Updated 11/16/16 from an article originally published 9/1/2015.
When the orders come, you have to go. That military mantra applies to the service member’s family and belongings just as much as the person actually in the service.
Simple decorations and furnishings in military housing are important when you may move several times every ten years, but you still want to create a home you can love. Here are some simple decorating ideas you can use in military housing to create a cozy home.
1. Display your favorite photos.
Your photos tell a story about who you are, where you came from, and where you’ve been. One of the first things you can do to help get settled into military housing is post family photos. Family photos are a great way to tell a story about yourself and the great times you had even during difficult times.
Don’t forget about your home city. Hang a picture of you at a ball game or near a landmark in your hometown. Sooner or later you’re going to bump into someone from the same place.
2. Get creative with blank walls.
Huge bare walls are a near guarantee in military housing. If you’ve used up all your wall art and posted all of your pictures but you’re still staring at a behemoth white wall there are simple options available to you.
Consider using temporary wallpaper. There are plenty of design options to add a unique element to walls. Be sure to buy high-quality paper, and make sure the paint on the walls is completely dry and clean before applying it. Once it’s time to transfer, all you have to do is grab a corner, peel down, and throw it out. If the paper is good quality, there should be no residue or wall damage left behind.
You can also break up big walls with a DIY faux fireplace. Not only will you able to take it along with you to future homes, but a faux fireplace creates a nice focal point and lends itself to holiday decorations.
3. Home is where the military sends us.
Purchase–or create, if you’re crafty–a sign that lists all of the places your family has lived while in the military. There are plenty of crafters on Etsy who can create a custom sign for you like Grace who created the sign pictured. The sign is a reminder that the home is wherever the family is and not a geographical location.
Displaying past duty stations is also a great icebreaker. When people walk into your home, they will be curious to see if you have been stationed in some of the same places they’ve been. You might discover you have mutual acquaintances or be able to give helpful hints and tips about a duty station someone will be going to. A simple sign like this is a great way to discover bonds without speaking a word.
4. Vinyl is fun and functional.
Vinyl decor is an easy way to spruce up bare walls in military housing because it’s affordable, easy, and temporary. Put your favorite quotes or inspirational messages on the walls of your home. Set up an organizational command center in your kitchen. When it’s time to move, just peel it off and throw it away!
5. Select neutral furniture with bright accents.
You can expect neutral colors in military housing, but everything else like the floors, countertops, fixtures, and lighting is a big question mark from one duty station to another. Add in the uncertainty of square footage and floor plan, and you’ve made furniture shopping nearly impossible.
The best thing you can do is go neutral. Buying neutral furniture allows you the flexibility to add or subtract pieces to fill out your home as necessary. Once you’ve moved into base housing, you can dress up your furniture and living spaces with accents like pillows, area rugs, and window treatments.
6. Invest in long lasting window treatments and area rugs.
You never know what you’re going to get with military housing. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with windows and floors that you’re less than thrilled about. Bring out your family’s personality with colorful curtains and comfortable area rugs. Invest in window treatments and area rugs you love, since these are items that will stay with you home to home and can really speak your style.
Bonus tips for a smooth move into military housing:
- Designate personal spaces.
PCS moves can be tough. You never know when you’re going to have to downsize, but you should always allow yourself room for a comfortable nook for your morning coffee, reading, and hobbies. Make sure everyone in the family has a little space for their “me time.”
- Create a cozy room for socializing.
One of the best things about life in the military is the bonds that are formed between groups of spouses and families, especially when the service members are away. Military life, especially during deployments, is tough, but it’s a lot easier when you meet with a support system that understands what you’re going through. Think of the space and seating you would need to have 6-8 people over for coffee when you’re deciding on furniture placement to make your home ready for much-needed guests.
- Protect your favorite decor and furniture by mastering the art of a PCS relocation.
A permanent change of station involves a lot of coordination, especially with a family. Check out our guide for a smooth PCS move with kids, built with the help of other military spouses who have been there.