Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding the Coast in Kathmandu

More than once in my short and amateur decorating experiences, I have noticed by the end of it -- you know, that moment when you finally wipe the IKEA-induced sweat from your brow and step back to survey the room or apartment and give everything a fresh eye -- that an unintended theme has surreptitiously taken over the decor.

In Chicago, there were the fish. Not real fish -- we're not the aquarium sort. No, the fish theme began innocently enough with one Gurgling Cod, a wedding gift that we still treasure even though it is currently packed away in the basement at my in-laws' house. Then came the antique fish prints. Gorgeous and colorful, they married my coastal upbringing with Brian's Great Lakes heritage. Maybe we went awry with the sheer volume -- 12 prints in all -- but one fish led to another, and soon it seemed that they were everywhere in our apartment. A fish-shaped bottle opener. A very large painted fish that held court on our back porch. Some of these additions were gifts because people understandably assumed that we loved to fish. Confusion would inevitably set in after we gave a feeble response about loving to eat fish. But no, we don't actually fish. My dad has been fly-fishing for the last 20 years, though -- does that count?

This time around, in Kathmandu, a similar thing happened. We have abandoned the fish but not the idea of the coast. Somehow, in a small landlocked country where our nearest body of water in the capital is the Bagmati River, we have arrived at this: beach house meets minimalist Scandinavia.

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Complete with a beach ball paper lantern.

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I am loving the look, but I swear that I don't know how it happened. I was going for modern, clean, and cool, and somehow coral slipped in. I can't help it. I'm a sucker for coral, both the color and the pattern.

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So I ran with it. And its cousins.

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Sigh. It appears in the bedroom too.

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And the quietly beach-themed turquoise curtains and wicker chairs? Were those an "accident" too, you ask?

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Okay, not exactly. I had initial visions of a paler, pool blue for the curtains, which we had made for the seven windows in our living/dining room and bedroom, but a shopping trip at the fabric hub in Indra Chowk led us to this.

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At something like $1.25 per meter, the price was right, and we ended our fabric hunt then and there. The turquoise cotton keeps things bright and cheerful but also does a good job of blocking sunlight, which is so strong that it can make you sweat even indoors.

As for the woven chairs, those were far more of a surprise. We never considered ourselves the wicker sort. On the hunt for additional seating, we spotted these chairs stacked eight feet in the air at the back of one of those cane furniture shops, the ubiquitous suppliers of inexpensive furniture around town. These woven wicker bowl chairs caught my eye, and I began to fancy our apartment like a cool rooftop bar in Chicago or New York.

Okay, maybe that is a stretch, but the chairs are a work of art.

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And the towels in our bathroom that remind me of Fruit Stripe Gum?

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I know they are more fitting for a cabana, but desperate times call for desperate measures when you're working with camou-inspired bathroom tile.

Our bathroom. Horrible color scheme, but it is huge, and we are grateful to have a separate tub (not so common for Asia)


Lest you think it's all about the beach in Kathmandu (and oh -- how disappointed you would be), soon I will share some thoughts on the other half of our Jekyll and Hyde aesthetic: modern minimalism. Stay tuned.

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