Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Buying Furniture in Italy

Buying furniture in Italy takes not only time and patience, but also a lot of gas. This is because Italy is not like the US, with shopping malls and Home Depots around every corner. Furniture stores are strung out all over the place, and not IN the bigger cities. They are usually located in the middle of the country, where I guess someone inherited some property and decided to build a furniture store. And since we don’t even have a phone yet, much less a phone BOOK, I can’t look in the yellow pages….I don’t even know if they HAVE yellow pages in Italy, not that it would do me much good. So we ask, and look as we drive. And of course, not all furniture stores announce themselves as such, especially from the highway, so you have to know some names, like Umbra Salotto or Chateau D’Axe. The word for furniture is mobili, but then there are other words that I don’t know, so it’s been quite an adventure. And then there are the “discount” stores like Mercatone Uno or Marino Mercato. And now the newest, I guess, is the Italian-style Home Depot, Gran Casa. It’s a full day just to wander through these stores and look at all this STUFF! And that’s what we have done, every single day since we have been here…drive and shop, drive and shop.

We started off at a large furniture chain, Mobili Paolo. I thought most of their stuff was pretty pricey, and I still didn’t see anything that knocked my socks off. Art was pretty happy about that! We know that for our bedroom we want a new bed frame, a large chest of drawers, a dresser with mirror, and some sort of chest to sit at the foot of the bed. We think we will just have a closet built in the room instead of trying to buy one of the huge, pre-made armoires. The wall that the closet will be on is slightly angled, so we hope to be able to get more usable space by having something built.

What you need to know is that none of this is urgent. We bought the existing furniture with the house, and we have a new mattress for the bed. But what else am I going to do all day? So now I think I will look for furniture for the guest room. Right now, everything is so crowded in that room; you can’t even open the doors to the armoire. I think that a daybed with a trundle is the perfect solution. We had one in the states, and with the trundle, it became a king-sized bed. Great for company. And since Italy is the home of great design AND great space saving ideas, we have sold our daybed instead of having it shipped.

So now we hunt for a daybed. And hunt. And hunt. We can find daybeds, with trundles, but the trundle doesn’t pop up to the same height as the other mattress, giving you, in effect, two twin beds. And most of them seem to be designed for kids’ rooms, with cheap looking plastic finishes in gaudy colors. And then we find a unit with a trundle that will make one large bed, and it has a storage unit built around it, with places to hang clothes and storage areas above. But of course, it doesn’t work…it’s ten feet long, and just too big for the room. We think about a sleeper sofa, divano letto, as an alternative. Or maybe just buying what we want when we return to the States in December, and having it shipped.

But then I remember that Cristina had suggested IKEA near Florence, so I call her for directions, and we set out for IKEA. If you’re not familiar with IKEA, it’s a Scandinavian company that makes a lot of very basic, utilitarian furniture…tables, shelving, beds, chairs, plus all the household accessories you need. We wander and wander through this huge new store, and finally get to the beds…and every one we look at has the same type of multi-level trundle. I am so disappointed, not to mention surprised. Then a guy comes to help us, and lo and behold! There is ONE bed with a trundle that makes one large sleeping surface. Okay, we’ll take it! Where are the mattresses? Okay, we want two of those, write it up! Oh no, there is one small problem…they are out of it, or at least one of the three parts that make up this bed. So we can’t get it? What about the store in Rome? No, this seems to be a global problem, says the salesman. We should have it in March. Come back then. Now, it’s not that I mind driving two hours again, but how will I know that they have it FOR SURE, before I drive all that way? Well, he says we can check with customer service and get the phone number to call. I hope my Italian improves CONSIDERABLY before March! And did I mention that this bed also has storage underneath the trundle? So it’s really much better that a sleeper sofa, and we really aren’t in a hurry, so we leave with a printout of what we need, and a phone number to call. In March. Next year. Five months from now. This is Italy.

Out for a Sunday drive, we decided to stop by Mobili Paolo in Grutti again, just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. The store was packed when we got there, and we wandered for a while. We found two area rugs that we liked. Unfortunately, the cheaper, acrylic rug has the design we both REALLY like, but there was another rug made of wool that has possibilities. I still can’t figure out where you buy smaller area rugs…4X6 size, for example. The furniture stores only carry the larger rugs, and the Oriental places don’t have the selection we need.

After checking the carpets, we headed for the bedroom section. The quality varies wildly. You can find everything from laminate to veneer to solid wood and wrought iron. We think we need seven pieces for the master bedroom: a bed, two nightstands, a dresser with a mirror, a large chest of drawers and a chest for the foot of the bed. We find a nice chest for 350 euro. In the US, most of these chests would have a cedar lining, but I haven’t seen any cedar here at all. We find two different bedroom suites we think we like, but neither has all the pieces we want. We settle on one, check out the price, and decide to wait until we can find a chest of drawers that might go with this design.

On the way home we decide to stop by a furniture store near us to see what time they will open on Monday. Lots of stores in Italy are closed on Monday morning. Amazingly, they are open! We head in, and see immediately that they have some really nice stuff. We head for the bedroom section, turn the corner, and fall in love! A great bed with inlaid wood, with matching nightstands and a dresser with a mirror. I tell Art to ask for the price so that we can stop falling in love…it must be WAY too expensive for us! The salesgirl gives us the price, and yes, it is more than what we had looked at before…but we REALLY love this one! We decide to ask about a matching chest of drawers, but this set doesn’t offer one. We begin to look through the books and finally find the right thing…although with our limited Italian it has been something of a challenge! I usually know EXACTLY what I want, and I have to explain, no, one drawer across, not two; just a little taller, just a little wider; no, not that tall. It’s a slow process, but we finally find EXACTLY what we are looking for, and it will go nicely with the suite! But I’m still trying to get over the price!

The one nice thing about Mobili Paolo was that they offered four years with no interest! Although we’re not sure we would qualify for this plan, we were going to ask about it. This new store is much smaller, not a chain, so we probably have two options…pay now and get the furniture, or don’t pay and don’t get the furniture! We take some measurements and decide to go home and sleep on it. Art is a spender, and although he has corrupted me considerably over these past 15 years, I am still hesitant to spend large sums of money. Although we both agree that we want something really nice for our bedroom, I’m really not sure what that means, dollar-wise, or I guess I should say, euro-wise. I’m tempted to take the plunge, but it will take me a while to get my nerve up! At least with this suite, we won’t be getting a chest for the foot of the bed, because it would cover up the beautiful inlaid design. And maybe we CAN make do with that acrylic rug for now…especially since we really do like the design. We return to the store two days later and place the order. The chest of drawers will have to be ordered, so we request that everything be delivered at the same time.

We have stopped at another store to order a bed for the guest room. We have finally found a place that has a trundle bed that will work, and it also has storage, both above and beside the bed. Yes, it is the laminated, kids room furniture we have seen before, but we order it in a wood-tone finish and hope for the best. After all, it IS just a guest room. And we have just ordered a fairly expensive bedroom suite for ourselves. We have to cut corners SOMEWHERE. We order good mattresses to go with it, and buy a runner for the hall. Gosh, before long, our house will look and feel like a home, OUR home!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home