You’re moving to the city. You’ve been dreaming about your apartment for months. You are just dying to get those keys from your incredibly stubborn landlord so you can walk up through those opposing double glass doors, up that dusty, dirty stair well and into your incredibly overpriced dream closet. Your car is packed to the brim with your things. You park in what seems like a perfectly legitimate parking spot, and pay the meter so you can sign your lease.
In just 15 short minutes, you have the keys to your future and your car has been towed. No worries. It’s just a $500+ fine. It’s gonna be ok! Just tag that on to you $1,000+ monthly rent (if your lucky), internet and electric bill and your good to go. But after moving all your luggage up and down those stairs, your apartment is hot as the dickens, so you should probably install some AC units. Another $750ish. But it’s worth it. Now you’ve just moved in and everything is squared away. But you don’t have any food or furniture. Or a job. SO. looks like West Elm and Whole Foods are out of the question…
If you couldn’t already tell, that’s exactly what happened to me. But it was a rental car, and I also wasn’t aware that there is an additional fee for drivers under 25. No matter how much you budget or plan things out (I had a stellar excel spreadsheet, thank you very much), money disappears FAST in this city. But there is a way to furnish your apartment without going into the deepest of debts. And when I say furnish, I mean – looks that that dream apartment you imagined while gawking at Pinterest for hours and hours. I’ve made a list of some of the obvious, and not so obvious, places online and around the city where you can buy furniture and home accessories without breaking the bank.
(also this list isn’t in any particular order of importance. I kind of just organized it based on the items you probably need most to the least – rather than a reflection on the store itself)
**and if you don’t feel like reading my novel, scroll down to the bottom and see a quick list of where to get what in the city.
The obvious choice. You can’t avoid this place. I suggest you get your bed and tables here. (coffee table, dining table if you have one, additional kitchen counter space etc.) – and how do you get there? You’re in luck! During the summertime, there is a free ferry from Manhattan to the ikea in Brooklyn on weekends (and $5 on weekdays). All you have to do is present an ikea receipt of at least $10 worth of purchases (like thats hard). For more about the ferry click here.
If you can, DO NOT go on the weekend (unless you go to the one in New Jersey) it’s mobbed. And it’s a mess. And it doesn’t have half of the stuff you saw on the website. During the day, and especially right when it opens, is the time to go.
If you plan on getting a lot of stuff, it might be worth getting a zip car or asking to borrow a friend who lives in Conneticut/New Jersey/upstate to borrow their cars so you can save on shipping fees and bring home everything you purchased that day. My roommate luckily still had his car back then, so we filled it to the brim (mattress very insecurely strapped to the top included) and drove our things into the city. BUT – be careful! Always do this with two people and NEVER leave the car unattended. All of Manhattan is a no parking zone, so you don’t want to risk getting towed with all of your new furniture still trapped inside. Not to mention that $300 fine that you could have used on shipping, delivery and set up fees.
Here are some of the pieces we bought from ikea:
2. Bob’s Discount Furniture
Get your couch here. You will not find a cheaper one anywhere else, I promise. (and if you do, please let me know!) I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted looking for a good couch that wasn’t going to cost us a fortune both for the couch itself and for shipping and delivery (because with couches you have absolutely no choice in the matter. They have to be delivered). And even if you are all the way down in Tribeca or one of the villages, it’s worth the trouble to get there. (especially because there is a Costco and a Target in the same complex. I mean really). Our couch fits 4, is super comfortable, and was only $400, and I think $40 for shipping and delivery (not included the couple bucks I threw to the delivery guys for being awesome and sweating their balls off on a hot summer day). I seriously dare you to find a couch the same size and quality as ours for that price. I’m so happy with it. At first I wasn’t wild about the fabric, but I got over it quickly. I’m sitting on it now. Basically I live on it.
3. The Salvation Army
If you plan on getting a lot of your furniture from Ikea, it wouldn’t hurt to stop at the Salvation Army first. They have a huge warehouse with an entire floor dedicated to used furniture. And since everyone else has furnished their apartments with basically the exact same stuff, there is a good chance that one of the things you planned to buy is already there. Not to mention it will to be assembled and at a discount price; saving you that annoying trip and potential delivery fees you would get from going all the way to Ikea. Although I would not suggest buying a couch or a mattress here. Personally I think those things should never be used. Unless they are handed down from a friend or acquaintance, those things can’t be trusted. Because unless you have a black light and super detective skills, you have no idea what went on or sat on that furniture. There can be 10 years of farts in that couch…or pee. Most likely pee.
4. Craig’s List
This is where you go for more specific items. You could probably also find some ikea furniture on here as well. For example, I found my dream bar cart on Craig’s List. I did drop a whopping $150 on it, but after seeing the exact same bar cart listed for $5,000 on other websites, this was a deal I couldn’t possibly pass up. (Not to mention bar carts are just insanely expensive to begin with. Most of them start at around $500 if you are lucky.) The girl that sold it too me was also super sweet, and for a very low price, she dropped it off to me on my street corner so I wouldn’t have to lug this beautiful antique on and off the subway. The other great thing about Craig’s list is that you can walk away. If it doesn’t look like the picture or you simply change your mind, you can walk away no problem. Like if I saw that cart and decided it looked too “used”, I would have simply given the nice lady the money for her trouble and said “no thanks”.
