So, you managed to get through all the paperwork required to relocate, and you have found suitable housing. Now you want to make your new place your home. But how? “It all starts with you,” says Robin Hendrikse, owner of Robins hood interior consulting, who has first-hand experience in helping expats turn their house into a home.
“Start with capturing your style. Ask yourself: can you name a place you really love? Where you feel comfortable and connected to? Where you would want to live if you could? What is the most precious item you own? Maybe it’s a cabinet you inherited, or a vase you’ve had for years. The answer to that last question tells you what is close to your heart.” Robin explains.
“Imagine: you had a long, demanding day at work. What would give you the feeling that you’ve come home? Maybe it’s a plant or a painting. It requires a bit of soul searching to realise what you need to make it your own,” he says, smiling apologetically.
Don’t hold back“Then, collect it all in one place. You can start an online Pinterest board, or create a physical mood book by tearing out pages from magazines. Everything is relevant, don’t hold back. To give an example: one of my clients has a cabin in the woods. She loves the cosiness, the sense of connection with nature. For me that was a strong signal that I needed to incorporate that in her interior. I am convinced that everybody knows, deep inside, what their style is. It’s just difficult to filter out the noise and to not feel intimidated.”
Functionality“The third step: think about what you need in terms of functionality. Do you want to entertain guests? Do you want to work from home? Do you need a place to roll out your yoga mat? Do you want friends and family to come and stay?” Enticing, but what if you don’t have a lot of space?
Robin nods: “Consider using a space for multifunctional purposes. Put a couch in your home office that can double as a bed. You’ll have a comfortable seat to read and work, and you can have guests sleep over. And then put it all together: put your mood book into words and translate it all into colours, materials and items you want in the space. Start with the floor and work your way up. It doesn’t all have to be high-end design, a mix with more accessible items gives its own exciting effect.”
ChoicesSounds easy. What makes it so hard then, especially for expats? He holds up his hands: “Not knowing where to go, what to pick. Lack of time, attention and energy; you can easily spend five Sundays visiting boring kitchen showrooms without anything to show for it. At the same time, if you get everything from one store you could end up living in a catalogue. Then there’s the multitude of choices. Say you want to buy a couch: you have numerous brands to choose from, which all carry a range of models in thousands of configurations and hundreds of fabrics. I know people who take a friend with them to help decide. However, that may make things even more complicated – and if you are new in a country, you might not have that option.”
Extra mile“On top of that, it’s not uncommon that you are met with arrogance. People who give you the idea that they don’t want your business if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. I also suspect that some feel it’s too complicated to deal with expats: because of differences in culture, or having to translate quotes. What you need to find is those people who are willing to go the extra mile.”
ListenSo, how do you find out where to go to? “Ask colleagues or other people you know here for tips. Check online reviews. Don’t just go for the large stores or flashy websites, small set-ups can be really good at what they do, and offer great value for money. What’s most important is that they listen. Personally, I like to seek out people who love what they do, are specialised and have built up expertise. They can prevent you from making costly mistakes, such as getting blinds that are too wide or putting in a floor that does not comply with Dutch strict laws. Without the right amount of sound-dampening material, you run the risk having to take out your whole floor.”
And finally, what is your ultimate tip?“Make it fun and light. Making your house into a home should not be a struggle, full of disappointment, insecurity and worry. I have lived abroad myself, I know how hard it is to find your way. How overwhelming it can be, and how your killer job is consuming all the energy you’ve got. But at the end of the day, it’s your home. Your journey to get there is just as important. And the people you work with should respect that. It should bring you joy to live here.”
Feeling inspired to make your house a home but think you could do with some extra help? Contact Robin at Robins hood interior consulting for a free introductory personal consult. See some examples of personal interiors.
* Interview done by Lucia Broms-Thie.
Photograph by Oscar Beins @ Uw Vastgoedfotograaf