Name: Isabel, her husband and her two children
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Size: 1830 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years
This is the bold, globally inspired Mexico City home of Isabel and family. Over the years she's lived in Tunisia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Washington, DC while serving as a Foreign Service Officer, and has traveled to even more places. Isabel has deftly mixed her love of 1970s style with global treasures and furniture she found in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona. And the DIY wall pattern she created in her children's room is impressive and inspiring.
Isabel wrote in her house call:
"I have collected pieces both kitsch and beautiful along the way. I have two kids and a crazy busy life, but I firmly believe that design and children are not enemies. Our lives are unique—every three years we move to a different country, into houses we don't choose. We normally have a weight limit and like other renters, have limits on what we can do to a home."
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: 1970s global
Inspiration: A Good Housekeeping 1970s décor book—so maximalist! So amazing!
Favorite Element: The open floor plan. I can cook a meal, hang out with my kids and watch television practically all at the same time. I also love the tons of windows that let light in everywhere.
Biggest Challenge: Low ceilings (UGH). And thanks to all the windows, no wall space.
What Friends Say: So given that our Foreign Service life is usually a life plagued by ugly furniture (yes, we usually get housing with ugly furniture–there, I said it), our house is refreshing because we came to Mexico City when it was an unfurnished post. Thus, we have our own stuff at last! The biggest compliment I ever got was “Wow, this does NOT look like a Foreign Service home.” Mostly our friends like our vintage stuff and the fact that the house is comfortable (i.e. big couch + shag rug = shindig)
Biggest Embarrassment: In life? Oh, you mean in the house. Well, perhaps the GIANT MONSTER television (literally like 70 inches) that my husband purchased without telling me. It’s so giant and horrible. I mean, great for watching movies, but it is a GIANT EYESORE.
Proudest DIY: Totally the doodle wall in my kids’ room! I saw somewhere online someone who had painted forest creatures all over her dining room and I said “I can do that.” And through the miracle of Home Depot, I did. Basically I bought a small can of paint, a brush, and started doodling whatever came to mind all over the wall, with an emphasis on stuff funny to children (silly characters, food, animals, bugs). I looked up '60s and '70s children’s books for inspiration and voila, the doodle wall was born.
Biggest Indulgence: I guess this means where did I spend a ton of money for something fab? The answer is I never really have. Most of my stuff is vintage from Arizona or from my travels around the world (been posted in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Tunisia, DC, and Mexico). The one big ticket item we got once is a rug from Turkey, and ironically it is tucked away because I don’t want my children to ruin it. One day it will be displayed (perhaps when they go to college).
Best Advice: (probably the worst advice ever but …) Impulse purchase! Here’s the deal—I always read about carefully planning your home and waiting until you can buy the item you need, yada yada. But when you buy “vintage” (i.e. used) you can usually find great deals, especially in the United States. So if you like it, just get it! I found awesome stuff in Tucson, Arizona (where as I have said before, there is a vibrant retirement community and, um, a lot goes into the market).
I also troll Craigslist and Overstock for furniture and Ebay/Etsy for home decor items (if you want the global look try searching for: kantha quilts, suzani textiles, or kilim pillows, or even cool tapestries at Urban Outfitters—many of these are super affordable).
And a few golden nuggets of design advice: no matchy-matchy furniture (especially NO dark espresso color sets!), and AVOID SMALL RUGS. Just get a big one. It’s worth it. And no fluorescent lighting! Oh, and read Emily Henderson’s blog.
Dream Sources: What I would give to be posted in Morocco and have no weight limit! If we are going totally hypothetical here, I would buy me a few Ligne Roset Togo sofas and put them in the conversation pit in my mid-century ranch-style house or Ricardo Legorreta-designed beach house. I would also carpet every room and have a dining room full of Knoll Platner chairs and also a womb chair (I obviously have a thing with seating). I would also have a funky hanging fireplace and retrofit an old television set (the kind that is furniture) to hold a new television. And wallpaper, something funkalicious like Justina Blakeney’s new collection for Hygge & West or the Martinique print. Or I would basically just time travel to the past.
