Drexel Hell

I’m new to this blogging thing, but love the idea of a weekly round-up. Fortunately, this week, it’s on one of my favorite subjects: State Department furniture.

We’ve been in since 1988, so I could tell you stories, starting with that orange flowered brocade couch that almost dropped me in my tracks when I came “home” to my first State apartment in La Paz. It did, however, coordinate nicely with the intriguing  fake oak furniture with the fake wicker insets and glass tops. And the recliner with cigarette burns all over it.

Not that we had any kind of great furniture ourselves, mind you. But I can tell you this: there was nothing orange in the lot. Not one thing. And no one paid a gazillion dollars to ship it from the home district of some North Carolina congressman to the far corners of the world, either.

For the most part, over the years, I avoided taking pictures of my furniture whenever possible. But here’s a few that sneaked in.

La Paz, 1989. This is the faded, funky 70s earth-toned loveseat that coordinated with the toxic orange sofa. It did not coordinate at all with the cat.

Lusaka, 1992. More groovy furniture. The sharp brass corners were ideal for a toddler’s room.

San Salvador 1996. I really don’t think I can say anything about those chairs. It’s bad enough having to look at them again. Every time we stay at a Marriott.

In Prague, they re-upholstered the dreaded blue brocade sofas for us. Unfortunately, they did this before I got to post in 2000, and my husband chose the fabric. He chose white polyester. For all the sofas, chairs, and dining room chairs seats. Awesome decision, dear.

Oh, and there was a pink and green paisley carpet in the living room when I got there. I am not making this up. Must have sneaked into the house in the dead of night. I had it rolled up and set out in the garage for GSO to pick up by the end of the first day. I kind of wish I had taken a picture now.

Crazed preteen had a little brother. With lots of grubby little friends. By the last year of the tour, we had embraced the college student aesthetic and just thrown tablecloths, serapes, huipils–whatever I could dig out of our FS stash–over everything.

Even though we’re all more or less grown up now, I have one word for our next post: slipcovers. Don’t care what they cost, I’m getting them. If I can find slipcovers for the dining set, I’ll buy those, too. And they sure as heck won’t be polyester, brocade, or white.


  1. slipcovers I can’t help you, but the dining room chairs, if they are Drexel and not like those stupid Indonesia made chairs we had in KL, you can unscrew the seat and pop it off, I bought some oil cloth on etsy and stapeled it on. Looked great-ish and not a stain anywhere.


    • That sounds like a great plan! This time I won’t be moving with little kids, so maybe I can put my sewing machine and staple gun in UAB and just devote a week after we get there to disguising my furniture in various ways…


  2. Kelly, congrats on starting a blog…..and you couldn’t have found a funnier subject to write about….I wish I had a picture of the world’s ugliest chair we had in our apartment in Beijing thanks to the Government of Canada…it was also dangerously ugly as my daughter broke her arm jumping off it a month after we arrived! I used to joke when we were Canadian FS that some blind (and colour blind) decorater in Ottawa bought all the furniture…..Keep writing, good luck in Vienna, and the pics are super…..Robin


  3. Solid dark colors. I think I could live with any furniture as long as it is solid colored. What is wrong with that? (Your blue chairs totally sent me back to the era of flowered dresses, pouffy hair, and shoulder pads.) I think I would have done exactly what you did with the white stuff and covered it all the time.

    I like Am’y s idea on the dining chairs. Maybe we’ll try it next post. Ours are all a light aqua/green color. Looks fine with the cherry colored wood and the dark sofas but I have four little kids. I wish stuff was plain so I could add my own color and stuff in. Looking at these blog posts, I think I’m going to be buying slipcovers too.

    PS I am so glad you are blogging! I have enjoyed catching up on your posts.


  4. Amy, thanks for that tip on the chairs. We have a wonderful used dining room table in the kids’ school/study room (complete with someone ELSE’S kids carvings in the table — trust me, I’m thankful for that!) But the chairs? Brand new with white upholstery. Ugh.


  5. http://www.surefit.net/index.cfm They have stretchy, washable covers. Saved me much heartache in dusty dirty areas… with a house of kids and cats!

    I am so happy I never had to deal with the pink floral or ORANGE furniture. That’s just cruel. We were once assigned military housing with dark orange shag carpet in one room though.It was truly scary.


  6. Ah, memories….the many smoke-stained white cylindrical lampshades in Tokyo were my favorite FS furniture “uh-oh.” Some were even covered in clear plastic (with yellowed elastic at top and bottom) and the cigarette smoke had crept up between the plastic and the white fabric to create a mottled brown/yellow look. I called attention to my son’s allergies, got the med unit doc to write a note and, swoop!, they and the many awful rugs soon disappeared. Never thought to take a photo….but I am certain that the lovely “brass” lamps that lived underneath these shades are in a family pic or two.


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