OMG. The juicy details in this post! I am so excited to share my journey of furnishing an apartment here in Medellin! First off, if you are retiring and you have a house full of furnishings that mean a lot to you and you know you’d love to have “your things” here, look into the costs for shipping a container. Let me tell you straight up. It is probably worth it! Is it doing to cost you $10,000? $15,000? Then yes, it IS wroth it hand down no questions asked. How do I know this? Because when I moved here and sold my house in California I didn’t have very many furnishing and none were “special” and most of them were cheap Craigslist purchases. So I had maybe $2,000 worth of furniture I left at home (gifted) to different family members etc. who wanted them and sold what they didn’t on Craigslist.
I know that that price is a good starting point to ship your things because I spent just a little over $12,000 furnishing this place. And, in a very minimal way. Here is what I got for my money (and why).
3 queen size mattrresses, “soft” which is semi-firm in U.S. standards from Comodisimos, the number one mattress shop in the city with many different branches. I bought these on a 40% discount, AND they included a set of sheets free with the mattresses as well. COST= $3,000
3 queen bed frames/bases with beautiful headboards from The Blue House. COST=3,000. This is one of the nicest furniture stores here in Poblado, and you will pay for it, but you will also be getting quality designed furniture that is comfortable. These are made from hardwood, lift your bed off the ground (as one would expect a frame/base to do) but many times in visiting homes in Colombia you will find that bases are 8-12 inches off the ground, so you feel very low to the ground and they are usually made of pleather and metal legs. Not so stunning. Ok. Not stunning at all but they work and are cheaper. You can get those for about $300/piece if you are looking to save money somewhere this might be one place to consider saving some money. $3,000 vs. $900 is a lot of money, but again, I was not willing to sacrifice style at this time when my plan was (is) to run a successful, high end, beautiful and comfortable Airbnb. The bases just didn’t fit the look I was going for.
6 “nice” pillows. I say nice because they are soft and all my guests have raved about them, the usual here in Colombia is not this “nice” of a pillow.COST=$120. I use quotes, and will use quotes often throughout my blog to symbolize the difference. It is not wrong or right, but there are cultural differences that one should be aware of when moving to any foreign country. The same “comforts of home” are not standard everywhere you go. The Colombian (many locals) have told me honestly that they do not value comfort the way we are used to valuing it in the U.S. It simply is not that important to them. They value other things over having a “comfortable” mattress, pillows, sheets, blankets, towels, couches, chairs etc. Most everything I found that was Colombian was to my “standard” “uncomfortable” and I joked with many sales clerks about this cultural difference and they admitted it is just different. This is why the PRICES are affected.
1 couch, that seats 6-8 people depending how close you want to get, it’s a corner couch with a chaise lounge. COST=$1,200. This was imported from Canada as is most of their “comfortable” couch selections. I bought this couch at FUN-Fabricas Unidadas. A very popular furniture store here in the city. There were many cheaper options but to me, the best way I can describe them in terms of U.S. comfort standards is like sitting on blocks of styrofoam covered in pleather. This is the type of couch you can get for $600+ The couch I had for 6 years in the U.S. I bought off Craigslist for $100 and it fit 3 people and was very comfortable. But, this is something important to not overlook.
Craigslist DOES NOT EXIST in Colombia. There are a few other applications such as OLX where people are sometimes selling used items, but another cultural point here is that 99% of the time Colombians sell things for the price they paid for them. They are not seriously discounted like Craigslist and I found it VERY hard to find a “deal” here in Colombia. Was my plan to spend over $12,000 on furniture for this house when I had previously accomplished almost the same feat for just over $2,000 in the U.S.? You bet not and it ended up being an added cost that I did not account for in my budgeting. So I am writing to inform you openly about the truths of furnishing an apartment here in Colombia.
Dining Table and 4 chairs. COST=$1,400. The chairs are very nice, and I paid the equivalent of $200/piece for them, but this is the cost per chair you wold usually expect to pay at a high end store (which it was a high end store but we will cover that in a minute) in the U.S. One would expect a “high end store” to be cheaper in Colombia no? I mean the cost of living itself is 60% less, so what the heck? The table, which I purchased on the basis that it was pure hardwood turned out to be laminate. I called the owner and complained and they are currently working on a new table that is hardwood, for the same price although she says usually that would cost more. But hello, really? I am going to pay $600 for a 4-6 person table and have it be laminate? I don’t think so. They are taking their time on that by the way. They have been working on it since May and it is now mid-July, so again, don’t get your hopes up with deadlines. Luckily, I made a deal with them that they could take my existing table I purchased from them when they delivered the completed one. So, at least, I have a table in the interim.