- Sofas from (wait for it…) Sam Levitz Warehouse in Tucson, AZ.
- Hanging lamps from the medina in Rabat, Morocco
- Side tables and the credenza (which is actually the bottom of a china cabinet) are from Goodwill in Tucson, AZ
- Glass orb lamp is from Casa de los Niños Thrift store in Tucson, AZ
- Orange retro chairs from Copper Country Antiques in Tucson, AZ (the original upholstery was ugly so I reupholstered them in orange velvet, which I got at SAS Fabrics by the Pound in Tucson).
- 60’s magazine rack from Craigslist Tucson
- Talavera planters are from Mexico City
- Low coffee table: a weird little antique store on Calle Lerma in Mexico City
- On the bookshelf: Dictator/rogue leader collection. This started when I studied abroad in China and bought a Mao Zedong alarm clock. It has since grown to rogue leader tchotchkes of all kinds! A talking Hugo Chavez doll, a Stalin pocket watch, a Qaddafi “American Aggression” postage stamp set, etc., etc. You will also notice an animal skin Michael Jackson tribute (spelled “Mikael Jackon”) for which a small animal was sacrificed. This was a gift by someone who understands my sense of humor.
- Table and sideboard are from Thailand but I got them via Craigslist in DC
- TV hutch turned bar is from Pier 1
- The chrome and glass shelf was a display shelf at the Elegant Junque Shop in
- Tucson, AZ and I talked the dude into selling it to me.
- The chairs are from Tunisia (they are actually banquet chairs left over from a hotel renovation)
- Record player was left in the home we bought in DC, and is topped by a wrought-iron candle tree from Haiti
- Lamp from Second Glances Resale Shop in Tucson, AZ
- The mergoum rug is from Tunisia, but this is one of the most affordable hand-woven rug types out there
- Tequila glasses are hand-blown and from Guadalajara, Mexico.
- Tulip chair set is from The Girls Estate Sales in Tucson, AZ
- The 3-bulb 80’s floor lamp is from Beacon’s Value Village in Tucson (which is
- now permanently closed)
- Those pictures next to the table? They are random musician friends who
- played with my step-father in LA in the 1970s. They were chosen to be on
- my wall thanks to their haircuts.
- The headboard is a giant Tunisian door
- Platform bed from Overstock
- Side tables were from our old lady homeowner in DC
- Hanging lamps from a now-defunct store in the Dominican Republic which
- sold Moroccan stuff
- Dresser a hand-me- down from neighbors
- Mirror from Morocco, vase from Ikea
- Golden chair/ottoman from estate sale in Tucson
- Bar cart turned diaper caddy is from an estate sale in Madrid
- Studded mirror: Ikea
- White leather pouf is from Tunisia
- Yellow velvet slipper chair: Goodwill Tucson, AZ
- Billy bookcases, Ikea
- Yellow velvet lamp, Ikea
- Rocking horse from The Girls Estate Sales in Tucson, AZ, as well as the mini
- piano and chairs
- Kilim rug and ottomans from Tunisia
- Vuvuzela trumpet on that shelf is from South Africa (World Cup)
- I painted the portrait of Porky (RIP)
SECOND LIVING AREA
- Entertainment unit is Billy from Ikea!
- Red kids’ chair/table set: Ikea (ordered on the internet)
- Red retro kitchen is the Kidcraft Vintage Kitchen ordered from Amazon.
- (Warning: it will take Santa OVER SIX HOURS to assemble).
- Giant floor pillows from Grand Bazaar in Turkey
- Lip phone was from my childhood
- Knock-off Eames chair is from Tucson craigslist
- Flowered chair and ottoman are Ikea but reupholstered in an old velour
- bedspread (which you can see in an older picture on my bed)
- The waterfall desk was designed by me based on a 1970s design and made
- by a woodworker in Tunisia
- The desk lamp is from the 1970s and is from Miracle Center Thrift store (a
- true miracle!) in Tucson, AZ
- Eyeball floor lamp is from Etsy
- The old chest is from Tunisia
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