8 Tips for Making Military Housing Feel Like Home
Courtesy of USAA

1. “My wife, Kalyn, and I wanted to add some local flavor to our home. One thing we did was make mirrors using industrial washers from a farm machinery shop. We had them blasted for blackening and welded onto a round frame (top). We also made a kitchen table base out of 18-inch culvert piping (opposite, top), and turned a washroom into a schoolroom (left) for our two toddlers. My wife's a former interior designer, so that helps.”– Steve Thompson; Lemoore, Calif.

2.  “I painted the kitchen cabinet doors a candy-apple red. The housing office said if the next occupants liked them, they could stay. They loved them.” – Lydia Cline; Overland Park, Kan.

3.  “Our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was little and spent most of the summer in the hospital. I asked an artist to paint an apple tree in her bedroom (right) to bring some of the beauty of the outdoors into her world.”– Cindy Garland; Quantico, Va.

4. “If you can’t paint the walls, cover them with curtains, sheets, or fabrics. Old or new, flat or loosely draped, you can get a variety of effects, and they’re easy to take to your next place.” – Ruth Wielgosz; Washington, D.C.

 5. “Mom always brought her knickknacks and nice touches with us, so even overseas when we couldn’t bring our furniture, we always had the feeling that we were home. We especially remembered every Christmas decoration.” – Mary Kay Reed; Palmer, Colo.

6. “Ignore what you don’t like about the quarters by placing an item you love near the area you dislike. One house had radiators in every room. To hide one in the hall, I placed a small table topped with an antique bowl and pitcher next to it.” – Eleanor Clemence; Albuquerque, N.M.

7. “Make it portable. Make it lightweight. Make it double-duty. For example, a folding screen can be used as a room separator for siblings as they grow up, to display fine art in a living room, to hide features that can’t be moved, or to obscure a window where you need light but not the view.” – Jacqueline Saint Anne; Santa Monica, Calif.

8. “I grew up in base housing with the walls graced in beautiful Moroccan brass trays, Japanese silk tapes-tries, and batiks from Taiwan. The floors were covered with rice straw mats from the Philippines and a hand-woven Moroccan rug.” – Marjorie Taylor Johnson; Douglasville, Ga.

When we asked how you’ve maintained a sense of home through your moves, you replied with solutions that combined practicality, creativity, and decorating know-how.

Paint: Painting is an inexpensive and dramatic way to change a room. Get permission and be prepared to return the walls to the original color when you move out.

Fabric: Whether you prefer cheerful chintz, rich tapestry, or some other style, fabric is a relatively inexpensive (and temporary) way to personalize a room.

Bring home with you: Little items can mean a lot, providing tangible ways to cope with multiple moves.

Collect local flavor: Reflect your world-traveler status in your home décor.


Culvert piping from area farmers form the base of a glass-top kitchen table (top). Paint and creativity transform a child's bedroom into a make-believe summer garden (left).

These member photos show mirror frames decorated with industrial washers to add character to living room decor (top). Barn-red walls, a magnetic chalkboard, and pre-fab desk turn a laundry room into an old-fashioned children's schoolroom (above).

Your kinds of towns
During a career of moves, some locations are sure to be more memorable than others. You told us why you like the following military towns.


Town: Utapao, Thailand
Military installation: Utapao Air Base John Miller of Honesdale, Pa., says: “Pom grap ma — eek sam bpee, see bpee, hah bpee. That’s how I left Thailand in 1974, using the native Thai language to assure friends, ‘I will return — in three years, four years, five years.’ Such was my love for that country and its people after 17 months. Thirty years have passed, yet I still hope to return — eek sam bpee, see bpee, hah bpee.

Town: Dahlgren, Va.
 Military installation: Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Sue Harbaugh of Incline Village, Nev., says: “For families with kids, Dahlgren was a wonderland. We had acres of woods to play in, a pond for swimming and fishing, and a golf course that turned into a winter delight. We had large, old-fashioned homes with tons of character and screened-in porches.”

Town: Athens, Greece
Military installation: Hellenikon Air Base Bette King of Anson, Texas, says: “I was in fourth and fifth grades when I lived in Greece. We didn’t stay on base, but in a marble villa near the Mediterranean Sea. I remember the smell of fresh, baked bread wafting across the field to our villa, the food, the olive trees in our yard, and our school trip to the Parthenon.”

Town: Frankfurt, Germany
Military installation: Rhein-Main Air Base Lambert Thompson of Trumbull, Conn., says: “Take me again to this place where, in one place, I can experience a low crime rate, enjoy the amenities of New York-style nightlife, or travel the winding roads of a rural countryside. After three return visits, the Frankfurt/Hanau area still reminds me that I always have a wonderful place to go.”

Town: San Francisco, Calif.
Military installation: The Presidio Sharyn Earl of Federal Way, Wash., says: “My father was stationed at the Presidio from 1963 to 1965. I experienced museums, res-taurants, live music performances, theatrical shows, and stores that I never even knew existed. I never wanted to leave.” (Note: The Presidio became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1994.)

About USAA
USAA, a diversified financial services company, is the leading provider of competitively priced financial planning, insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. Named by BusinessWeek as 2007’s Customer Service Champion and ranked highest among financial services companies for customer advocacy in a Forrester Research survey, USAA provides convenient and accessible financial products to its more than 6 million members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com

USAA is a diversified insurance and financial services organization that has served the military community since 1922. USAA Financial Planning ServicesSM refers to financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency, and its wholly owned subsidiary.
USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates.