Hello and welcome back to Yapa Tree. In this article, I’m going to look through your options when it comes to furnishing a house without having to take out a bank loan. If you’ve been to Colineal, Ashley, or Nana, you’ll know exactly what I mean! I remember nearly fainting when I saw a pillow for $190 and a mirror for $600. Fortunately, I maintained my consciousness long enough to pen this article.
Many expats do opt to ship their household goods to Cuenca when they move, but this article provides an alternative approach that won’t break your budget.
Recently I managed to furnish my house for very cheap, so this article comes straight from recent experience. I bought:
- A 3-person sofa
- Two ottomans
- A custom-made bench
- Two benches for my terrace
- A desk
- Two rugs
- A TV cabinet
- A Shoe rack
- A Corner table
- 4 Lamps
- Kitchen appliances
…and I did it all for just under $1,000
1. Get it custom made
Cuenca might be the only place on Earth where it’s cheaper to get custom furniture made than it is to go to a store and pick out a suite you like. The key word here is ‘Fabricantes’. If you don’t speak any Spanish, this process will be a bit more difficult, so find a Spanish-speaking friend to help you out. If not, Google Translate will have to make do.
Of course, you can Google ‘Fabricantes in Cuenca’, and you’ll be shown all of the main furniture-makers around the centre, but the best trick is to look north, outside of the city. To the north of Cuenca there are loads of furniture makers where the city hits the countryside, with skilled craftsmen (and women) working out of tin-roof workshops doing made-to-order pieces.
I contacted as many as 10 fabricantes before I found a model I really liked at a price I was comfortable paying. They offered me a range of colours and materials but I ended up going with the same one from the brochure. Then I asked them if they could make a custom bench from a picture I’d seen on Instagram, and two ottomans (here it is called a puf). The total price was $470. In my native Britain this set could have been $3,000 upwards.
2. Go to Facebook Marketplace
I found my fabricante on Facebook marketplace, but there were all sorts of pieces of furniture being sold there. The keyword this time is ‘muebles’. If you put that into your Facebook marketplace search and set your parameters, you’ll find desks, tables, chairs, wardrobes and much more, all at a much lower price than the shops. That is, unless you visit a consignment store…
3. Visit a consignment store
Marc’s Consignation on Simon Bolivar and Miguel Heredia is well known in the expat community for being a place where you can sell your furniture if you leave Cuenca. The other side of the coin is that it’s one of the few good places to buy second-hand furniture at reasonable prices. I saw a really nice dressing table, some useful coffee tables, and a bunch of other furnishings that can really make a house a home.
Another popular option is Cuenca consignments. They aren’t open every day, so we suggest checking out their opening hours on Facebook or contacting them before arrival.
Go take a look for yourselves!
4. Look or ask on Facebook groups for particular items
Cuenca is blessed with many great (and not so great) Facebook groups for the expat community, most of which will not mind you asking for specific items and where to find them. Asking for secondhand goods is common in some of these groups, and it’s also not unusual to find people listing a whole bunch of items when they are moving away from the city. There are even some groups dedicated to expats buying and selling items.
5. Go to Coral
Cuenca’s favourite hypermarket has some great furniture options too. The Coral at Mall Del Río is the largest of their Cuenca branches and boasts the widest selection of furniture. This is probably the most expensive of the options on this list, but if you look around enough, you’ll find some bargains in the midst. Even better, use your YapaTree Card and get a 5% discount!
I bought my lamps, kitchen appliances, and rugs from Coral, and they were surprisingly inexpensive. From memory, I purchased a rice cooker, a kettle, a toaster, and two rugs for about $150.
6. Plaza Rotary
This is a gem, so shoutout to my favourite Cuenca rockstar Claudia Swartz for the tip.
Behind the 9 de Octubre market, follow the tram line to the left and you’ll find a very nice outdoor market selling all sorts of wooden, iron, and weaved goods. The buildings on the edge of the market are typically housed by furniture makers, who have premade cabinets, chests of drawers, tables, benches, and so much more.
I bought a full sized folding picnic bench, a typical park bench, a shoe rack, a coat rack, a tv cabinet, three wall cubes, and a corner table, all for under $300. Plus I got them all in the same varnish, so my home’s theme appears somewhat coordinated.
After making my purchase, they called for a delivery guy who came, loaded up the truck, drove me home with my stuff, and helped me carry everything inside, for about $8.
This is the only genuine eCommerce option included in this list. Frecuento is one of the few retailers in Ecuador that seem to take online shopping seriously. They offer a wide selection of products across many categories, including furniture for the home. The category you’re looking for is called Muebles de Interiores.
Because the furniture is delivered to your home, you can expect some of it to be sent in flatpacks so be prepared to be helping with some DIY assembly IKEA-style.
They also routinely offer good promotions such as free shipping as you see below.
Furnishing your new Cuenca home shouldn’t need to eat too far into your savings, but if you have rented an unfurnished property, you should start with Coral, Plaza Rotary, and Facebook Marketplace to find the bulk of what you need.
Have we left out any options for purchasing affordable furniture in Cuenca? We’d love to hear it in the comments below.