So, you found a place to live in Mexico. Congratulations! That is truly most of the battle, given the lack of centralized rental listings in many areas and either extreme formality or informality when it comes to renting. If you are buying, that is a different story. Many more resources are available than renting. Now comes the part that you might not have thought quite as much about yet: furnishing your new home in Mexico.
Chances are that if you have moved from another country, you probably have not brought all of your furniture and home items with you. Luckily, there are several different options to consider, many of which you might not have considered or known about.
Shopping for furniture in Mexico is very different from shopping for furniture in places like the U.S. or Canada. I cannot speak for other countries, but I would imagine that one might find a similar experience.
How is it different? Here are a few important ways:
You Are Not Likely to Find Used Furniture for Sale
In the United States, if you are looking for a low-cost option, it can be quite easy to furnish one’s home from a combination of “dumpster diving” and Craigslist. I know because I have done it.
This is generally not the case in Mexico. Most people hold on to their furniture until it literally disintegrates, sending tables and chairs in for repairs and sofa sets for a re-stuffing and updated upholstering.
The absence of a “throw-away” culture is admirable, to be sure. But one result of it is that there is not much in terms of dirt-cheap, used, still-in-good-condition home goods to be found.
To be fair, 16 cities in Mexico have https://geo.craigslist.org/iso/mx Craigslist listings. You may be able to snag a few deals if someone is moving and is getting rid of furniture and other things they do not want to move.
Furniture Might Be Smaller, More Old-fashioned or More Modern than You Would Like
Different country, different styles.
Because the average space inside many homes tends to be a bit smaller than the average space inside farther-north North American homes, the available furniture also tends to be a tad smaller than you might be used to, especially if you buy them in stores aimed at those with lower budgets.
You may also recognize a difference in overall style. Particularly if you visit an older furniture store, you might notice things like tightly-stuffed sofas with elaborately-lacquered wooden swirl details on the arms with shiny upholstery in varying shades of beige and brown…with china cabinets to match! On the other end of the spectrum are pieces that are space-age modern and sleek, a style more popular with wealthier people here. The middle ground of understated, sensible furniture focused on comfort is a smaller category than you might expect.
There Will Be Fewer Economical Choices Available and Fewer Options
Many chairs, sofas, and beds in discount stores might look pretty on the surface, but you will want to double-check the quality and the level of comfort they offer. You might also double-check the price, as the advantage that most of those types of stores offer is an expensive payment plan rather than overall reduced prices on their products.
Pricier stores will offer more options, but the prices will likely also be premium. Bigger and more modern cities will, of course, have more variety of choices and price ranges.
The main conclusion to draw here is that, especially if you are from an industrialized country, you likely will not find the variety of options that you are used to in your home country.
You May Need to Buy Home Appliances Even If You Rent
Many homes that are for rent do not come with major appliances included. This means that you may need to purchase a stove, a refrigerator and a washer and dryer. Cities with large expat populations more generally rent homes that are well-equipped and very often completely furnished.
If you have to purchase appliances, make sure you take measurements. If you are renting and think you might eventually move, I would strongly advise you to be a bit conservative on the sizes (said from this author’s personal experience: I have a dining room table that is now much too big for my dining area, and a refrigerator that takes up too much space, as well. And oh, how I wish I had splurged a few more thousand pesos on that vertical washer-dryer set!).
Most home appliances have similar costs among different stores, and you can find more (and more expensive varieties) at places like Home Depot, Costco and department stores.
Now that we have gone over expectations, here is where you can find what you need:
Places like Liverpool, Sears and Palacio de Hierro will all have a nice selection of both furniture for the home as well as appliances. That said, they are by far the most expensive places to buy your furniture.
While places like Sears in the U.S. are aimed solidly toward the middle-class, the same store here in Mexico is considered quite fancy, and its prices reflect that. However, the variety in these types of stores can be hard to beat if you have something very specific in mind. They will also carry things like bedding, curtains, decorations and appliances, so if you have the budget and very specific taste, you might be able to find everything you want and need there. Just be sure to ask about their delivery times. I have heard of certain things taking over a month to arrive.
From deeply-discounted furniture stores with weekly payment options to fancier shops mostly found in bigger, more industrialized cities, it can be fun to traipse around the city seeing what there is to see. You might even find independent furniture stores where they can create custom furniture for you, depending on your needs and color/upholstery specifications.
You can also find a wide variety of more traditional “rustica,” or rustic-style furniture stores, with most things made out of heavy pine and the wood treated, waxed and often painted in bright colors This is a style that many expats like, and if you want furniture that is locally made, sturdy, well-crafted, well-priced and reflects the look and feel of Mexico, it can be hard to beat. The style is a good one for things like tables, equipales chairs and sofas, shelves, armoires and bed bases, though chairs and sofas will usually tend toward the awkwardly stiff side.
Delivery from furniture stores tends to be straight-forward and timely.
Have Furniture Made
Though you will of course need to buy things like kitchen appliances, most cities and towns have carpenters who may be willing to create what you have in mind if you are not interested in their normal selection of tables, TV stands or other furniture.
It is common, for example, for people to have carpenters install kitchen cabinets and closets in their houses or apartments, as many homes are still built and sold without them.
That said, finding a good, reliable and punctual carpenter to work with can be a real challenge. If you decide to go this route, I would make sure that you have obtained a recommendation from trusted local friends, as it can be difficult to find someone to produce exactly what you have in mind.
And again, remember that some furniture stores will have “custom made” options in which you can choose a basic style in certain colors.
Grocery, Big Box and Home Improvement Stores
Especially for large appliances, most of these types of stores can offer some good options. This will depend on the size of the community that you live in. But if you have a Costco membership and a Home Depot in your area, it is worth heading to those places to take a look around and compare prices. Costco also carries a variety of furniture. And, many grocery stores in Mexico also carry a wide variety of household goods.
There is still not much of a culture of buying things online in Mexico, especially not furniture, but expats are generally comfortable with online shopping.
If you want to shop online for furniture, stick with large, trusted brands like Amazon and Mercado Libre. Both deliver to your door and have good customer service policies. IKEA also opened in Mexico City and has online shopping.
You might have some luck looking for smaller items locally on places like Facebook Marketplace. This requires a bit of an adventurous spirit and willingness to work with vendors to actually get the item to you (likely it will be sent to you by taxi and they will require a cash payment or deposit before-hand). If you feel up for it, some great, local items can be found!
And do not forget the aforementioned Craigslist, if you live in one of the 16 cities served in Mexico.
Finding furniture in Mexico can be a very different experience than you might be used to, but it can also be a veritable treasure hunt! I recommend that you both embrace the local style and put your own spin on it, and your home will reflect both who you are and who you are becoming in your new host country.