People who move around a lot tend to fall into two camps: those whose live with one foot out the door, and those who approach each new apartment like they’re going to stay there forever.
As someone who used to consider moving boxes portable dressers, I never got the point of investing in a rental place. But then I realized I hated spending time in my apartment because it looked – and felt – like a hostel.
It didn’t take much in terms of money or effort to make our place comfortable: a fresh coat of paint, a nice duvet, a reading lamp, a set of whiskey glasses (our priorities are in order). With a few tweaks, I went from avoiding our apartment to actually wanting to hang out at home.
I now wonder why I waited so long to settle in. Not only did living somewhere nice make me happier, but when I left Lebanon, most of the little investments (the whiskey glasses) left with me.
So whether you plan on spending a summer in Beirut or bought a one-way ticket, take my advice and make yourself at home. Here’s how:
Think of Karout – pronounced ‘ah-root – as the Walmart of Lebanon. This massive shopping center has storage bins, lamps, tableware and shower caddies, as well as camping gear, party decorations, hardware and even pet supplies. Yes, everything is made in China and will break shortly after you buy it, but it’s cheap and will make your apartment feel like a functioning house until you’re ready to upgrade to nicer things or leave Lebanon, whichever comes first.
Most Beirutis have “a guy”: someone they call to do odd jobs or build things. Our guy is no longer taking on work, but we were able to commission a wooden farmer’s table and benches, five shelves, two side tables and a bed frame for under four figures. A friend had a handyman in her neighborhood build a wooden lamp she designed, proving that if you can describe it, someone can make it. Ask neighbors and friends for leads on local woodworkers or amateur craftsmen.
Forget furniture stores in Lebanon. They’re overpriced time machines with one setting: 1992 suburbia. The two most reliable sources for vintage or used furniture are the Second Hand Beirut Facebook group and Brocante, a fundraising flea market organized by NGO Arc en Ciel. Because their assortment changes often, it might take a few trips to find exactly what you need at Brocante, but sorting through old Lebanese records, eyewear, cocktail glasses and other knickknacks is an adventure in itself. Arc en Ciel also delivers oversized purchases to Beirut.
Getting to Brocante: The best way to get there is to book a taxi and have the driver call Arc en Ciel for directions. The flea market is in Damour, about 20 minutes south of Beirut. 05.602.642
People say it’s love that makes a house a home, but what they really mean is artwork. Keep your apartment from looking like a dorm room by framing pictures or posters tacked to the walls. Any high-resolution photo can be enlarged at your local photo studio; Galerie Tabbal will handle the mat and frame. The whole process should run you under $40 for a decent-sized masterpiece.
Getting there: Nearly every neighborhood has its own photo studio, and Galerie Tabbal has locations in Ashrafieh and Hamra. Both are easily accessible by service. 01.446.164
If you’re pinching pennies, stick to the High Street standbys: H&M Home ($), Zara Home ($$) and West Elm ($$$). Hold out for seasonal sales whenever possible. Already reasonable prices can be cut by up to 70% at all three stores.
If money’s no object, make Orient 499 your one and only destination. Then send me pictures of your apartment because you’re officially living my fantasy.
Images courtesy of Orient 499, H&M Home, Zara Home, West Elm, Domino Magazine, Apartment Therapy