Meet Mariah — a Retro Renovator keeping in touch from Afghanistan

mariah with a pink flamingo in afghanistanMariah writes:

Hi Pam,

I’m the Army officer that wrote you from Afghanistan about the Bowie Cape Cod!  Just wanted to send along a pic of my own pretty little house, which is the same model and same year as the one you featured today. I love your blog! It has been a great resource for me and a source of inspiration as I fix up our little place. Plus it makes a nice escape for me, when I read it here in Afghanistan, I can dream about my fun DIY hobby at home and read the thoughts and ideas of like minded retro renovators.

cape cod house in bowie maryland

Not long after I acquired my pink toilet a friend was moving it and shattered the tank lid. I was practically in tears thinking it was a lost cause, but I was able to order an exact replacement from the fixture warehouse that advertises on your site! I sent them a chip from the shattered lid and a tracing of the tank top and they hooked me right up!

Two more pics. The first one [at top} is me in the photo! I love pink flamingos for their kitschy appeal, and own several. So when I found one in Afghanistan I had to have my photo with it.

pinch pleats with sheers in afghanistan

The final pic is from a meeting I went to at the Afghan police headquarters. The general speaking thought I was taking a picture of him but really I was grabbing a photo of the window treatments and pretty pistachio wall color. Even Afghans know pinch pleats + sheers + traverse rod = good window treatment!

Well, I’ll be home in 40 days, wrapping up my yearlong tour here. This is my fifth tour in the Middle East since 2002, I’m a military police officer and a paratrooper. My husband is a Green Beret and is here in Afghanistan also, in a different part of the country. When I get home I’ll send a few before and after pics of our house. Our kitchen and living room are our best ‘done’ projects. We took them from 80s right back to MCM and my husband and I have quite the selection of retro bar ware and a fabulous turquoise free standing bar with hairpin legs.

Check out this article and the many terrific photos — I did not include any in my story because I did not have time yet to track down permissions.

I thought you might get a kick out of these few pics of mid-century Afghanistan. Kabul, Afghanistan has remnants of mid-century architecture that can still be glimpsed through the dust and crumbling concrete. The 50’s through the 70’s were a booming time for Kabul before the Soviet invasion and an era of peace, connection with the outside world, and opportunity for men and women. I’ve attached a few photos from the 50’s and 60’s showing how it was more westernized then. These were published in a terrific Foreign Policy article on May 27, 2010 called “Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…Record Stores, Mad Men Furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock n’ roll, not rockets”.

[In our email exchange I told Mariah I was going to try to get to the DC area this spring and that maybe would could plan a Retro Renovation Meet-Up with readers there — probably around a tour of Hillstead. She responded:] I hope you come to DC! It would be great to get together with you and other readers. I know my mom would love it as well. I still remember her saying to me in about 2004 (I was living in Tennessee – Fort Campbell then and was still in my cabin/farmhouse decor stage),”You know Mariah, folks your age are buying ranchers and homes from the 50’s and 60’s and fixing them up the way they originally were.”  It was a brand new concept to me then!

Thanks Pam! Your friend in Afghanistan,


Thank YOU, Mariah. You know this is going to blow all of us away. I’m a little unhinged, thinking that the blog could provide some happy diversion to folks like you putting your lives on the line to make the world safer. Please take care. I hope we can meet in the spring. I’d love to see your house — it sounds PERFECT. Readers, you can get more info on Mariah’s house by reading the very first comment in this story. I guess that she can be first to read the blog every day… I publish at 4:30 a.m. Eastern, which seems to be 2:30 p.m. in Afghanistan.


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  1. Louise says

    Bless you for your service to your country! I still can’t believe we (the UK) and the US haven’t brought our troops home yet. xxx

  2. Kelly Cornacchia says

    Thank you for your service, Mariah! And I really love that newspaper clipping. I never realized that Afghanistan had been so Westernized prior to the Soviet occupation and the Taliban years.

  3. Trouble aka Shane says

    A pink flamingo is Afghanistan?? Really?!? LOL
    Mariah – you and your husband have my total respect. I’m an Air Force son and missed my chance to get in – tried to graduate college with a commission but waited too long to start school….
    Your house is awesome, and makes mine look like crap. Two kids, two dogs and no money has created its OWN look around here!
    but the house is going back to 1954, slowly but surely. Good luck! and send more pics when you get back!

