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.

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. 

Categoriescapes happiness
  1. Brenda says:

    Thank you…and ALL veterans, for your service! My dad was a veteran/Purple Heart recipient from the Korean War. I learned from him to always ‘thank a vet’. I miss you daddy… <3

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Hi, Mariah! This is the first time I have seen this article. Pam is featuring a link to it. Wish I had read it when we were going through our own “pink toilet blues.”

    Hope you and your DH are keeping safe and home again to enjoy the blessings of your old cape and its decorating challenges.

  3. JKaye says:

    Just now discovered this post. Thank you both for your service. Hope you are back home and all is well, and you are enjoying your home.

  4. Sarah says:

    I live in the Southern AZ desert & my property is covered with an assortment of flamingos. All shapes & sizes. I “heart” flamingos! =)

    Thank You for your service!
    Stay Safe!

  5. LynneSS says:

    Thank you for joining the Retro Renovation community all the way from Afghanistan, Mariah! Your home is beautiful and the photo story from Afghanistan in the mid-twentieth century brought tears to my eyes, thinking of how ravaged that country is today.

    Thank you for your service. Be safe!

  6. Pja2trees says:

    My thanks, too, to both you and your husband for your service. My daughter and son-in-law have been serving in the military for the past 8 years and recently moved to Ft. Belvoir. They lived near Silver Springs for the last 2 years and rented a 60’s home complete with yellow, beige, and blue bathrooms–the owners had this weird idea of putting decals in the toilets, i.e., coins in one, pansies in another!!!
    Your house is so cute and I’m sure you are anxious to get back to it and pray for your safe return to Bowie…looking forward to seeing your pics!
    Also enjoyed your link to the book about Afghanistan–I would have never thought it was like that, knowing how we see it today.

  7. Nina462 says:

    Mariah – thanks for your service to our country. My family mails between 5-10 pkgs a week to the troops overseas -so we are always thinking of you! We usually pick up our names from anysoldier.com (plus We have friends & a nephew who are over there as well. ) We are well aware of what a good job you are doing!
    I love the pink flamingo – do you need more accessories?

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