dollar finds for the wall. We have concrete walls and even though we got a drill out we still could not manage to get anything hung on the walls with nails. So I gave up and used velcro strips. REally important to note we did not use anything but velcro! Anything else was too flimsy and the heat would just melt it right off! But for some reason the velcro stayed through the heat. I’ll link these things below too. My favorite was a gather sign that I found for Thanksgiving in the dollar section and hung above our dining table.

  3. Even though I had all of these photo frames to hang on the wall, I had to give up that dream. So I took the photos out of the frames and ended up hanging them up with clothes pins on twine.

The Hallway

 Here’s a look at the hallway when we first moved in with all our stuff. The front door is right behind the angle of where the photo was taken and then all the doors to the rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and even the living room) are off of the hallway. I feel like maybe the better title for this space is the foyer.

Here’s a look at the hallway when we first moved in with all our stuff. The front door is right behind the angle of where the photo was taken and then all the doors to the rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and even the living room) are off of the hallway. I feel like maybe the better title for this space is the foyer.

 We ended up putting quite a few pieces of furniture in this space. The kitchen didn’t hold much so this space held a lot of our fancy dishes, odds and ends, and we had a coffee bar at the end of the space. I ended up replacing the knobs with ones I brought back and got marble contact paper off of Amazon to replace the old contact paper that the previous owners had put on the piece. I also have grand plans to paint this guy white, but we’ll see…as for the pieces you see on there, we got the owl cookie jar at a local garage sale of moving expats, the tree is a handmade gift from Kenya, and the letterboard was a necessity I brought back in the suitcase, along with my assortment of cookbooks. And of course the amazing Ikea foldable boxes. (links below)

We ended up putting quite a few pieces of furniture in this space. The kitchen didn’t hold much so this space held a lot of our fancy dishes, odds and ends, and we had a coffee bar at the end of the space. I ended up replacing the knobs with ones I brought back and got marble contact paper off of Amazon to replace the old contact paper that the previous owners had put on the piece. I also have grand plans to paint this guy white, but we’ll see…as for the pieces you see on there, we got the owl cookie jar at a local garage sale of moving expats, the tree is a handmade gift from Kenya, and the letterboard was a necessity I brought back in the suitcase, along with my assortment of cookbooks. And of course the amazing Ikea foldable boxes. (links below)

 The back of our hallway and to the left is our kitchen. You can see our water tower and after this photo was taken we actually turned that back table into a coffee station. Our coffee collection kept growing and it made since to keep it next to the filtered water. We also had to get a fan for this space because it was the hottest place in the house and where we always ended up talking with visitor forever…equals sooo much sweaty conversations. You can also see the original contact paper of the furniture piece and how much better it looks with new knobs and contact paper, a cheap and easy fix! To the left you can see part of the other piece of furniture we had in this space—holding mostly all of our kitchen appliances.

The back of our hallway and to the left is our kitchen. You can see our water tower and after this photo was taken we actually turned that back table into a coffee station. Our coffee collection kept growing and it made since to keep it next to the filtered water. We also had to get a fan for this space because it was the hottest place in the house and where we always ended up talking with visitor forever…equals sooo much sweaty conversations. You can also see the original contact paper of the furniture piece and how much better it looks with new knobs and contact paper, a cheap and easy fix! To the left you can see part of the other piece of furniture we had in this space—holding mostly all of our kitchen appliances.

 Here we are from the front door, and you can see how the hallway/foyer works as you walk in. The Taco mat was a great find from Walmart. (link below)

Here we are from the front door, and you can see how the hallway/foyer works as you walk in. The Taco mat was a great find from Walmart. (link below)

The Guest Room/Nursery


BEFORE PHOTOS

 This is one of the bedrooms with the bed, night stand, lamp, and curtains that came with the apartment.

This is one of the bedrooms with the bed, night stand, lamp, and curtains that came with the apartment.

 I got a map wall decal off of Amazon and we put this rocking chair on a container. The decals are great, because they peel off without taking off the paint and if you are good enough you can reuse them, but I couldn’t get it off in good enough shape to reuse. However, one thing on this rocking chair. The white part of the fabric turned yellow where our body oil touched it and mixed with the heat and then the screws rusted and rotted and eventually broke. Very disappointing, but I guess you get what you pay for, but now we are on the hunt for something a little higher quality for baby number 2. I’ll link the rocking chair below for anyone who doesn’t live in an extremely hot environment.

