Moving! Or, why I wish I knew how pinterest worked

We’re moving out of the furnished apartment we’ve lived in for the past two years to an unfurnished, brand-new house in a brand-new housing “compound.” Abu Dhabi and Dubai are dotted with compounds, which are the equivalent of planned housing communities in the States: they’re little mini-suburbs, basically, even though the word “compound” to me conjures up images of armed guards, checkpoints, and barbed wire fences.

As with any move to the suburbs, this move has a lot to do with kids and wanting more space for them to run around both inside and out. Of course, after years of living in Manhattan pining for suburban peace and quiet, I am now worried about moving to a place that has nothing but peace and quiet.  How will I silence the voices in my head, if not with the din of a city burbling around me?

But you know the real source of my anxiety?


We moved into a furnished apartment when we moved to Abu Dhabi, and while the furniture was not all to my liking (hello white leather sectional!) most of it was fine. And mostly it was fine because I didn’t have to worry about it; I didn’t have to choose any of it. It was just…there.  And that’s sort of how it’s been for most of my post-college life: I lived in an array of small apartments and furniture simply accumulated.  For decades my desk was two filing cabinets and a door laid over the top, purchased right after college; I had a blue wicker chair inherited from the mother of a friend, an assortment of bookcases from god knows where, a rocking chair that “one day” I was going to strip down and repaint but which, twenty years after I bought it, still looked exactly the same. When Husband and I got married, we bought a few things — a leather couch that after ten years of kids jumping on it looks like an heirloom from an English castle; a lovely round dining table that I put a water stain on the first day we used it; a glass coffee table that got wrapped with a sort of padded girdle while the boys were small, lest the sharp glass corners de-brain them. We also had my grandmother’s ancient sleeper-sofa, which I have to say made the world’s most comfortable napping couch but was, when we inherited it, about thirty years old, and aged more in the twelve years that we had it than in all the previous thirty.

In other words, the design principle that governed our New York apartment could be best described as no-point-in-getting-something-new-because-the-kids-will-wreck-it.

When we moved to Abu Dhabi, we gave away most of the odds-and-end and put everything else in long-term storage–and none of it is worth the cost of shipping here.

Thus: I move at the end of the month, mostly furniture-less, into a house with an upstairs, with several bathrooms, with a foyer, for god’s sake. What the hell does a person do with a foyer?

And windows! For the love of all that’s holy, I need “window treatments.” Our current apartment is on the 37th floor and there aren’t any other buildings within eyeshot, so if a person wanted to walk around in her altogethers, for instance, there’s no one to see. But down on ground level, where we’re moving, there are all kinds of prying eyes–not to mention the fact that we need to be able to darken the bedrooms when we sleep.  I tried to figure out curtains the other day, with the help of the very nice Mr. Mohammed at the curtain shop near my office — and he was lovely, but mostly we talked about politics in Lebanon, which frankly was easier than sifting through all the sample books he pressed upon me.*

Linen? Cotton blend? Simple shades? Roman blinds? Sheer panels and curtains? Just curtains? And what kind of curtain rods?

I fled.

Plus I need a couch. And the couch is supposed to go with the rug, right? Which is in turn supposed to go with the curtains, which should in turn harmonize with the rug and the couch? It’s a set of aesthetic algorithms that I haven’t mastered.

I’ve never had to make these decisions before, people; and while I now have an officially grown-up car, these choices present a whole new aspect of grownup life. I suppose I could just copy precisely the layouts that Ikea suggests in their store, but then, you know, it would be nice to live in a house that has a sense of actual individuality instead of mass-produced whimsy.  If only I’d learned how to use Pinterest, then I would have an entire trove of “looks” that I could turn to in this, my hour of aesthetic need. But alas, me and the Pin? We’ve never hit it off. I’m pinterestless.

My wise sister suggested that perhaps my furniture-based anxiety in fact masks my feelings about moving away from the really lovely community that exists in our apartment building, which is where almost all the faculty and staff of the university live –it’s a bit of a hive, in that regard, an actual vertical village, where you can find someone to watch your kids at a moment’s notice, or borrow a cup of milk or wine by simply walking down the hall.  It’s been a safe space from which to negotiate the huge changes in our lives in the past few years. And of course we’ll all stay in touch, and of course we will visit and our kids will play together, and of course of course of course…but it will be different. And, my sister suggests, perhaps it’s possible that while I’m excited (a little) to go live in the Abu Dhabi equivalent of the ‘burbs, I might be sad at leaving, too.  You know: ambivalent.

Or that’s my sister’s theory, anyway.


Maybe she’s got a point…but I can’t think about that right now. I’ve got to go talk to a man about finials.


*Abu Dhabi fact:  you can’t throw a feral cat down the street without it hitting a curtain maker /upholsterer’s shop.  The shop-keeper will help you choose fabrics from a dizzying array of choices and then –even better– come and install the curtains (or shades or whatevers), all for only a tiny bit more than you’d pay for ready-made curtains, which you would then have to install yourself. And our brand-new house doesn’t even have curtain rods yet. Thus: “custom made” curtains.





