home is where the heart is…

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a home in Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Home is most definitely where the heart is.  You can make a home anywhere really.  Whether it’s a bunker-type compound in Juba, South Sudan, a loft in the Lower East Side, or a yurt in Mongolia…it’s still got that whimsy that’s amenable to only you.  So this makes moving back to Cambodia really exciting for us.  A home!  We’ve been living with D’s parents for the past couple of months and I have to say – I’m itching to spread ourselves all over our own place.  So I’ve been looking for inspiration among other expatriates who have settled themselves in Asia.  There are the homes of friends that I’ve had the luck of visiting.  I remember being in awe of how they imprinted their lives throughout every corner of a simple apartment or wooden house along the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh.  And I can’t wait to do the same to our new place – where ever or whatever it is.

The cool thing about living in emerging markets, like Cambodia, is the abundance of inspiring homes available for rent.  Sure, there are the McMansions that the nouveau riche will undoubtedly subscribe to.  But for the keen eye, there are so many gems out there, waiting to be restored, refurnished and maintained for history.  This is especially important for countries in Asia who have a history peppered with colonialism and conflict.  On one hand, there is the desire of “out with the old and in with the new.”  On the other hand, there is the desire of restoration-minded planners who wish to keep the fusion of east, west and cultural alive.

And of course, there are caveats.  Often this work is done by expatriates, who then transfer property rights to other expats; so it’s really necessary to ensure that restoration efforts are truly in the interest and for the value of citizens themselves; and not for the masses of boutique hotels and other for-profit property developers.  What’s really cool in Cambodia is the return of the descendants of previously exiled architects and other industries and who are developing property-development companies with the true interest of maintaining cultural heritage.

Anyways…I thought I’d share some of them homes I think are cool.  I never had the thought to photograph some of the amazing homes I’ve been to, but here are some from the SE Asia region I found from scouring the web! Strangely they’re all from the NYTimes.  And I can’t wait to share with you our own finds.  I’m so lucky that D is just as design-minded as I am! xoxo


Photo by Justin Mott for the NYTimes

In Cambodia, and most parts of SE Asia, houses are built on stilts to deal with the monsoon seasons and rice harvest.  They also can be really beautiful – check out and learn the story of this beautiful place in Siem Reap!

Photo by Arantxa Cedillo for The New York Times

Sometimes Phnom Penh can be so incredibly loud.  Then again – what do you expect from a growing Asian city?  But there definitely are little islands of quiet you can find.  Some of my favourite areas are just a hop and a skip from the very loud riverside. I love this home that was restored by the Hunters – a couple who have built a really well known property-development biz in Phnom Penh. I’d love to live in an old wooden home like this; and the best thing is that I think we might actually be able to find one! The worst thing: ants. Trust me.  Once I turned my back from a sliced apple to get a plate.  And in that 5 second window, those slices were devoured by the little critters.


Photo by Justin Mott for the NYTimes

I love the colours in this expatriate couple’s home in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City!  And to be honest, I don’t think photos do this houses like these justice.  You definitely have to be in there and feel everything that these historical colonial homes have to offer!


Photo by Cedric Arnold for the NYTimes

I really appreciate the intensity and commitment that individuals take to the restoration of homes, whether they’re in Asia or in Massachusetts (see below!).  Like the work of Allison Brown, who works to restore and maintain traditional homes in Laos.  And by restore…she literally restores them, with the pre-existing furniture, to their former glory. Amazing, eh?


Photo by Katy Elliot

I love reading about home restoration efforts; and in the blogosphere, a particularly cool one belongs to Katy Elliot.  Elliot is young writer in Massachusetts working with her husband to renovate and restore a 260 year old home in Marblehead!  It’s really inspiring to read about all of the efforts that they’re going through – from vintage auctions to trying to find the right metal fixtures for the fireplace!  And yes, I’m very much a home design nerd; especially for romantic New England too.


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