On the Hunt

Break out the credit card, honey! It’s time to shop…

When we arrived in Portugal last year, we were so grateful to find a furnished apartment within a few days of looking. Not only was it furnished, everything was brand new – furniture, rugs, artwork, window coverings, and decorative items. And, they were attractive and tasteful. What luck!! Honestly? I could not imagine having to quickly find and buy furniture for an entire apartment while also attempting to figure everything else out at that time.

Now I’m ready to tackle a project like that; actually, I’m excited about it. I had loads of fun doing this when we bought and renovated our home in Chester, New Jersey a few years ago. I love spending money. Oops…I meant to say, I love finding bargains (I just remembered Won will be reading this).

However, before I started wearing down the numbers on the credit card, we looked into shipping some of our furniture that is in storage back in New Jersey. We received a quote, but we weren’t sure the items we planned to ship would be taxed during the import and customs process, nor were we sure about the amount of time it might take to get them. In the end, we abandoned the idea and decided to buy. [If there is anyone in New Jersey or the surrounding area looking for a GREAT deal on a some gorgeous furniture (most from Restoration Hardware), let me know – I can send you pictures.]

We signed the lease agreement for our new place on Friday, June 4 and scheduled time to go back on Monday to measure the rooms. Then I threw myself into creating scaled floorplans in my notebook. I made one for each room, including the foyer and balcony. To take it to the next step, however, I needed furniture dimensions to work out possible layouts and to better understand where I would be constrained based on the size of each piece.

The first challenge I faced was the open floor plan – which I love, but, after leaving sufficient floor space to accommodate the obvious traffic flow leading to and from the balcony, I was left with a 5m2 square-shaped living and dining area (5 meters is equal to 16′ 5″ ft). Unfortunately, a square isn’t ideal when you need to squeeze in a dining table, and we both agreed one was necessary (neither of us wanted to eat our meals sitting on stools at the kitchen island nor could we host dinner parties there).

I have to stop at this point and give a shout out to the metric system. It’s great! It is super easy to use because the entire thing is based on 10s (10 milimeters to a centimeter, 100 centimeters to a meter, 1000 meters to a kilometer, etc). The simplicity is awesome, and for those of us who are in the process of adjusting, once you understand the spacial aspect (i.e. how long a meter is compared to a yard or a centimeter compared to an inch) it’s a total breeze. The scale I used in my notebook was one square of the grid equaled 1/4 of a square meter (4 squares = 1m2). Now, in all fairness, I had to measure everything in our existing apartment to get an idea of size, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Shamefully, I’ll admit that I was one of those American’s who was always against converting to the metric system, primarily because I didn’t take the time to learn it. Now, I LIKE it. Come on, America! Give it a try!

Tragically, Won gave me a budget. It wasn’t so little that I was relegated to shopping solely at Ikea, but it wasn’t generous enough to allow for bespoke furniture either. We met in the middle. Thankfully, I had a good amount of time to shop since we weren’t going to have access to the apartment until August 1.

Area Furniture Store

You’d think that since we have been in Portugal for nearly a year and a half, I’d know where all the cool stores are. Not even close. Between pandemic-related lockdowns and movement restrictions, shopping (beyond food and other basic necessities) hasn’t been a top priority. So, in reality, I’m starting from a place of very little knowledge. However, one store I knew of was Area Furniture. Many of the pieces in our current apartment were purchased from Area and we like them so I started there.

My plan was to get the majority of the big furniture pieces chosen first and then look for smaller items later. I logged on to the Area website and started to pull together a plan with specific items that would fit in the space and which refelcted our style and color preferences. I created furniture plans for each room. In the middel of this process, we stopped by the store last week to see some of the pieces I was considering. We thought that ordering toward the end of June would work well given our preferred August 2 delivery date.

But, there was a niggling thought in the back of my mind. We had heard from friends, who are also in the process of furnishing their place, that they were experiencing long delays on their orders. Apparently, the reason is due to supply chain disruptions across the world (#@%$! pandemic!) – from raw materials to manufacturing to shipping. But because our friends were ordering furniture that was more high end and custom, I was hoping we wouldn’t have this problem.

When we got to the store, I pulled out my notebook with my very organized, carefully curated list that included stock item numbers. Francisco, our adorable, patient, sales agent began checking inventory. Right off the bat, one of the two couches we wanted was out of stock and it would take four to five months to get it (noooo!). The dining table was also out of stock. The estimate on that one was three to four months (groan). The bookcase I had selected was discontinued (What??!! Why was it still on the website??? Arrrggghhh! Moving on…). The arm chairs for the living room were going to take from six to eight weeks (not ideal, but the timing would still be OK if we ordered that evening instead of waiting). I literally broke out in a sweat. My mind was reeling. I was trying to think of alernate options on the fly as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to rush any important decisions. All that time I thought I had to place orders, instantly dissapated.

Bifold Lounge Chair

I was firing stock numbers at Francisco as fast as he could type. Everytime he said something was in stock I got a dopamine hit – YAY!! Everytime something was on backorder or discontinued, it felt like I had just received a punch to the gut. I had Won scouring the store looking for an alternate couch option. Then I was in a tizzy about the dining room chairs. Once I sat down in the one I had selected on the website, I hated it. In the end, we found an alternate we both liked and which was in stock (bonus!). Unfortunately, it was more expensive. Thankfully, the outdoor lounge chair we loved was in stock (it’s cool because both ends of the chair flip up as well as fully recline), but Won didn’t like the side chairs I had selected to accompany it. We found an alternate, but once again, it was more expensive. (Hmmm…any time Won prefers a more expensive item, the budget seems to magically increase.)

