From junk room to study

We’ve been living in our apartment for 18 months now and until today, our spare room still had nothing but an inflatable orange couch, an inflatable kangaroo and a small folding table to keep the modem and router off the floor. The cupboards held an incredible variety of toys, games, motorbike accessories, cables and cords and a ridiculous amount of cardboard boxes being saved for some creative project.

After a year of desperately wanting a desk but being unable to justify the expenditure, I said to Edwin just before Christmas “I need a desk” followed by something stubbornly sulky that represented “now!” Perhaps it was D visiting his mother for the holidays or the December bonus, but either way, I was prepared to shop and spend to get a desk that will ultimately – so I keep telling myself – improve my happiness by giving me a space away from the TV.

Edwin had been planning a day trip to some waterfalls he’d read about a week earlier and was adamant that we would go there before Christmas, however I won him over to a day trawling antique and second-hand furniture shops by telling him that my desire for a desk pre-dated his interest in that particular outing which could wait until the new year.

Having been pinning photos of desks for a year, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Drawers on the right-hand side, wood (definitely not that laminex wengue colour that is all department store furniture is made of), not too big, and preferably in mid-century modern style. Finding the right desk was a whole lot more difficult, but the one of the great things about Bogotá is that where there is one antique shop, there are many.

We started in Calle 79A between Carreras 7 and 9 where all the fancy antique stores are to find a store dedicated to mid-century modern I’d seen on a previous visit. Only one shop was open at the hour we arrived and it didn’t have anything from the fifties or sixties, but there were some lovely, and expensive, pieces there.

Next we went to Chapinero to Carrera 9 between Calles 60 and 62 where there is another antique shopping strip. In one of my favourite stores to poke around in, we found a huge black desk that was close to the style I wanted but too big and too black for my liking. Edwin took a shine to a desk in another store but I didn’t like how heavy it looked with drawers on both sides.

The third antique district we visited was in Chapinero again, but the other side of Carrera 7 and between Calles 65 and 67 where there are few stores. In one of the stores whose specialty is selling old furniture painted shabby chic, I found exactly the style I wanted, except the paint job was hideous. The top was a streaky white, the legs and framework a burgundy colour and sky-blue drawers. Looking beyond the paintwork, the desk was a beautiful mid-century modern desk with rounded legs, the desk top creating an eave over the framework and long, wide brass drawer handles. But it was more than I wanted to pay and I didn’t think I could live with the paintwork.

We went back to Calle 79A and I found the store I had been looking for, Dessvan. I asked after desks, but while there was nothing that took my fancy, the assistant took me a few doors up the street to another store that had the most divine mid-century modern furniture. We fell in love with a pair of yellow tub chairs and I could have gone home with a completely redecorated apartment if my pockets were deeper. But it was a desk on our shopping list.

Using my feminine wiles, I told Edwin just how much I was in love with the desk with the horrendous paint job, and how if it was in a different colour, I would be so happy with it. I think it was partly to do with the begging face I put on and the other part his patience at an end but when he said the magic words every woman loves to hear “Mi amor, if this is the desk you want, I can repaint it for you,” I was sold on it.

We went back to the store to buy the desk and I let him negotiate the price and the terms (as all good Colombians must do).

Happy as a lark, we spent the next couple of hours warding off the rain in Chapinero, eating pan de bono and buying wool for more crochet projects, before heading home to await the arrival of the desk.

When we got home, we found that despite being told the delivery man would call us when he was on his way, the desk was already there and waiting in the communal reception room. The doorman couldn’t believe that we’d paid for a desk with that paint job; he thought we’d found it really cheap somewhere on the side of the road. I guess also the fact that most Colombians like to have new things and despise second-hand or old things had something to do with his reaction.

Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back
Straight to work sanding the hideous paint back


Once we put the desk in the spare room, it started to light the room up. Edwin could see the potential, and immediately pulled a piece of sandpaper out of thin air and started sanding back the sky blue paint on the drawers. When I said I wanted to paint it turquoise, a colour I am in decor love with, and showed him some similar projects on my Pinterest Desks board, he also came around to the idea.

Shiny new desk!
Shiny new turquoise desk! Edwin did a great job.

