Buying Furniture in Merida
Editors Note:: It had been awhile since we updated this article. Years ago, finding quality furniture in Merida seemed difficult. There was a lot of inexpensive furniture to be found, but you had to really search for good furniture at reasonable prices. Nowadays, in the beginning of 2012, it seems that gap has been filled. There is a lot more good furniture available in Merida and throughout the peninsula for a range of prices. The list below is not comprehensive by any means. But it does include good manufacturers with whom we or our friends and acquaintances have had good experiences. If you know of another store that should be on the list, by all means, leave us a comment!
When we moved from our first Merida house to our second Merida house, we decided to buy a new couch. Originally, back in the day, we had moved our couch with us from California. And what a fine, pine-frame, down-filled couch it was! Eventually, the termites agreed with us (especially the pine-frame part) and despite a brief battle, they won. The couch was thrown out and we went without a comfortable couch for months.
Eventually, Working Gringa polled her designer friends, and came up with a list of places to explore. She set out at 9:30 with two friends, determined to hit every store on her list. She almost made it, and sure enough, her dream couch was in the last place she looked! Isn’t it always the way?
When we first came here, we wanted beautiful heavy wooden carved Mexican antiques for our furniture. We were soon to learn that finding those treasures is a job in itself, as antiques are not as plentiful here as they are in the States or Europe. In fact, the best Mexican antiques probably are sent to those places as soon as someone finds them. A lot of the antiques in the Yucatan have been bought up by the haciendas that were turned into hotels or private homes, or shipped to Mexico City. What’s left is sold by local antique dealers who do not have easy downtown locations. Antique couches have never been known for their comfort, so we weren’t looking for an antique this time.
When buying furniture, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First of all, those termites. Furniture built here will likely be built of wood that is resistant to termites and other local bugs. Or it will be treated for resistance. Furniture you bring with you from a less tropical climate may not be, so watch it closely. Or don’t bring it at all.
We all love furniture made of wood. If you buy wood furniture locally, try to buy with the environment in mind. This isn’t easy, of course. But chances are if the piece is new and made of a beautiful type of wood, that wood could be an endangered tropical hardwood. If you are interested in being a good planetary citizen, check the link at the end of this article to Rainforest Relief’s list of endangered wood species. Happily, there are some local woods that are strong and plentiful, and are being farmed or harvested sustainably.
A lot of us also seem to be enchanted by dark wood, dark colors and dark furniture. Keep in mind what someone once said to us: "You know why people in the tropics like white furniture? Because it is easier to see the bugs that way." These are wise words and something to keep in mind when you are shopping. Another thing we have discovered is that, if you have a mosquito issue, stay away from anything dark. Mosquitoes tend to gather in dark places… that includes a dark bookcase, under a dark side table… you get the idea. After ten years here, we think that little saying makes more and more sense.
And leather. Leather looks great, sumptuous, elegant. But real leather down here can get moldy. You can keep the mold at bay by wiping it down with soap and water during the rainy season. You can buy synthetic leather that doesn’t get moldy and is a lot easier to clean. Both things work. Real leather works a lot better if you have a home that is air-conditioned and generally climate-controlled. If you are leading an indoor-outdoor existence or have a more traditional Yucatecan home, you might want to avoid real leather. And in the heat and humidity, leather doesn’t always feel so good anyway.
It is always important to keep cleaning in mind when you buy furniture, but especially so here in the tropics. Most traditional furniture is raised off the floor for a reason. First of all, it is easier to see the bugs (we’re not kidding) but also, it has to do with the way the floors are cleaned. Most of your floors will be tile or concrete, not wood or carpet. The floors are cleaned with a mop, a bucket and a squeegee. And sometimes they don’t use the mop. That makes for a lot of water, which is easy to sweep away if your furniture is designed for it. Don’t buy furniture with material that goes right down to the floor because it is only a matter of time before it will start to look dirty.
If you are furnishing a vacation home, of course you will probably want furniture that isn’t expensive and wears well. Locally-made furniture in traditional styles is well suited for rental homes. There are small shops throughout Merida that sell wood, rattan and even bamboo furniture that isn’t necessarily comfortable but is very serviceable and sturdy and not expensive. Some enterprising gringos have come up with a speedy and easy way to shop called Gringo Furniture or Tropical Cocoon. You can find the link to their websites at the end of this article.
But suppose, like us, you are in Merida and you want to buy some new furniture. And you want furniture that you are going to live with year round, that will survive the tropical environment. You will probably have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Couch Charming. We’ve put together a list for Merida to make your quest a bit easier. The list is not in any particular order of price or style, but these are places that we and our friends have found suitable furniture at one time or another, plus a few new places that we have discovered.