At the end of two hours, we took a final tally of what would be delivered on August 2 and what would be delivered by mid-August (fingers crossed). We would have everything except the dining table and the second couch which would arrive sometime between September (earliest) and November (latest). My blood pressure began to return to normal.

Before we arrived at Area that evening, I told Won I was going to ask for a discount on our purchase since we were going to spend a fair amount of money. He didn’t think I’d get it because he was sure the store manager would not have that much discretion, however, I told him it never hurts to ask. We ended up receiving a 15% discount on our entire purchase (woohoo!! BIG kudos for me!!!). Won was happy too.

Specially ordered sheets from senseslinen

Our bed was its own unique challenge. A few months ago we decided to splurge on luxury bed linens from a Portuguese brand called senseslinen. We liked the first set so much, we bought a second. This meant we were committed to buying a mattress the sheets would fit (180 cms x 200 cms) and a bedframe that would accommodate that size mattress. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem, but you would be wrong. For example, the ONLY size bedframe that Area sells is 160 cms x 200 cms (20 cms too narrow). Really? That’s the only size they sell? Yup.

Earlier in the week, while I was busy trying to figure out furnishing the apartment, Won focused on finding a mattress. We stopped by the Tempur store (Tempurpedic) and learned their mattresses were waaaayyyy out of our price range. We should have known; the pillows we bought from there last year were 139€ each. We moved on.

We then stopped at a mattress store in the Colombo Shopping Mall in Lisbon called Colunex. We found two potential options we liked, but even with the discount they offered, the mattresses came in at 1966€ and 2795€ – and we still had to buy a headboard and frame! We thanked the nice lady and left.

During extensive online research, we both found bedframes we liked and requested quotes. This turned out ot be a non-starter; they were wildly expensive – both were over 4000€ each (without a mattress). Clearly not an option.

Won’s efforts finally paid off. He found a little place in Cascais called Sr Colchão (Mr. Mattress). Christina was wonderful. She helped us with everything and we walked out happy campers after placing an order for a great mattress as well as a headboard and bedframe that I was able to fully customize (style, size, finish, fabric, shape, height, width). The whole thing came to 2388€. Plus she threw in two pillows and confirmed there would be no problem delivering on August 2 (delivery and assembly included in the price). We were only asked to pay half when ordering and the rest upon delivery. Superb service!

All we have left to do now is find the smaller items like lamps, side tables, a coffee table, decorative items, and artwork. Oh…and I need to figure out how to order custom window coverings for the living room and bedrooms. No idea how to complete that task, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

In the meantime we need a break. We are headed to the Alentejo region this weekend to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, it is expected to rain for most of it. We don’t care. Portugal is still fascinating and the food and wine are just as tasty whether or not the sun is shining.

I promise to tell you all about it in next week’s blog post. Until then, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

15 thoughts on “On the Hunt

  1. Wow, what a whirlwind. I cant imagine buying a whole houseful of furniture at once…too many decisions!

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  2. Wait — can’t Won build all the furniture you need? Then you can sew the curtains and you’re done!

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    1. Phil… of course we could!! But, we’re retired, remember? Life of leisure and all that … 👍😁 (Hey… let’s find time for another video chat. We miss you and have updates to share on Sweet Pea.)

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  3. You had me at Restoration Hardware! When we downsized we moved a third of our house to a rented townhouse, a third to went to a froufrou consignment store and the rest thrift stores, family and friends. But the Restoration Hardware Victorian shipping trunk came with us! Somehow, it fit in the townhouse but not in our lil house we purchased. Sooo, it’s been hanging out in our garage going on 4 years come September. I just couldn’t let it go and the few times I tried to sell it, no luck! It’s just such a lovable albatross! Anyways, I love to decorate our home and get all the “fixins”! But it is so frustrating now with purchasing lots of things. Patio furniture was a nightmare…much of it not available till September. Roar!!! We half serious/half joke about moving to Portugal too! I’m always sharing your experience with my family! My daughter is reading your blog now too! BUT I would have such a hard time not bringing my things! My lil in land house is very beachy. Lots of shells, bell jars enclosing vignettes of sea life, vintage beach photos, etc… classy not kitschy. (Not knocking kitschy it has its place too!) I would NEED to bring that with me! I guess I could stuff it all in my Mini! You’d be surprised what I can get in that thing! Totally appreciate your diagrams!!! And that metric system I have to use with silver smithing and PMC clay, I’m always scratching my head and checking twice! Congrats on your new home and enjoy creating your spaces! Can’t wait to see pictures!

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    1. Hi Brenda! We are kindred spirits when it comes to creating lovely spaces that make us happy. However, it is a challenge when you begin to accumulate things and your circumstances change. I would have loved to have stayed in our house in NJ forever, if it wasn’t in NJ (can’t take the winters). I promise to share pictures when our place is finally put together (hopefully, before the end of the year!!). Take good care.

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      1. Hi! You sent me the link to your blog some time back. I’ve had a few of your posts. Coffee? Sure! Next week OK?

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