For many people, August and September are moving months. Arriving from abroad in time for the start of the school year means that instead of relaxing at a cottage or reading on the beach, you are faced with unpacking and trying to figure out how all your furniture will fit into a new space.
I recently had a chat with Simone Aïda Baur, founder of Global Inspirations Design, and awarding-winning interior designer and blogger, about the challenge of re-doing your interior design as part of a move.
To ship or not to ship?
I have a few international moves under my belt: Canada to the UK, the UK to the US and the US to Switzerland. For these moves, my strategy has been to get rid of almost everything and start again. However, I found with my last one, there were a couple of pieces that I just could not bear to give away – a beautiful antique Chippendale couch, and a small wooden Chinese box table – which I shipped from DC to Basel.
Simone has also had more than her fair share of moving home, having lived in no less than seven countries on three continents, and endured over 25 moves. Given her experience, I asked her about this dilemma, whether or not to move all of your furniture with you. Her advice is that it is a good idea to balance it out, and she told me that ‘unless you are really tight on budget, I would say only keep those items you really love’.
While it may seem tempting to have everything you own loaded in to the shipping container, Simone’s advice is to think twice – ‘each apartment or house is different in terms of architecture, floor space, room division, length of walls and natural daylight, which is why it is better to purchase furniture that fits the space’. Normally Swiss apartments and houses are smaller than what people are used to abroad (unless you are moving from Singapore or Hong Kong!), and Simone and I swapped stories about clients who had shipped their furniture to Switzerland, only to find that it did not physically fit into the space and had to be stored or sold. Matching the floor can also be a problem – they love their tile floors in Switzerland, which just doesn’t quite look right with more ornate furniture.
Professionally mix and match
So, fast forward a few months and you’ve arrived in Switzerland with only a handful of treasured furniture items, and you’re ready to hit the furniture shops. I asked Simone what her tips were for combining existing furniture with new purchases, to make sure the overall style still works. Her advice is to ‘find a common denominator, such as the material, the colour or the shape of your furniture and accessories’. She explained that this way you create an overall cohesive look, to which you can then always add an element of surprise, such as a bold coloured wall, some artwork or a unique area rug.
I’ve tried to do this in my own home with a kind of ‘quirky nature’ theme, with (mis-matched) vintage wood furniture, blue and green soft furnishings, plants and fun animal accents (yes, I have a gold squirrel). And my husband gets to display his handcrafted wooden surfboards in the living room, so everyone is happy. It’s definitely eclectic, but in my opinion, still manages to pull it all together.
It costs how much?!
Those of you who love high-end design furniture will know that this doesn’t come cheap (but it’s oh-so-beautiful). However, moving to Switzerland cranks this up a whole other level, and even mid-range furniture can be eye-wateringly expensive. Suddenly your relocation budget may look very small.
To get the most out of your budget, Simone recommends that you ‘first need to get clear as to what it is you really want in terms of functionality and design’. You can do this with the help of an interior designer like Simone, or do it yourself. Sketch out the layout, and what sort of design style you want before you start shopping, and think about how the pieces will go together. This will help avoid expensive mistakes – I once had a friend that loved the look of a couch so much she bought it without measuring her living room properly. Ten years later the small living room is still all couch and no room.
As you probably know, ecochair.ch is a social enterprise committed to reduce our impact on the planet, so we would also encourage you to think about incorporating high quality second-hand, design and vintage furniture pieces into your design. For example, if there is a beautiful (new) design piece that you have fallen in love with, go for the splurge, and compensate this purchase with a less expensive, high quality second-hand pieces in other parts of the room. Things like bookshelves, side tables, and even dining tables can blend into the background, as long as you keep them the same sort of style. You also might find some unique vintage or second-hand design pieces, like lamps or lounge chairs, that add interesting focal points.
If you’ve got the time (but not wads of cash), consider investing in advice from a professional interior designer like Simone for tips on layout and design, and then scouring the internet (like our website, ecochair.ch), brockis and flea markets for the furniture you need. It is possible to find high quality second-hand design pieces at discounted prices, but you will normally need to arrange and pay for the delivery yourself (except of course at ecochair.ch, where transportation is normally always included in the Basel area).
Feeling inspired yet? We are! With many thanks to Simone for the chat and tips.
Want to hear more of Simone’s tips?
Tune in to Simone’s regular radio segment during the English Show on Radio X. Her next segment ‘Moving home’ airs on Tuesday August 7th between 18:30 – 20:00. You can also listen to the podcast later.
Attend her interior design workshop in Zurich, on Saturday, September 8th – the theme is ‘Never buy the wrong furniture again’. Tickets available here >
One-on-one interior design coaching and/or personal shopping with Simone. More details here>