Better Huts and Gardens – Peace Corps Edition

Interior decorating is a daunting creative process no matter where you live. But if your dwelling is a modest cement structure in the middle of the bush, you have to be even more inventive.

Here’s how I turned my hut into a home. Learn from my “pro tips” and start your own transformation today.

ROOM #1: THE LIVING ROOM / GUEST BEDROOM / KITCHEN

Maximize your living space to become the perfect host
The living room should be an open space, but with plenty of seating. Try arranging your couch and “rocking chair” facing each other to facilitate a dialogue.

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Bay windows featuring a scenic view not only allow you and your guests to connect with nature, but also provide a conversation piece. Pro tip: If your space doesn’t allow for a large window, paint your favorite landscape from home and pretend.

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If you want your guests to feel at home in your place, a simple guest bedroom will put your visitors at ease. If you don’t have an extra room, opt for a couch that doubles as a bed to maximize the space you do have.

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Make your ‘Kitchen Corner’ fit for a chef
Behind every happy and healthy chef is an efficient kitchen! Think outside the pantry (especially if you don’t have one)! Hang your pots and pans from nails in the wall. Pro tip: Use concrete nails or you’ll end up bending your nails and wasting your money. This minimalist storage technique, made famous by Julia Child, will also save you time as everything will be within an arm’s reach (as if it wouldn’t already be in your corner you call a kitchen). Don’t have cupboards? No problem. Hang a “bucket shelf” for additional storage space for cooking utensils and silverware. This creative storage solution, which uses recyclable materials, will give your kitchen a new-age feel.

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This locally-crafted counter-height table works with the space’s slick unfinished vibe. This rustic addition not only serves as a counter for cooking prep, but it can also easily be turned into a bar for entertaining guests with various flavors of Crystal Lite from your latest care package. If your place lacks the space for a dining table, this counter works just as well. Plus, standing while dining burns off those rice calories while you eat!

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Spice up your life with a “chandelier.” This pop of color won’t exactly be the end of your dim lighting woes, but it will add a fancy feel to your otherwise drab living quarters. Pro tip: Hammer a nail into the ceiling and tie a noose; hang colored plastic wine glasses upside-down through the loop to create the multi-purpose decor. For a romantic evening, drink your well water out of the wine glasses and light a candle!

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ROOM #2: THE MASTER BEDROOM

Personalize your room to make a home away from home
While your living space is all about entertaining guests, this area is all about you. Hang a curtain in your favorite color to cordon off your private sanctuary.

Tie-dye isn’t only for hippies. But let’s face it, you are in the Peace Corps so you’re a hippie at heart even if you don’t want to admit it. Embrace your true inner-self and dress your bed in tie-dye linens to brighten up your bedroom.
Hang a mosquito net. Opt for the square type to create that princess canopy bed you’d always dreamed of as a kid. What’s better than fighting off malaria in style? Pro tip: String a clothesline to hang your bed net and use the remaining line for indoor drying during rainy season or for décor (see below).

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Hang photos, inspirational sayings and cute greeting cards across a rope.  No matter the quality of your walls, this décor pro tip will be your saving grace. If your walls are sturdy, this will save you hours of futile work trying to hammer dozens of nails into the concrete; or, if termites are eating away your walls, perhaps this technique will keep your house from crumbling. Win-win!

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For every fashionista, the closet is perhaps the most important part of the master bedroom. Create a luxurious walk-closet in just a few simple steps. Bucket “drawers” on the floor will use every nook and cranny while keeping you organized to a fault. Hang several clothes lines for easy access to clothes and to display your colorful local wardrobe as a décor piece in your bedroom. Pro-tip: Stagger the clothes-lines both high and low to maximize space.

Photo by Beth Eanelli

Photo by Beth Eanelli


ROOM # 3: THE BATHROOM / BACKYARD

Reduce bathroom water use and help save planet Earth
Bucket baths and pit latrine toilets are the perfect way to save not only on your water bill but also the environment!

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Transform your backyard bungalow into your personal paradise
Pour cement to create a multi-use patio. Save some space to plant a garden to make your yard an Eden-esque escape. The patio can be used for civilized seating out of the dirt. Hang a hammock for a special bungalow feel. Pro-tip: Choose a hammock with a mosquito net and sleep outside under the stars (a lifesaver during hot season). String solar Christmas lights to set the mood.

Your patio is also be a great place to do the washing out of the mud. Hang a clothesline nearby for affordable and efficient drying.

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Use your extra concrete to build weights. Fill any old tin and find a spare iron bar to do the trick. This home gym will keep off that looming rice belly.

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Share your “hut to home” secrets in the comment section below. One lucky commenter just might be selected to win a surprise sweepstakes! Runner-up commenters could be featured in the next edition of Better Huts and Gardens!

–JDF