Mirrors. So I bought one full-length mirror I have in my master bedroom because what girl doesn’t need a full length mirror? COST=$300. It’s a beauty though and I don’t regret this purchase one bit. I said mirrors plural because I purchased 3 other mirrors from Diamantina y La Perla which I mentioned in my kitchen remodel post as they also did the kitchen stools. One large copper one in the kitchen and two smaller gold ones as decorations throughout the house, living and hallway respectively. These were just to add some glamor in my case. I designed my apartment to be modern, minimalist, with touches of wood, copper, gold, brass and marble throughout. The other 3 mirrors COST=$300 total.
Bedside tables/nightstands. I bought two, which are made of marble with a copper base. They are drop dead gorgeous no joke. Perfect size and perfect height. These were also purchased from The Blue House here in Poblado. Many of their items are rotating so what is avavilable one season may not be available the next so definitely, if you like something, and have the means then go ahead and grab it. COST=$300. These are pricey right? I mean hello? I think my nightstands from Craigslist in the U.S. cost me about $50. Were they made of marble and copper though? No. Also, there are so many more options in the U.S. Here, if I didn’t want these, my next choice was to go to Home Center and spend $50 per table for a piece of (in my opinion) crap. I figured, no thank you. They also sell these small plastic stool things that many have used as nightstands, but I just would never, I couldn’t bare to look at it myself, so I didn’t want my guests to have a plastic stool as their nightstand either, but if your goal is to save money, grab a couple of those for $5/piece. Definitely will save you money.
Two shelves/plants (wall decorations in the dining area) to add a touch of life and interest to the otherwise large space! These are wood and coper and the plants I both bought in copper bases as well. These were also purchases at The Blue House. COST=$120. For some nice decorations? Not too bad. But Nicole! What about IKEA, just go there and get the same thing for like $50. Okay, yes another very well made point…but…
THERE IS NO IKEA HERE either! So what out! I know what IKEA is about and I know about all the “hacks” you can do with IKEA furniture! Before teaching Spanish my original goal professionally when entering college was to be an interior design major, but unfortunately too much math was necessary to complete that major so I bowed out! So yes, I watched HGTV for hours every single day of my life from 6th grade through high school. I even did my senior project on interior design and took a college course while still in high school about interior decoration (which yes, is different than design) but my point is, that I KNOW good design like the back of my hand. It comes easily and effortlessly to me and I know how to spot it. So, it is unfortunate that IKEA has not made its way to Colombia yet, but that is the cold hard truth. So don’t expect to come down here and shop it up for cheap at IKEA, that will not happen either. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that’s the truth and you need to be aware!
Okay, back to the furniture! The stools! COST=$300. Well, I know I ranted and raved about them in the other post, but so! Who cares! They are worthy of two shout outs and Diamantina y La Perla is worth MANY MANY shout outs and many of their items are showcased in various stores here in Poblado so if they don’t have what you are looking for at the time in their workshop, ask them if they know if any of their vendors might have it. I found my stools at another very small/cute shop called La Habitacion, and they (in my opinion) specialize in rugs and tapestries (upstairs). Make sure to go up and check those out as they work with some local Colombian artisans which hand weave these rugs for your dining/living areas. The company is based in Bogota who makes the rugs. I don’t have one yet, but I would love to invest in one or two, or heck probably three someday as they are stunning! I will leave links to all my favorite stores at the end of this article so make sure to check them out!