I got a map wall decal off of Amazon and we put this rocking chair on a container. The decals are great, because they peel off without taking off the paint and if you are good enough you can reuse them, but I couldn’t get it off in good enough shape to reuse. However, one thing on this rocking chair. The white part of the fabric turned yellow where our body oil touched it and mixed with the heat and then the screws rusted and rotted and eventually broke. Very disappointing, but I guess you get what you pay for, but now we are on the hunt for something a little higher quality for baby number 2. I’ll link the rocking chair below for anyone who doesn’t live in an extremely hot environment.

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 Here you can also see the wardrobe in the corner. Another must have item we’ll need to replace!

Here you can also see the wardrobe in the corner. Another must have item we’ll need to replace!

 I love expat garage sales. We got this changing table from an embassy family who didn’t need anymore and these the small chest of drawers from another family who was leaving. I changed the handles out of the drawers and will paint it white eventually. I’d love for the changing tablet to be white as well, but whatever. The chevron tubs are from target, and we were lucky enough to find the crib in our team’s storage container!

I love expat garage sales. We got this changing table from an embassy family who didn’t need anymore and these the small chest of drawers from another family who was leaving. I changed the handles out of the drawers and will paint it white eventually. I’d love for the changing tablet to be white as well, but whatever. The chevron tubs are from target, and we were lucky enough to find the crib in our team’s storage container!

 We did a lot in this room. We replaced the curtains with navy curtains from Walmart. Added a bunk bed, where we didn’t use the bottom mattress but instead left the double bed underneath for guests. The bunk bed will eventually be part of Ezra’s big boy bed, since the double bed was part of the furnished apartment. We also added a cute tent from Amazon and had a fuzzy rug from Ikea. I’ll link them below, especially since I don’t have photos!

We did a lot in this room. We replaced the curtains with navy curtains from Walmart. Added a bunk bed, where we didn’t use the bottom mattress but instead left the double bed underneath for guests. The bunk bed will eventually be part of Ezra’s big boy bed, since the double bed was part of the furnished apartment. We also added a cute tent from Amazon and had a fuzzy rug from Ikea. I’ll link them below, especially since I don’t have photos!

 So I can’t believe I don’t have more photos of the nursery/guest room. I guess we spend the least amount of time in this room, because half of the year Ezra sleeps with us due to only running the a/c in one room, but here’s the best photo I could find of his crib.

So I can’t believe I don’t have more photos of the nursery/guest room. I guess we spend the least amount of time in this room, because half of the year Ezra sleeps with us due to only running the a/c in one room, but here’s the best photo I could find of his crib.

Master Bedroom

 Here’s the very real view of our bedroom. It’s the room we spend most of our time in during the hot season because we run the a/c at night and it stays cool for most of the day. We also have a TV in here that we got an embassy garage sale for $5! It’s the only TV with HDMI so we usually hook up our computer and can watch netflix. The end tables and wardrobes came with the apartment so we’ll have to buy some for our new place, but the bed and other pieces of furniture we bought from families who were leaving. I am going to paint that dresser white and the handles gold. It’s my first painting project on the list. I’ve wanted to do it so many times, but the task just seemed so daunting, and moving always seems like a good time to paint before you get things settled. There’s our rocking chair which we moved into our room during the hot season and you can see the yellow stains from our body oil/heat…eww. But since it’s broken we probably won’t be using it anymore. We also had a pack-n-play, a small entertainment center, and another small piece of furniture that held our towels and Ezra’s diapers and pajamas during the hot season since he was sleeping in the room with us.  We also had a bathroom to the left with a tub, shower, and bidet. I wish I had a photo of it so you could see the rugs and shower curtain; it made a HUGE difference in making the bathroom look better. I’ll link some of my favorite finds below.  Our bed isn’t made, but we brought our comforter from the states that we got as a wedding gift. I once had a friend who grew up overseas tell me about bringing your comforter from home because it makes your bed feel much more homey, and they are right! We also brought our sheets—the ones on the bed I picked up at Ross and they have little elephants on them, as well as the pillows. When our bed is made it has a white blanket at the end I got at Ikea and had for years and several pillows we got as gifts from our wedding.  As for the decals on the back wall, I picked them up at Target and they are gold feathers. I was able to save those decals when I pulled them off so I’m sure I’ll use them somewhere in the next house. (links below)