    • Ann-Marie says

      Don’t feel bad, Shane. You are preserving your house, and raising your family. Two wonderful things. The house will keep. The kids and dogs won’t. Love the babies and the pups, and make sure the house doesn’t fall down.
      Ann-Marie, making an offer on a 1962 side split in Wisconsin tomorrow. Wish me luck!

  4. CindyD says

    Wow, I’m not sure where to start. First, thank you, Mariah, especially for your service to our nation, and for including the article from the Foreign Policy. What a rollercoaster of events in Afghanistan – I appreciate you providing insight to the country and it’s people. And how funny to find a pink flamingo so far from home!

    Second, your home is adorable and I can’t wait to see photos of your projects!

    Finally, Pam, who’d a thought? A blog about 1950s renovations would bring us dugout homes from the depression era and history lessons from around the globe! I love this place!

  5. Puzzy says

    Mariah, Thank you to you and your husband for your service. My family and I are so grateful for folks like you who protect our freedom. I can’t wait to see more pictures of your darling MCM home! We will be sending our thoughts and prayers to you and our other service men and women for a safe return. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Oh, and I am so glad you were able to replace your pink toilet tank lid!

  6. pattyoscar says

    I love those azaleas. They need to plant some at the featured Bowie house. Do you know what kind of azaleas those are?

    • Mariah says


      I have the original owner to thank for the lovely mature plantings on the property…she was a wonderful gardener and I am reaping the benefits. Not sure what type they are, but I do know the big lavender bush is the only one with the full sized flowers and leaves, all the other colors have the ‘mini’ blossoms and tiny leaves.


  7. Nancy C. says

    I, too, say “Thank You” for your and your husband’s service. Send more pictures when you get home. Let’s hope you can stay put for lots and lots of renovation fun.

  8. Jeanne says

    I love it….pink flamingos in Afghanistan! I would have taken a picture with it, too. LOL

    Thank you and your husband for service to our country, Mariah. I’m so glad the troops have internet access and can stay connected to us! Hopefully it helps make your tour go by a little easier.

    And your home is lovely. I have the worst luck with azaleas for some reason. Yours are beautiful! I can’t wait for you and Pam to meet up and we get to see some more before and after photos. Your mom is a smart lady, too! 😉

  9. says

    Let me add my Thank You’s to the list, to Mariah – looking forward to hearing that you and your husband are back at home safely in that darling Cape with its pink bathroom! And I too am fascinated by the thought of the 1950’s in other cultures besides ours.

  10. Paul M. says

    A meeting around DC during the spring sounds like an awesome idea. My recommendation is to go during azalea season — late April to early May. Much of the southern Montgomery County, MD area was developed in the WWII-1960 years, and that is reflected in the architecture. (If this meeting comes to fruition, I hope I can make it from NC.)


  11. says

    What a great post! Thanks Mariah for your service…and for giving us a peek into Afganistan and what is was. The pink flamingo picture just makes me smile!

  12. Alice says

    Thank you so much for reaching us on the blog and in particular for your service! It’s very easy to be self-serving when reading this blog so it is very good to know that someone providing service to our country can take an escape back home and join us in our retro-DIY dreaming. Blessings to you.

  13. Ann-Marie says

    I am adding you and your husband to my prayer list for a safe return. Thanks for sharing the cool stuff about mid century Afghanistan. If only people could see what a small world this really was, we wouldn’t need to fight so many wars.

  14. Mariah says

    Hi everyone, Thank you so much for your warm wishes…you really brightened my day!

    I love Retro Renovation and especially love how the posts spark memories and ideas in the fellow readers, its always great to check in and see what stories and DIY ideas everyone is sharing!


  15. Amy Hill says

    Thank you for your service all these years, There are many many folks here who appreciate your sacrifice and pray for all our soldiers safe return.
    I am glad you have your own little house and hope you get to spend many peaceful years enjoying life there.
    God Bless you!

  16. says

    Mariah, I have been sitting here feeling very sorry for myself today, and you have snapped me right out of that. Thank you and your husband for doing what most of us never could or would do. I pray that you both get home safe and sound and get to get back to living in your adorable house. I’m looking forward to seeing photos!

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