Light fixtures! If I could use emojis on my laptop I would be filling the entire paragraph here with them! Like the OMG face over and over again. So the scoop here. Let me fill you in and PLEASE for your sake take the time to read and understand this. If you buy an apartment here in the city that has not already been fully remoedled by a foreigner, the chances of their being any other light fixture other than light bulbs dangling out of a walk socket will be slim to NONE. What? Yes. I don’t understand. Did I read this right? Yes you did! There are not basic light covers let alone nice light fixtures/lamps etc. I redid ALL the light fixtures in my house to one degree or another. I bought 6 hanging lamps that are all beauties. Two are from The Blue House and the others are from Diamantina y La Perla. The other lights in the two guest rooms and office/closet/washroom are new LED lights which I had a great guy buy and help me install. No more dangling light bulbs hanging from wall sockets! This made my day. Really, the best day here was when I saw NO MORE hanging light bulbs from the ceiling. Even in the Airbnb hosting forum on FB I am a member of many commented on the few light bulbs that were still hanging from the ceiling in the living areas. They were like “What are those! You need to change those!” I was like, yeah, I know, one of the last things I ended up completing honestly, but I finally got it done and couldn’t be happier, but don’t forget the added cost! The nice lamps COST=$300 total for the 6, more or less, but if you go the LED basic basic basic route, then those were about $15-$20 per unit installed. Again, just depends if you are going for style or not. If style is of no importance to you definitely take the chance to save some money here.
Hammock. Okay, so truth be told, it took me like 4 months to get a darn hammock for my balcony but probably should have been #1 because being able to swing outside and listen to the stream below is so precious! The deliver, and installation included the COST=$85. Yep, cheap, but not. Mine is a very high quality weave and some street vendors that walk around selling the chair swings and lower quality hammocks can be had for less, (but not much less) so again I went for the investment of a quality one that would add more beauty to the outdoor balcony space. So far it’s the only thing out on my balcony and one thing I plan to add it a “cuerno” which is a type of wall plant. I am not sure what they are called in English but I’ll try to include one here for reference.
Side/coffee tables. Right now I have a side table and another small table I’m using as a coffee table until I make the move to “invest” in a nice coffee table. These are both from Diamantina y la Perla, so they were pricey as well. About $400 total for the two. One is aged brass with a smokey mirror surface. They are both suitable and fit the style of my apartment, but again, could have just got a few more plastic stools or Home Center ones for cheaper? Yes, the style is just seriously lacking and the variety of options/choices even more so. There is 1-2 choices and so if you don’t like them you are kind of stuck. I do have a friend from New York who actually (IS) an interior designer and she has been more conscious about what she buys and has found (some) deals at a few antique stores in the surrounding areas. However, are there a lot of antique stores where people are selling things cheaper? No. There are a few, and prices are not low there either. Lower than Poblado, yes, because El Poblado had the most expensive of everything as it’s the main expat center so they ship/import the higher “quality” items that people from the U.S. or Europe are maybe looking for. Again, the cultural differences here affect the prices.
So, if you want to check out the basics before investing in higher quality stuff I suggest:
Home Center-similar to Home Depot in the U.S. Also, if you buy 2-3+ shopping carts worth of stuff as I bought all my home goods/kitchen supplies pots pans etc. here then they have a delivery service that is only $10! Don’t try to take it all yourself in a taxi, not worth the hassle, get the delivery done! It’s usually same day. I got mine within 2 hours of being back at home! Everything from kitchen goods, cleaning supplies, trash cans and more!
FUN (Fabricas Unidas)-you can find a lot of furniture here, reminds me of Ahsley Furniture in the U.S. more or less. Remember, this is where I bought the imported Canadian sofa with the chaise lounge! Guests have very much enjoyed it!
Comodisimos (for mattresses, bed frames, sheets, pillows, comforters) all things comfortable (comodo=comfortable=comodisimos=the MOST comfortable!) I bought all my bedding/pillows, sheets, comforters etc. here!
High-End Places in Poblado-where yes, you will pay for style
Diamantina y La Perla (my number one recommended spot). Remember, I bought the stools, many lamps, coffee/side table, mirrors, here!
The Blue House (ask to speak with Jonathan he’s great at helping you find what you need) and also I highly recommend this spot. Remember, I bought my bed frames/headboards, nightstands, a couple lamps, decorative wall shelves and plants here!
La Habitacion for window treatments and rugs (upstairs). This is where I found the stools for the kitchen even though they were from Diamantine y La Perla.
So, have you thought more about moving to Medellin and possibly investing in a property either for retirement or for additional rental income? I would recommend it for sure, just make yourself aware of some hidden costs such as furniture, because while in general the cost of living is up to 60% less, many things are equal or more including furniture (clothes, etc.)