Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our Kosovan Townhouse

Home Sweet Home

One of the things about which we’ve been very excited is the housing in Kosovo. After talking with some folks who were here already, we quickly realized that we’d be assigned housing in one of two areas: downtown or a planned community just outside of town. The downtown housing offers the advantage of proximity—proximity to the embassy (most folks walk to work), proximity to shops and restaurants, proximity to a couple of reportedly nice parks (though you should stay on the paths in one of them, as all the land mines haven’t been removed yet). Downtown housing also is bigger. But it has its pitfalls, too: the floor plans are a little odd (some worse than others); at least one has a great yard, but others have no outdoor space at all; and although you’re close to everything, it’s also very hilly, with narrow roads, difficult parking, and fast drivers.

The other housing option, let’s call it the “community option,” also has pros and cons. The housing is pretty new, with all the modern amenities. Everyone has a small yard, plus the community areas: a playground, swimming pool, basketball court, and tennis court. It’s close to a good supermarket. Although it’s farther from the embassy, it’s still only a 10- or 15-minute drive if you time it right. There isn’t much traffic, and there are a couple of relatively flat areas (Pristina in general is pretty hilly) that are good for little kids riding bicycles. The housing is smaller, though, and although some stores and restaurants are within walking distance, most are farther away.

We went with the community option, and we’re thrilled with it. Our townhouse feels like an American home, albeit a rather tall one. It’s split level to the extreme, with a total of five levels, but each floor consists of the front or back of the house, not both—so it’s like a half basement and two floors, but the two floors are split into four levels with the stairs running through the middle of the house, if that makes sense. Maybe it will be clearer once you get the guided tour. Let’s start at the front door …


When you enter our house, you come into a tiled foyer. On your right is a door to the garage—possibly big enough for a car, but a tight enough fit that we may just use it for storage. On your left is a built-in with cabinets and drawers for storing shoes, umbrellas, gloves, hats, scarves … and hooks on the wall above it for coats. Very practical!

Living Room

If you go straight through the foyer, the living room opens up to your left. It’s a bit small, but with some furniture rearrangement, we should be able to get our home media set up the way we want it. We have great furniture here—I think it’s all brand new (which concerns me with the cats), super comfortable, and pretty … who would have thought that I’d like a red sofa?! And the living room, like the other non-basement, non-bathroom rooms, has amazing natural light. Just as important in the living room, the Roman shades can block most of it out, making it an ideal setup for movie viewing.

Half Bath

If you pass by the living room, you’ll find a door on your right. That door leads to a small room that we believe was meant to be a laundry room, but it isn’t quite big enough for the full size washer and dryer provided by the embassy, so it’s empty for now … well, it’s holding a bunch of cardboard boxes until we figure out how we’re supposed to dispose of them here, but it’s theoretically empty anyway. If you pass through that room, there’s a nice half bath with dark brown tile throughout.


If you look left instead of right, you’ll see the stairs. There’s a short flight down to the basement, which is a good size. Down there we have the laundry facilities, the water heater, and the extra freezer/fridge that our sponsors requested for us from GSO (General Services Office), as the one in the kitchen is pretty darn small.

Great Room

Going up the stairs, the great room opens up to the right at the first landing—so we’re at the back of the house now. It was set up as a large dining room, with the kitchen open at the back of it. We rearranged by taking a leaf out of the table and re-orienting it so it goes across the width of the room rather than down the length of it, creating an open area at the end closest to the stairs. That’s going to be the playroom. We have a deck off the playroom, too, complete with some patio furniture—and we’ve already bought a small grill. I need to find some slipcovers for the patio cushions, as they’re still brand new, with tags on and plastic on the cushions, and I’d rather have a homey feel out there rather than the sheer practicality of plastic.

