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Decorating Your Home

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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Once you have chosen a house or apartment to live in during your stay in Indonesia, one of the first things that you will want to do is to begin to furnish and personalize it. One of the easiest ways of personalizing your home is through furniture upholstery and other soft furnishings. Soft furnishings used to decorate your new home can make used furniture take on a whole new look.

Some expats receive an allowance from their the sponsoring company to redecorate their new home in Indonesia. If furniture is provided by the company, or the relocating family is bringing their own, this allowance is generally usually used to purchase curtains, carpets or reupholster furniture bought from home or made available by the company for use during your stay in Indonesia.

Curtains for Your Tropical Home

Seemingly endless options are available for curtain materials. Curtains are often a very prominent feature in decorating the expat home in Indonesia as most houses are built with many large windows. Depending on your choice of fabric, curtains can range from very inexpensive to a major investment. Seldom are curtains provided with a rental property.

Indonesia produces a wide variety of quality fabrics used not only for the garment industry but also for the home furnishing market. Many of the interior decorating stores also stock imported fabrics.

The biggest factor in the cost of the curtains is the price of the fabric, as imported fabrics are more expensive, than those made locally. As labor costs are minimal, they constitute a small proportion of the total bill. If you choose to have custom-made curtains, ask the interior decorator to come to your house, take measurements and prepare a cost estimate. Although some decorating companies will charge you for an estimate, most will do it free of charge in the hope that you will use their services.

Generally speaking, most interior decorators can make any type of curtain style you desire, however if you have a picture or photo of exactly what you want, this will help them to understand exactly what you desire. Do not assume that the decorating staff know exactly what you mean; a photo can reduce misunderstandings and potential disappointments and eliminate the guesswork.

If you are unsure of the style of curtain that would suit your new home, most interior decorating companies have books and catalogs for ideas. Alternatively, you can ask the decorator for his/her suggestions after they have viewed the interior of your new home. Most companies can make valances. You might opt for wrought iron rods; or plastic imitation counterparts which are more reasonably priced and much lighter weight. The weight might also be a consideration, if you plan to ship the curtain rods home at a later date. Most custom-made curtains will take a week to three weeks to be completed, depending on the difficulty of the curtain design and how busy the interior designer is.

Remember that due to Jakarta’s pollution your curtains will need to be taken down more frequently for dry cleaning or laundering - so take this into consideration when choosing a fabric as well as a method to hang your curtains.

A lot of natural materials are available, not only for fabrics but also in the tassel and tieback features. Materials such as coconut shells, natural jute and seashells can be found in most home furnishing stores. When matched with traditional furniture, these items can immediately create a tropical feel to a home. More traditional western designs are also available. Almost any kind of fringing and edges can be added to finish the curtains as well as silk or fabric tiebacks. Whatever your taste in curtains, they can be produced in Indonesia. The only limitation is your imagination!

Wallpaper

Wallpaper is growing in popularity in Indonesia. Most homes have only painted cement walls and some expats choose to use wallpaper to give the house a more designed look. Many brands and types of wallpaper are available; but not all interior decorators will carry wallpaper, as it is not commonly used by Indonesians. This is probably due to the expense more than anything. Wallpaper brands from Britain, America and Italy are available. Some stores carry ready stock while others have sample books and will order the wallpaper once a customer has chosen a specific motif.  If the paper needs to be ordered from overseas, normally there is a minimum requirement to the number of rolls that must be ordered.

Any store that sells wallpaper will have employees who can also install the paper. It is unusual for people to paper their own walls in Indonesia, as the cost of having it professionally installed is extremely reasonable. The price of installation is normally calculated into the cost of the paper. The cost is based on a per roll basis. Not all paper is pre-pasted, so letting the professionals take care of the installation eliminates a lot of the mess and headache that a normal house owner might incur by trying to do it themselves. If the wall has wallpaper on it, the workers that come to install the new paper will normally remove the old paper at no cost. This however should be discussed with the store ahead of time, as it will effect the amount of time needed to complete the job.

When installing wallpaper, the store may find it difficult to confirm the exact number of rolls that will be needed to complete the job. Although a close estimate can be calculated, you may often find the installers using more or less once the wallpaper has been installed. Most stores will ask for a down payment to start the job and then bill the customer for the balance after the job has been completed and the total number of rolls used is known.

The workers will generally bring more rolls of paper than they think are necessary. After the job is completed, they count the number of roll labels actually used. It is advisable to count the number of rolls that they bring to your house to start the job. When they are finished, count how many roll labels they have and how many unused rolls are left. This will assure you that you are paying for the exact amount of paper that was used and there will be no questions at billing time. If you intend to be in the home or apartment for a longer period of time, it is a good idea to keep an extra roll of wallpaper. You never know when you might have to make a repair on the wallpaper.  Moving of furniture or earthquakes can rip the paper and may require a floor to ceiling length to repair the damage. 

When choosing wallpaper, some people opt for the washable type, as homes tend to get dirty quickly in Indonesia. This would allow you to wipe the paper to clean it. If your home does not have base boards, the bottom of the wallpaper tends to become soiled and damaged very quickly due to the daily mop cleaning of the tile floors. If you want to install wallpaper, it is advised to have base boards installed to keep the wallpaper looking good. Also, due to the humidity in Indonesia, sometimes corners tend to peel. It is a good idea to have a service agreement with the store that installed your wallpaper, so in the event that the paper starts to peel; they will come back and re-glue it.

Types of Sofas Available

An extremely wide range of sofas and furniture styles are available in Indonesia. Traditional carved wooden furniture is popular within the expat community, and others may opt for the clean lines of the modern Japanese-influenced pieces. The prices of sofas are as varied as their types. A big factor in the price is the quality of the materials used and the skill of the craftsmen that create the furniture.

