From house to home

by Jeana Coleman
Stripes Europe

Perhaps you let go of a lot of your furniture to lighten the weight load before your last PCS. Or, you like to purchase new (or new to you) items when you arrive at your new duty station. That is understandable. After finding the right house to rent or buy, sometimes you need to purchase furniture to fit the space. Whether you are looking for brand new or used American or European-styled furniture, antiques and accessories, we’ll tell you about some great places to find what you are looking for, no matter the budget.

One of the first stops you should make is at the local AAFES Exchange, a one-stop-shop for just about everything in the home, including both American and European-style furniture as well as both 110V and 220V appliances, housewares, décor, electronics, clothing and toiletries. Prices average just a little under MSRP, but they also have a price match program and seaonal sales. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the store, visit their website for more products and name brands. They will ship your order to the nearest Exchange location for pick up — big items like furniture and appliances will need to go through the trans-shipment program (inquire at your Exchange Customer Service to order).

Some Exchanges also rent space to local stores that carry quality furniture, décor and art, such as Belgian made furniture from the finest quality of hardwoods, or hand-knotted Turkish rugs, exotic décor, English china and more. Another store that carries American-sized and styled furniture is United Furniture, with five locations in Germany and one location in the U.K. They have everything from bedroom, living and dining sets, an array of styles and sizes to fit your space.

Notice how small or narrow the stairwells and hallways are in many older European homes? Oversized furniture and American queen or king-sized mattresses will not always fit. Therefore, compact, lighter and contemporary furnishings are popular. European mattresses are lighter, thinner but also comfortable. Instead of box springs, mattresses lay on lattenrost (German) or letto doghe (Italian), a slat system that allows you to specifically adjust the firmness of the mattress to your needs. Some also adjust to a reclining position. Mattresses for larger beds are usually two twin mattresses that create one bed. Not only can you purchase mattresses specific to your individual comfort level, but having two smaller, lightweight mattresses also makes transport and maneuvering them through spiral or narrow stairwells popular in European homes much easier. You can buy at either mattress stores or through local furniture retailers including Möbel Martin, Poco, Möbelfundgrube, and then large, internationally known retailers such as XXXL and Ikea. These large, hypermarket-styled furniture stores also carry housewares, décor and artwork. Visit the links in this article for several stores near you.

Want to capture the design of old-world European charm? A local store called European Country Living provides beautiful new furniture with antique feel. Or, you can visit one of the local antique shops for restored full bedroom and dining sets, bookcases, wardrobes and more. Many stores carry the finest quality in pieces that are a couple of centuries old.

You can also find great deals at one of many antique flea markets across Europe. With hundreds scheduled, it will be easy to choose a date, look online and find a market near you. Grab a friend and make it a weekend of scavenging and discover artwork, décor, furniture to vintage or trendy clothing and historical memorabilia. The best deals are found early morning; take a flashlight to inspect the condition of antiques in dim light.

Another great time to shop for both furnishings and gifts for family back home is during the annual holiday and yuletide bazaars held from September to December on U.S. military bases in Europe. Vendors display booths with unusual items like antiques, décor, artwork, jewelry, leather goods, pottery, wine, rugs, etc. You name it; they have it, from all over Europe. See our links to help you figure out when and where to go.

And after you’ve bought too much stuff? Well, it’s out with the old, in with the new! List your gently used or oversized pieces on classifieds or local online yard sales site. These busy sites will have your items sold in no time. Who knows, you may also find another treasure or two. Remember, shopping is good … let’s keep the economy going.

For more design ideas, visit:

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