Here’s the very real view of our bedroom. It’s the room we spend most of our time in during the hot season because we run the a/c at night and it stays cool for most of the day. We also have a TV in here that we got an embassy garage sale for $5! It’s the only TV with HDMI so we usually hook up our computer and can watch netflix. The end tables and wardrobes came with the apartment so we’ll have to buy some for our new place, but the bed and other pieces of furniture we bought from families who were leaving. I am going to paint that dresser white and the handles gold. It’s my first painting project on the list. I’ve wanted to do it so many times, but the task just seemed so daunting, and moving always seems like a good time to paint before you get things settled. There’s our rocking chair which we moved into our room during the hot season and you can see the yellow stains from our body oil/heat…eww. But since it’s broken we probably won’t be using it anymore. We also had a pack-n-play, a small entertainment center, and another small piece of furniture that held our towels and Ezra’s diapers and pajamas during the hot season since he was sleeping in the room with us.

We also had a bathroom to the left with a tub, shower, and bidet. I wish I had a photo of it so you could see the rugs and shower curtain; it made a HUGE difference in making the bathroom look better. I’ll link some of my favorite finds below.

Our bed isn’t made, but we brought our comforter from the states that we got as a wedding gift. I once had a friend who grew up overseas tell me about bringing your comforter from home because it makes your bed feel much more homey, and they are right! We also brought our sheets—the ones on the bed I picked up at Ross and they have little elephants on them, as well as the pillows. When our bed is made it has a white blanket at the end I got at Ikea and had for years and several pillows we got as gifts from our wedding.

As for the decals on the back wall, I picked them up at Target and they are gold feathers. I was able to save those decals when I pulled them off so I’m sure I’ll use them somewhere in the next house. (links below)

 We brought those curtains from home and since they were too long I just pinned them to make them shorter, that way if our next place has long windows I don’t have to regret getting them cut and sewn! There’s the other pieces of furniture that’s next in line for a paint job, and hopefully that bed will get one too! So many paint jobs around here!

We brought those curtains from home and since they were too long I just pinned them to make them shorter, that way if our next place has long windows I don’t have to regret getting them cut and sewn! There’s the other pieces of furniture that’s next in line for a paint job, and hopefully that bed will get one too! So many paint jobs around here!

 Again, real life. The entertainment center belonged to the apartment, so we’ll look for something else when we move. The rug is one we picked up from the US base and it was a game changer! We eventually hung photos on twine with clothes pin above the tv because I gave up trying to get anything nailed to the walls. (see photo to the right)

Again, real life. The entertainment center belonged to the apartment, so we’ll look for something else when we move. The rug is one we picked up from the US base and it was a game changer! We eventually hung photos on twine with clothes pin above the tv because I gave up trying to get anything nailed to the walls. (see photo to the right)

 Here you can see our comforter in the bottom of the photo and the twine with photos idea I ended up doing around the house.

Here you can see our comforter in the bottom of the photo and the twine with photos idea I ended up doing around the house.

 The before photos of the master bathroom, trust me, the decor did wonders for this space

The before photos of the master bathroom, trust me, the decor did wonders for this space

 We had a small storage piece to left of the sink for our stuff and also had hanging organizer on the back of the door. I’ll link a similar one below.

We had a small storage piece to left of the sink for our stuff and also had hanging organizer on the back of the door. I’ll link a similar one below.

The Kitchen

 We moved this table out onto the balcony and just brought it in when necessary.

We moved this table out onto the balcony and just brought it in when necessary.

 the kitchen sink—real special, I know.

the kitchen sink—real special, I know.

 In place of the white table we put this piece of furniture we got from a teammate. This piece is beautiful and made so well. I think they brought it over from England years ago and I love it.

In place of the white table we put this piece of furniture we got from a teammate. This piece is beautiful and made so well. I think they brought it over from England years ago and I love it.

 So why take photos of the cabinets? Because they are a rarity in homes here! If you want cabinets you have to buy them yourself and have them installed, but we were so excited to see our apartment came with some, even if they weren’t that pretty or straight…

So why take photos of the cabinets? Because they are a rarity in homes here! If you want cabinets you have to buy them yourself and have them installed, but we were so excited to see our apartment came with some, even if they weren’t that pretty or straight…

 And our washer, again it was provided with the house, which is not usually the case, and yet another thing we’ll have to buy when we get back. This washer was brand new because the original one didn’t work, we were spoiled indeed! And Ezra loved watching the wash through the little window.

And our washer, again it was provided with the house, which is not usually the case, and yet another thing we’ll have to buy when we get back. This washer was brand new because the original one didn’t work, we were spoiled indeed! And Ezra loved watching the wash through the little window.