Some people have been extremely surprised when they went to recover a cheap sofa that they had bought for next to nothing at a local ruko. They have been shocked to discover that their inexpensive sofa was constructed with used wood that was pieced together and the springs are actually made of strips of cut inner tubes. Hey ... you get what you pay for. On the opposite end of the scale, there is also extremely beautiful imported furniture available from all parts of the world including Italy, Britain, Japan, China and the US.

You may choose to reupholster furniture shipped from your home country to update it and provide a new look for your new home. If you have old furniture, consider bringing it with you and having it recovered in Indonesia. The very low labor costs in Indonesia make this extremely economical. If you think you'd prefer a fabric from your home country, bring it too; just be sure you will have sufficient quantities.

There are many options in the recovering of sofas. The first consideration is the type of fabric used. There are some nice locally produced fabrics, as well as many imported ones. When choosing a fabric consider the color, color fastness, treatments, durability and cost:

Color - light colors will show the dirt more easily, but dark colors will attract mosquitoes.

Color fastness - is normally not a problem but on occasion dye can rub off the upholstery onto your clothing after sitting on the sofa for long periods of time when you are hot and sweaty.

Durability - if the sofa will have to be cleaned often due to constant family use the fabric will need to be durable so that it will not fade and deteriorate quickly.

Cost - imported fabrics cost a lot more than most local fabrics. Local fabrics should be laundered first before sewing to prevent later shrinkage during laundering.

Splitting -  If your sofa is totally covered in fabric this may not be an issue. However, if you are thinking of purchasing a more traditional sofa that features carved wooden headrest or arm treatment, be aware that due to the moisture content of the wood, it might be prone to split when moved to a dryer climate.  Due to the high humidity in Indonesia traditional woods have a high water content that will evaporate in dryer climates and may cause splitting.  To ensure that your sofa will not have this problem, the wood used in the construction of the sofa should be kiln dried to reduce the water content to below 10%.  Some old wood that is in this type of furniture is already dehydrated and should not pose a problem.

Quality control is often left in the hands of the customer and if you had asked for something to be done, the manufacturers will seldom argue. There is no Better Business Bureau to fall back on, so be careful in your selection of fabrics. Some companies offer customers the choice of treating fabrics with a flame retardant. This treatment may be required for furniture that is exported commercially, though generally not for personal furniture.

Durability is a big consideration, if the sofa will be used by an active family. Imported fabrics may last longer under these conditions. If it is a possibility that the sofa will have to be cleaned often, it is probably a good idea to get a better quality fabric as cheaper fabrics tend to fade and deteriorate quickly if they are subjected to frequent cleanings.

Old sofas can also be restuffed or have the cushions rebuilt. Tell your interior decorating store that you want to come in and sit on the sofa to test it before it is upholstered. This allows the customer to add or subtract cushioning to adjust the softness of the sofa. You can also have more than one removable cover made for the sofa. This allows you to change the color of the sofa very quickly for a different look, or if both covers utilize the same fabric, one can be on the sofa while the other is being cleaned. Long zippers on either side of the sofa allow for relatively hassle-free switches!

Whatever your taste in sofas and living room furniture, the selection is as varied in Indonesia as it would be in other developed countries. The advantage that Indonesia offers is the option of custom work being done at very reasonable prices. Many expats welcome the opportunity and utilize it to make custom-made furniture that would be extremely expensive abroad.

Soft Furnishings

A wide variety of soft furnishings are available in Indonesia that will allow you to make the final touches to your new home. Pillows, table runners, tablecloths, place mats, sheets, mosquito nets, mattress protectors, bedspreads and bed ruffles are all available. Many international linen brands are sold in the department stores as well as tablecloths, towels, and pillows.  If you opt for a more traditional look, these ready made items can be found in department stores that offer more traditional batik and woven fabrics such as Sarinah, Pasar Raya and Alun Alun.  The many charity bazaars that are held throughout the year are also great opportunities to find unique Indonesian soft furnishings that will make wonderful keepsakes or conversation pieces for your home even after your return to your home country.

If you do not find what you are looking for ready made, it is very easy to have soft furnishings custom-made to your requirements. Most interior decorators are capable of making custom bedspreads, comforters or duvet from fabrics that have been supplied by the customer or their own stock. This is a great service for oversized beds or unusual shaped furniture.

Custom linens can also be made for the dining room. Tablecloths and sideboard runners as well as placemats can be made. You can even get them made to coordinate with your curtains or other decorating accents in the room. Sometimes people will ask their interior decorator to make a bedspread or a larger item that might need special treatments. For smaller items, such as pillows, you can take an adventure shopping trip to one of the local markets and pick out exotic native fabrics or Thai or China silk. Neighborhood tailors/seamstress can easily copy or create basic pillow covers from these fabrics. This is a very economical way to get some great pillows and throw cushions made.

Many expats decorate their homes with the traditional textiles of Indonesia. Handwoven materials such as ikat from Nusa Tenggara, weavings from Lampung or batik can be draped over a carved dole and make a wonderful item to decorate a vacant wall. Intricate materials with golden threads woven into the piece can be framed and make a wonderful wall decoration. Framing is also very reasonably priced in Indonesia.

Whether you choose to ask for the help of a trained interior designer or prefer to do it yourself, setting up your new home can be an exciting experience with options that are not normally affordable or available to you in your home country. Take advantage of this to turn your new house in Indonesia into a home with your individual stamp on it.

For more information on Furniture.

Last updated April 6, 2014

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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