Kitchen--two views

The kitchen, open to the great room, is small but well-planned and pretty. The light hardwood floors give way to dark tile, which matches the dark wood cabinetry. The small fridge and freezer are hidden behind cabinet doors. There’s a small dishwasher—the perfect size to fill every day and run every night. Storage space is limited, but there’s a nice pull-out pantry that optimizes what space is available, and some of the larger drawers have liners that make me think they were meant for pots, pans, and bakeware. Jeff particularly likes the two wide cabinets with garage-style doors. We have a great convection oven, mounted at a convenient height, with a baking pan that slides right onto the rails like the rack does. And of course, a new house in a new country means a new type of cooktop—this time, completely electric. After this tour, short of cooking over an open fire in a fireplace or campfire, I’m not sure there will be a type of cooktop I haven’t used.

Scenes from the kids' bedrooms

If you round the landing and continue up the stairs, you come to the “kids’ bedroom” floor—in the front part of the house again. There’s a full bathroom and two bedrooms up there. The two bedrooms share a small balcony, which has a beautiful view. Currently, one bedroom is set up as Alexa’s room, and the other has a great desk in it, as well as the cats’ travel crates, water fountain, and food bowls. (We’ve put the litter box in the bathroom for fear of the litter scratching up the nice hardwood floor, but we may buy a large area rug and move it back into their room.) Unfortunately, the decision about which room to set up as the bedroom probably was made based solely on size, as the larger one has the bedroom furniture. That would be great, except that the smaller one—the cat room/office, currently—has the most adorable pink flower light fixture, and the Roman shades have a cute, girly, pinkish bird-birdhouse-flower design on it. Alexa has announced that she’d like for us to paint the walls pink to match the light fixture, and then that can be her room. I think it’ll be adorable. We’re in the process of gathering information to hire a painter for her room and possibly for ours, and we’ll switch out the furniture once the painting is done.

Scenes from the master suite

Rounding the stairs again—up and back to the rear of the house—you come to the top level, which is the master suite. We have a good size bedroom, though the furniture arrangement is pretty well dictated by the placement of the door, closet, balcony, radiators, and an odd little nook. The walk-in closet is large and nicely organized, with some tall and short hanging clothes space, some shelves, and some drawers. The master bath is entered through the closet. It’s really pretty—dark wood (we think it’s laminate) on the floor and textured cream and brown tile on the walls, a huge soaking tub, a comfortably-sized shower stall with a glass door. It’s a little strange that the toilet and sink are both square rather than rounded, but I think that’s just a more modern style. The house feels pretty traditional overall, but there are a few more modern design elements throughout that we probably wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves, though they aren’t unattractive or impractical by any means.

Our decision to request housing in this community was a good one for us, despite the smaller size. Alexa loves the playground and the flat areas where she can ride her balance bike safely. I love the modern amenities of this house and its warm, welcoming feel. Jeff loves having the patio and his new grill, and I’m sure he’ll get good use out of the community basketball court. The cats are enjoying the plethora of new scratching posts and pads we’ve purchased in an attempt to protect this nice, expensive, new furniture.

I think this will be a great place for us to live for the next two years … maybe even the next three.


  1. What a beautiful place! I love all the natural light and the kitchen colors. I can't wait to see more pictures as you make it more your home, like painting. Thank you for sharing. Very neat.

    1. Thanks, Ronna. We're enjoying it. I think we won't do much painting, just Alexa's room and maybe our bedroom, since the rest of the house is a nice warm cream already. But I am looking forward to personalizing with our art and other "treasures" from our time in Egypt and Cambodia ... dreading already the chaos of boxes while we unpack, though.

  2. I looks so... "normal", you know? So cute and suburban, like it's in Columbia or someplace (though I'm not sure what I was picturing, maybe a yurt?). I love it and love that you seem to be settling in so quickly and comfortably.

    1. Thanks, Julia! We'd seen the website for the community before we requested housing here, and as soon as I saw the pictures, I knew I wanted to be here. I was just ready for home to feel ... American, you know? We love it. I hope you love your new home just as much!


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