 We got this piece from our teammates as well and I painted it white (despite what the photo shows) and painted the handles gold. Notice our transformer and Ninja blender. :)

We got this piece from our teammates as well and I painted it white (despite what the photo shows) and painted the handles gold. Notice our transformer and Ninja blender. :)

 So another rarity—a HUGE fridge! Seriously, most of the fridges are teeny tiny and also don’t come with the apartment. I’ll probably miss this thing the most and be sad to see what we can buy with our budget.

So another rarity—a HUGE fridge! Seriously, most of the fridges are teeny tiny and also don’t come with the apartment. I’ll probably miss this thing the most and be sad to see what we can buy with our budget.

The Office

 Again, a room I don’t have many photos of, but here’s one side of the office. We actually had three desks in here because it served as our team office when needed. Reed has a desk, I had a desk, and we had an extra one for a team member. We also kept our books and a lot of storage items for camping and whatnot in here.

Again, a room I don’t have many photos of, but here’s one side of the office. We actually had three desks in here because it served as our team office when needed. Reed has a desk, I had a desk, and we had an extra one for a team member. We also kept our books and a lot of storage items for camping and whatnot in here.

 Here’s my side. We ended up moving the bookshelf you see in the photo to the left behind my desk because we got another bookshelf to keep up with our ever growing book collection. We end up taking all the books from families when they leave since no one wants to use up luggage space for heavy books! We also have a really big metal cabinet we used for storage and I loved getting to put photos and magnets of friends on there.

Here’s my side. We ended up moving the bookshelf you see in the photo to the left behind my desk because we got another bookshelf to keep up with our ever growing book collection. We end up taking all the books from families when they leave since no one wants to use up luggage space for heavy books! We also have a really big metal cabinet we used for storage and I loved getting to put photos and magnets of friends on there.

Courtyard

One thing I wish we had more of at this apartment was a place to play outside. Even though it’s hot, there are some months in the year where it’s nice to be outside, especially with a toddler. We only had a small little area and it’s really where the cars went, but I made use of this favorite corner of mine and always took photos here.

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 The gate to our place!

The gate to our place!

 Daddy and Ezra hanging out of the window of the office

Daddy and Ezra hanging out of the window of the office

Links To My Favorite Things


  1. Chalk Finish Paint

  2. World Map Decal

  3. Wall Decals - Since I can’t find the feather ones I bought I just linked a bunch of things from Target, but if you can browse Target you’ll find better deals

  4. Marble Contact Paper

  5. Battery Operated String Lights (I didn’t mention these above, but I love these. I use them for the holidays and also for general decor. I’ve draped them around the tent for Ezra and also put them in glass jars as well as hanging them above doorways.

  6. Foldable Play Tent for Ezra’s Room

  7. Hammock Swing (Which I’ve failed to figure out how to hang yet)

  8. Couch Cover - we bought this one but the price has gone up quite a bit! But there are lots of options out there, just make sure you get the right size

  9. Bamboo Towels - If you don’t have a dryer and hate crunchy towels, then get yourself some bamboo towels! They dry so soft and are amazing! These are the ones we bought, but they are unavailable, so just search for bamboo towels on amazon

  10. Travel Power Surge Protector - This is a must have! We have had a hard time finding a surge protector and already had several issues, so I got another one of these babies and use it for our tv or any important electronics.

  11. Over the Door Organizer - I used something similar to this for our bathroom since bathroom storage was non existence and furniture/plastic drawers are crazy expensive!

  12. Pillow Covers - I haven’t actually purchased any yet as I’m always looking for deals at Ross or TJ Maxx or Target, but I really like this color scheme, however I may have to change my curtains to make it match a little better…we’ll see what I end up with.

  13. Ikea Rug - fits in your suitcase and makes a great background for baby photos

  14. Letter Board

  15. Gemstone Knobs - I got similar ones to this for some of our furniture

  16. Storage Boxes

  17. Similar Taco Mat (I found mine at Walmart but it’s not there anymore, but it’s just an idea, these things are lightweight and great to add a little something to the floor)

  18. Chevron Rocking Chair and the rocking chair I’m thinking of getting for our next container


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If you’re interested I also have a pinterest board for inspiration for our next home. Everything is based on ideas that can be replicated at low cost or brought in a suitcase (minus a few pieces of furniture). You can find it here: https://www.pinterest.com/jessicaleegardner/gabode/