Furniture Shopping – Part I

When shopping, everyone likes to get a good deal.  There is no exception when it comes to mobilya (furniture).  In the States, Ethan Allen has its price, and that is what you pay.  Department stores and lesser furniture stores (no offense – by this I mean not the highest end furniture) have regular sales, especially on holidays.  No one pays full price at these stores, unless you just can’t wait until “Uncle John-Bob’s 44th Anniversary Sale.”  Then there are the discount stores, the scratch and dent stores like The Dump.  My favorite was the fourth floor of Strawbridge’s in the Concordville Mall.  These stores sell furniture which had been returned or are outdated display models.  Finally, there is Chestnut St., east of Broad.  Need I say more?
Furniture Shopping on Chestnut St., Philadelphia

 Prior to coming to Ankara, we had shipped some of our old furniture;  the bed, the mismatched dining room table and stools, a side board, a kitchen table and stools, and the pièce de résistance – my armoire.  My in-laws gave us some used furniture to tide us over, a chair, loveseat, and 2 book cases.  When I arrived in Ankara, I converted one bookcase into a china cabinet.  We used the side board for a TV stand.  A reclining office chair also worked in the living room.  I was fine.  I just needed a coffee table, bedside tables, and closets. 

Bookshelves Double as China Cabinets

We set out to find these pieces.  I figured, go to one store – the family will know which is the best deal.  Pick something out.  Hopefully most pieces would fit in the in-law’s car.  Wait for closets to be delivered.  Done.  Right?  Wrong! We spent weeks looking everywhere.  We started with chain stores.  My sister-in-law works for Yataş in Kayseri.  Certainly she could get us good prices.  We found nothing.  We checked Doğtaş, Tepehome, and İstikbal.  Still nothing.  

Fauna Bedroom Set from Yataş

I started shopping online.  That’s right.  I don’t know Turkish but that doesn’t stop me from online shopping!  To my surprise, many of the online stores were also in English.  The websites, however, were still often difficult to maneuver, some had prices, some didn’t.  Some had sizes and some didn’t.  The thing that was most irritating was the pdf’s that weren’t searchable.  I even checked Sahibinden, the Turkish Craigslist, for used furniture.  Still Nothing. 

Etna Living Room Set from Isitkbal

In the meantime, we had been shopping for other things at the Turkish versions of Home Depot:  Koçtaş, Praktiker, and the German Bauhaus.

These stores sometimes have limited amounts of furniture.  Nothing.

Look Familiar?

I was quickly becoming frustrated, after all, I am a one-stop-shopping kind of girl.  So I sat down and assessed our problems.  The first was that I love the antique look.  These stores had very modern furniture, mostly modular.  Think Ikea.  By the way, Ikea opened a store in Istanbul.  Luckily, it’s too far away to shop there.  Classic furniture was more in the style of Louis XIV.  Totally not me.  Well, not at least in this apartment.  

Louis XIV Bedroom Set courtesy of CMC Desing Studio

The second problem was the prices.  Believe it or not, not everything in Turkey cost only 4TL.  The prices of furniture here don’t seem to correspond with the common person’s income.  Of course, I guess that’s the case with furniture in the U.S. too.  I could never understand why couches were priced so high!

The third issue was quality.  I wanted wooden tables in a classic design.  We couldn’t find solid wood.  In fact, I was told that we wouldn’t be able to afford it. 

I did some more research.  I love the websites that expats have developed.  If you are ever thinking of living in Turkey, check out www.mymerhaba.com.  It’s a wealth of information from Yabancı (foreigners) living in Turkey.  I found a neighborhood called Siteler. It had great reviews.  Oddly enough, my mother-in-law suggested she take us there at about the same time I found it online.

Siteler.  It’s amazing.  If Philly had a furniture row, this would be it, and more.  Street after street, block after block, of furniture stores, both large and small. (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Philly has Jeweler’s Row, Antique Row, Fabric Row, etc.)  Siteler even has its own website.  

On a Saturday afternoon, the three of us set out for Siteler.  We pounded the sidewalks, starting with very small stores that sold wooden furniture.  It didn’t take me long to realize, that I was getting a very sturdy pressed board with a wood finish.  Accepted.  These small stores had mostly the same pieces but prices were better.  I spotted some small tables I liked.  We didn’t see any closets at reasonable prices.  And oh, I forgot to mention we needed a chest of drawers.  All we had seen so far were long dressers or chests that were too short or not wide enough.

Once we had seen enough, my mother-in-law, a true gem, took us to the backstreets.  Here were the manufacturers of these fine little tables.  These workshops are not generally open to the public.  But my mother-in-law knew someone.  She introduced us to her friend Ali bey.

Emine anne, Ali bey, and me

Ali had nothing on hand that was ready to sell.  So he took us to a neighboring shop.  I selected a coffee table, nesting tables, (every Turkish home has a set), and bedside tables.  We sipped on tea as Ali haggled over the price on our behalf.  The part I really love was that the furniture was unfinished and could be easily modified.  We had a drawer added to the coffee table for remotes.  We later selected knobs for the bedside tables at another store.  The Salon (living room) pieces were stained to match our sideboard.

Unfinished Nesting Tables
Modified and Stained Coffee Table
Unfinished Coffee Table
Finished Nesting Tables

Next, Ali took us to a few more shops for the closet and chest.  We finally selected a 2-piece closet, so that we could separate it if necessary in our apartment.  We found a dresser too.  Ali worked out the price.   

Unfinished Closet

We then stopped to choose knobs and handles for everything.  Back at Ali’s shop, we selected a mahogany colored stain for the bedroom pieces.  Ali would paint those pieces himself.  Alas, we were done!  The pieces were finished, delivered and assembled within a month for no extra charge.  We had bought a coffee table, 4 nesting tables, 2 bedside tables, a chest of drawers and a 2-piece closet for the price of one closet at Tepe!  Done deal! 

Part of the Finished Closet

Yes, another glass of Çay, lütfen (please).

Turkish Çay

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