I simplified my life when I moved to Panama, but after a few years in a city with as many malls as Dallas, my stuff had seemingly given birth and multiplied. Stuff like blankets for the 3 nights a year when I'm cold, and thick terrycloth bathrobes for when I travel.
I don't like clutter, so I thought the answer might be a bed with storage. I had seen functional storage beds before, but they always seemed to be cheaply made. As I looked for a high-quality bed with pull-out storage drawers, I realized that they didn't exist. As a last effort, I thought about having one made.
I took several photographs to a Panamanian woodworker named Ezekiel. His shop is not a showroom… it’s just a shop. To say it’s not glamorous would be like saying dog food is not filet mignon. Imagine an entire row of exclamation points after "not glamorous" and you get my point.
I had seen Ezekiel's work and I liked the quality. I stopped by his shop one day when I was especially dressed down, and I chatted with him about what I wanted. Okay, "chatting" probably doesn't encompass the wild hand gestures that involve ordering something custom in a language that I don't really speak, but we had a nice charade-like interlude. Within a few days, he came to my home, and I showed him drawings and pictures of what I wanted. He took notes and measurements for over an hour. He left with a 50% cash deposit and a promise to return with a custom teak bed in a month.
I’ll admit that I was nervous. Panama is a cash society, and people here are used to doing 99% of their transactions in cash. But a receipt isn't the same thing as a guarantee from a credit card company. My typical feeling, though, is that if someone needs to steal from me then they need the money worse than I do. I’m happy to say that I've never been stolen from in Panama.
Three weeks after forking over the cash, my husband and I stopped by Ezekiel's shop unannounced. To my great relief, my bed was in various pieces… but it was in progress. At the month-mark, we called to find out the delivery date, and Ezekiel said it would be another week. This didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was that after a small delay, Ezekiel showed up with his teenage son. They spent the day building the bed in my condo from the pieces they had created in their shop.
It was exciting to have a bed built in front of my eyes. After it was put together, I felt like a kid with her first bike. The design was exactly like we had discussed, and the color was perfect. Plus, the freshly cut teak wood made my home smell amazing.
After the success of the bed, I designed a toilet-to-ceiling cabinet for my bathroom. Most bathrooms have several feet of wasted space above the toilet tank, and my condo was no different. I wanted to utilize that space with a super-sized medicine cabinet. As you can see from the photo below, it looks like it came with my bathroom. It is absolutely perfect in every way.
After two successful projects, my brain shifted into full creative mode. I decided I'd had it with the myriad phones and laptops and cameras charging in various spots of my apartment. I wanted an entertainment center with an electronics recharging module that would hide all those unsightly cords. I literally drew the design for this piece of furniture based on items I wanted to include--such as a tower fan that I can't live without, my flat screen TV, and four shelves of a recharging station.
My next project is a special side table that attaches to my couch. I fell in love with the concept of a "swivel side table" at the VIP movie theater in Panama City. I sit in the over-sized reclining chairs at the movie theater and am able to drink wine and eat sushi without sitting up. It's such a level of relaxation that I decided I had to have a Lazy Swivel Side Table at home. Yes, I just coined a new phrase since I often feel too lazy to move a muscle when I watch movies... but I still want to enjoy my wine and cheese.
Now here is the best part. If you're wondering what my teak-spirations cost, hold onto your credit cards. The bed was $800 and the bathroom medicine cabinet was only $750. Inexpensive custom teak furniture... just another reason that I love Panama.