5. Home Goods
Home goods is great for things like curtains, picture frames, home accessories and kitchenware. Here you will find your lamps, sheets and blankets at a great price, as well as a bunch of other fun stuff to jazz up your place and make it more personal. I personally really love their kitchenware. They have such nice pots and pans at amazing prices as well as some great serve ware also. They also have an entire aisle dedicated to wicker baskets <3.
6. H&M Home
I am so excited that Manhattan got an H&M home department. I had seen them before abroad, but they had yet to come to the states until now. (eh em hello Zara home. it’s your turn….)
This place is great for home accents like pillow covers and nick nacks for your bedside table or bar cart. They also sell the pillow inserts
Don’t order anything off their website though from their home department – especially things like bowls etc. I find that everything i’ve seen online looks a lot larger than it does in person. For example, I would anticipate any bowl or vase to be at least 1/3 the size that it appears online (unless their is a picture of it in a room or surrounded but other things)Midtown West Fifth Avenue and 48th Street
7. Home Depot
I had never considered Home Depot to be a place to go for furnishing an apartment. I always just pictured it as a place to buy screw drivers, bath tubs and sconces. But there are so many more things you can find here. We found a perfect rug for $77 (Idk if y’all knew this, but rugs are crazy expensive…well at least I didn’t). It also looked just like a rug we found on the Target website, but was half the price. I also got these super cute wicker baskets to go under our coffee table too (because according to the 5 five – a show I used to watch when I was a kid – a nyc apartment is never complete without a piece of wicker in it). It’s also a place where you can find all of your DIY needs like cute knobs, paint and sand paper.
but CAUTION – nyc is covered in small hardware store – or at least Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen is at any rate. I walked SO FAR with incredibly heavy paint cans, only to realize there was a paint store less than a block form my house. My arms were about ready to fall of. I also knew that I didn’t need cans that size, but the chick insisted that I get them because of the projects I described. The big cans are not worth the headache (and are also annoying to store) so go with the smaller cans and just buy more if you need them.
here are several really attractive and affordable rugs from Home Depot (I didn’t put prices because they have a bunch of sizes – so your choice would vary depending on your apartment. the one we have is most similar to the second one and it was $77):
I seriously love etsy. One or two times i’ve purchased something that wasn’t what I had imagined it to be, but I’m almost always satisfied with what I find. I particularly love etsy for wall art and pillow cases. And maps. I went to a flee market in Brooklyn and there was a dude that sold vintage maps there. His prices were absolutely outrageous. On etsy I got two maps, one of Louisiana and one of lower Manhattan for a fraction of the price. This one vendor, Paula, of Old Maps and Prints, was incredibly accommodating. I sent her a message about one of her maps of Manhattan, asking her if she had any others that looked similar or had the other half of Manhattan not listed on her site. She messaged me back and found a couple in her archives and reserved them special for me in her store so that I could check them out. And of course when I got the map in the mail it was in perfect condition and exactly what I was looking for.
Do not enter this store without the Michaels app and or coupons in hand. The last time I walked out of this store I had two canvases, two picture frames and a cork board for under $30. Even the checkout girl said “Whoa, how did you do that”? Michaels coupons, baby. At Michaels you are going to find all of the frames you would possibly need (these always go one sale, so wait it out and stock up!) and of course a bunch of things you would need to accomplish those DIYs you’ve been putting off.
10. Bed, Bath and Beyond
If you can’t find the color or style of curtains you are looking for from Home Goods, then I would say Bed, Bath and Beyond is gonna be your best bet. Home Goods tends to have curtains with large rings on the end, which require larger rods. Those can be expensive and can be a lot more involved than the cheaper ones you can find at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Curtains frequently go on sale as well, so sometimes its worth waiting it out. I went in the store about 5 or 6 times with the intention of leaving with curtains, and it took until I came across a really good deal to actually throw down the money for them.
Don’t buy your cushion inserts here, though.Like I mentioned before, H&M home sells those for a really great price, and in a variety of different sizes.
I know i’ve already mentioned my love for Deals/the Dollar Store on my page about Where to Buy Groceries in NYC, but it’s also a great place for decorating your apartment on the cheap. And no, you aren’t going to find furniture or legitimate home accessories like a lamp or throw pillows here, but you will find almost everything you need to complete those fun and inexpensive DIY projects that you’ve seen all over Pinterest and the internet.
Jack’s 99 Cent Store
I wouldn’t really recommend this place for anything other than holiday decor. I know they have curtains and stuff like that, but there is no way it’s good quality. Their holiday stuff, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. They also sell a lot of Wilton products – and have a bunch of fun cookie cutters, sprinkles etc. during the holiday season. I’ve been making a lot of my purchases very early in advance those, so i’m not sure how long those things last in the store.
Tables and Chairs – Ikea
Bed – Ikea or Bob’s
Couch – Bob’s Discount Furniture
Pillow Cases – H&M Home, Pier 1 Imports (during Sale time)
Wall Art – Etsy
Bar Cart – Craig’s List (or DIY from Home Depot or Ikea)
Holiday Decor – Deals and Jack’s 99 Cent Store