My dad always says that a man has got to have a project, and the refurbishing of the desk was a good hands-on project for Edwin during his end of semester holidays. He sanded and scraped the paint off until we exposed the bare wood. He bought a caramel coloured stain and turquoise paint. He patiently painted layers of paint and varnish. He shined the brass handles to life and we ended up with a stunningly beautiful desk where I will write blogs, Edwin will use the computer and D will do his homework.

Transporting a desk chair
Transporting a desk chair

The concession to an antique desk was a modern chair, so one Ciclovia Sunday we picked out a comfortable chair that would fit in the hutch space and rode back with the box perched precariously on Edwin’s handlebars and me with two new prints to hang on the walls sticking awkwardly out of my basket.

A wooden shelf Edwin had found abandoned in the carpark after some residents moved out, finally found a home on the new study wall after being painted with a turquoise trim.

We spent New Years Eve and New Years Day hanging pictures, washing walls and cleaning out the wardrobe, getting our study into order and I couldn’t be happier.

The only things left for us to do to finish the room off are to find a rug and then get a new light fitting and a desk lamp. Oh, and wash the window so my new outlook of the cerro from my desk isn’t obscured by dust and grime.

Happy New Decor from my fabulous new study!

My fabulous new study!
My fabulous new study!

A room of our own

When we surprised everyone with our arrival, the question of where mi novio and I would sleep came up.

The solution was we would sleep in his mother’s bed with his 8 year old son (who usually shares his grandmother’s bed) and his mum would share a bed with his brother since his girlfriend (who normally lives here) was visiting her family in another city. Musical beds! This was just a solution until the following day when we would go to buy a fan so we could share mi novio‘s single bed, as without a fan sleeping is pretty rough. (Although mi novio always used to sleep without a fan!)

The next day mi novio and I bought a fan and some paint to start work on transforming the storage/junk room into our bedroom. I wish I’d taken photos of how the room looked before we moved out all the car and motorbike parts belonging to mi novio‘s brother, Christmas decorations belonging to his mother and all other odds and ends you find in the junk room. I wasn’t quite sure that mi novio‘s teeny tiny room with space only for a single bed and small shelf would fit all the stuff from the storage room, but it did.

Mi novio set to work with the promise that the room would be read for us to sleep in that night.

We’d probably left our start a bit late in the day but with the help of his mother we cleaned the room thoroughly and mi novio fixed up the holes and dents in the walls and set to painting the roof and walls. Painting is not my forte, even less so painting ceilings and the roof here is made of a kind of ceramic corrugated plasterboard which is even trickier to paint. Lucky for me mi novio is quite the painter. Apparently he can also paint fancy, swirly feature walls that only people with money have in their houses because not many people know how to do it and it is quite expensive to commission. I have never seen these types of painted walls in Australia, nor can I imagine them being popular there, so I think it must be a latino thing.

Though we ended up sleeping in his mother’s bed again because I’d been struck with a bout of gastro and had to go to bed, mi novio finished painting the room that night, two walls white and two walls orange.

Mi novio suggested laying tiles on the concrete floor, but as I was keen to give la suegra (my mother-in-law) back her bed, I just wanted to move in and start unpacking the 7 bags we brought with us. So we moved in our luggage and the single bed for starters whilst we looked to buy a bed. Our new room had a closet space that was nothing more than a cement wall and roof but it needed a rail. So my increasingly handy novio installed a rail to hang our clothes. He also fixed up a hole in the floor, replaced the wood covering the door between our room and his brother’s room, filled in and painted the holes between the roof and the wall and added a plastic concertina opening door (to save space and give us privacy since all the bedrooms just have a curtain for a door).

A couple of days later we finally bought a bedroom setting which came with two bedside tables, a chest of drawers, a mirror and little seat that fits perfectly in our room.

Finishing off the fitout of our room are an Aboriginal artwork and an Argentinian tango print that we had framed, a couple of boomerangs, a bag rail and fab jewellery board mi novio made for me.

So now we have our privacy. We have a space to call our own and somewhere to keep our things. And mi novio did all of this with the minimum of tools, a drill, spatula, hammer (that has had the head cut to a stub), electric drill, screwdriver, roller and paintbrush, saw and a plasterer’s scraper. I’m very impressed and so thankful that we have our own space to inhabit until we find our own apartment, it makes the adjustment to Colombian living so much easier.

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