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17 Responses to Moving! Or, why I wish I knew how pinterest worked

  1. KSB June 5, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    I see that photo of curtain rod ends, and all I see are weapons for the boys’ war games. Puh ha hah~

    But, does your moving to the ‘burbs now mean that you will have to wash many windows after sand storms? Yikes!

    • Deborah Quinn June 6, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      You know I’ve actually wondered about this post-sand window washing. I dunno. Now we have these mountaineering guys who rappel up and down the buildings…out there in the burbs? I think it’s me on a ladder…ACK!

  2. Arnebya June 5, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    My oldest girl would swoon at the thought of multiple shops of upholstery. My goodness. She is currently making pillow cases for the pillows on our living room sofa because the ones there “no longer speak” to her. Also, “why not” was mentioned. I am partial to the rounded finials, because like KSB says, the other evoke no thought but, “you’ll put your eye out if it falls the wrong way” (said the woman with experience in the random falling of finials. Seriously.)

    Separately, I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! I love the idea of being able to decorate from scratch. I have NO idea where to begin if presented with the opportunity to decorate from scratch. I know what I like usually based on what others have put together. This is what HGTV is for. I joined Pinterest and lasted two weeks.
    Arnebya recently posted..If You Loved Me, You’d Buy Me a Groupon for a Cleaning ServiceMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn June 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      HGTV doesn’t exist here, alas, and those shows just make me feel like an idiot. I don’t have a strong enough sense of self to contemplate all these decisions and still feel good about myself. I swear it’s why I stopped reading dooce — her discussions about house decorating made me feel lame (plus they were boring). See? your comment is one of the reasons why I wish for a daughter – not that my sons aren’t magnificent but…throw pillows just because? Daughters. And golly thanks for the image of falling finials. I think I’ll just put up signs, like they do in falling rock zones: Beware! Falling Finial Zone!

  3. Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) June 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    Four words: IKEA Marks and Spencer!

    • Deborah Quinn June 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      Oh honey, Ikea will be delivering later next week! I’ve gotten so versed in Ikeaspeak that I can name the various pieces of furniture when I see them in other people’s houses: oh you have the expedit, I say; or is that a malmo bureau? Not sure that’s quite the linguistically broadening experience I was looking for when I moved us to Abu Dhabi! 🙂

  4. Christie June 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I have a crush on your sister. Is that wrong?
    Christie recently posted..Hello Kitty: Where Were You When I Needed You?My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn June 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      I have a crush on my sister too! She is younger, thinner, and wiser, plus she plays a fantastic game of tennis. Bitch. (Can you tell I adore her?)

  5. Bright Side of Life June 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Good luck!! Let me know if you ever meet a woman called Jenny Lincoln!!!!!
    Bright Side of Life recently posted..Hopeful Parents ~ Excitement and Adventure!My Profile

  6. Dick Horwich June 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    You still haven’t told us what kind of car you bought. (Only a man would leave this comment, I know.)

  7. Anna June 8, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    enjoy suburbia! and good luck decorating, i’m no help – we have nothing in our living room since we moved here three years ago and are still living with our “single guy” and “single girl” furniture we brought to our marriage, which is now 10 years old, so all of our stuff is at least, too.

    • Deborah Quinn June 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      I will console myself that this entire experience will be blog fodder. Not scintillating gonna-go-viral-ala-worst-mom-ever-end-of-schoolyear fodder, but…fodder nonetheless. We left all our furniture in storage in NYC, which frankly I’m thinking of trying to have fire-bombed (the storage facility, not the city) so that I never have to see that decrepit old stuff again…

  8. Lynda June 9, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    I too found the whole curtain thing here a very intimidating and time consuming endeavor. Plus, it seems there is no such thing as a standard sized window. We have one set of windows that is floor to ceiling right in our living room! How to cover that?! It’s now a wall o’ curtain. Doesn’t look great, but it will have to do….
    Lynda recently posted..Postcards from Sharjah part 1My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn June 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      I managed three rooms (the bedrooms) and the guest/TV room but only by sheer necessity–we need to be able to sleep when we move in! I am now, however, having nightmares that the installation people will show up and things won’t fit, or things will have gotten mixed up…how do these design people do it! OH THE PRESSURE! : )

  9. Lady Jennie June 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    When I saw the picture, I thought they were medieval weapons instead of curtain rods.

    You and I share the same weakness. I suck at decorating.
    Lady Jennie recently posted..Life in the Trenches – Chapter 23My Profile

  10. Tracy June 14, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Hey lovely, have a drape guy.he’ll sort you out. Let me know if you need his info.
    Regarding decorating …do what you like, it is only for a few years so relax.
    I have only one rule of thumb…I will never pay anyone to paint biege or off white.
    paint, relax ! If in doubt go with white but a bit of purple or bright orange never killed anyone. Or cherry. It is only
    The thing and the whole gamey bit of this place is you need a tribe to call your own.
    EVERY place I have lived I have had to manufacture this.
    But once it’s been manufactured it is rock solid…we will look after everyone.{intro big buxom medicine woman}
    Ice cream parties with notices in all apparent languages
    Sitting on the porch s invaluable
    We paint and have the worllds best chalk pile

    • Deborah Quinn June 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      we are hoping to create tribe out there “on the island…” Found my curtain man (sing to the tune of “muffin man”) and now am waiting for him to call me with installation… fingers crossed!

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