Triunfo – This place really deserves its own article, but we’re squeezing it in here anyway. Our good friend, Jim, describes Triunfo as "Pier One on Acid" and we couldn’t say it better. Triunfo is a Mexican chain that buys its merchandise from China and India and other places in Asia. The store is jam-packed with a lot of stuff and is an outing for the family even if you don’t buy anything. You’ve already been to Chichen Itza and Uxmal this week? Consider a nice air-conditioned jaunt to Triunfo for entertainment! We’ve seen everything from two-person fiberglass bath tubs to huge statues of American football players. Triunfo has dishware, lamps, candles, statues, scarves, bedspreads and a hundred things for which we have no words, in English or Spanish. It also has both indoor and outdoor furniture. The furniture ranges from wooden hutches with carved Indian doors to plastic 60′s furniture that looks like something out of an old Woody Allen movie. You just have to see it to believe it, and no furniture quest is complete without a trip there.
Location: Paseo Montejo at Calle 39
Paladium – This store is a two-story affair and sells couches, beds, chairs, tables, etc. upstairs. Downstairs are the accessories like oversized vases, mirrors, side tables and even something labeled "Thai stick sculpture". We could only imagine the stoner termites rubbing their hands together hungrily for that one! Upstairs the furniture includes a high-quality, made-to-order line that features different grades and colors of leather. We liked one of the smaller leather chairs that was a disguised rocking chair. But we’re those indoor-outdoor people we described earlier, and that fine leather just wasn’t going to work for us. The style at this store is very modern, very high-fashion and sleek… very popular with the locals. The business card implies that they also have interior designers on staff.
Location: Calle 30 #76-B x 11 y 13, Prolongación Montejo
Marbol – Marbol is a perennial favorite that has been around since before we moved here (they have been making furniture for 15 years, according to the very tiny tiny type on their website). They make a line of furniture that they sell mostly to resorts and hotels, and their hotel client list reads like a Who’s Who of the Mayan Riviera. They also make a home line of furniture. The designs are more colonial, tropical and very well suited to this climate. Most of the furniture is dark wood or a fine rattan called mimbre (they specialize in it), and much of it is comfortable and tasteful.
Location: Check Website for showroom address and hours
Colomer – Colomer has been making furniture for hotels for over 15 years. They also have an extensive residential line, which you can see in their Merida showroom in Colonia Itzimna, just outside of the Centro and across from that area’s beautiful little church. And they have a showroom in Cancun. We would call their furniture modern with a colonial touch. The furniture they sell is well designed for this climate, and it is pricey. They also provide interior design services, if you are so inclined. And they can make furniture of your own design, so that you have something unique just to you.
Location: Calle 20 #99 x 19 y 21, Col. Itzimná
Nasström Frankly, we found our Couch Charming here. Nasstrom features Scandanavian designs made locally here in a town outside Merida called Uman. The company not only sells furniture here in Mexico, they are also an IKEA supplier. The showroom has lots of couch and chair designs to choose from. Your couch will made to order from a material and color of your choosing. There is a full range of classic designs, many of which are very comfortable and all of which are reasonably priced. The manager has architectural training (Tania Suarez Mendoza) and most people who work there speak some English.
Location: Calle 31 #104 x 20 y 24 (just past Gran Chapur on the right)
Wisecracker-Arteuropeo Furniture – One of the newest interiors stores in Merida is a collaboration between Wisecracker Design, a boutique interior design firm with projects in the U.S. and Mexico, and Arteuropeo, an established furniture and window coverings specialists with stores in Merida and Playa del Carmen. The Design Lab is the place to see an eclectic mix of custom-upholstered furniture made in their workrooms, case goods, a sprinkling of antiques, lighting, accessories and an exclusive line of architectural exterior furniture made entirely of recycled plastic milk bottles. The furniture is very up-to-the-minute modern and is also specially designed with the Yucatan climate in mind. The Design Labs, their interior design adjunct, “offers turnkey design solutions for residential, commercial and hospitality projects with an emphasis on customer service.”
Location: Calle 21 No.101 x 20, Colonia México
Phone: (999) 949-4404
Contact: Gerardo Nevarez Cervera
Yucatan Custom Furniture – As the name implies, Yucatan Custom Furniture makes furniture to your design. They also have some of their own designs, if you are lacking imagination at the moment. You can bring them a photo out of a magazine and say “Make This!” and they will. They don’t have a showroom, but they do have a website. And the owners speak English, so just call.
Want to be a responsible consumer? Find out about endangered tropical hardwoods here.
Want to get some interior design ideas? Local magazine Ambientes always features at least one home in the Yucatan and has local advertisers. You can find it on newstands around town.
Looking for a one-stop shop? Try Gringo Furniture, a new concept designed specifically for gringos furnishing their vacation homes.
Buying or building a house? Read all about doing it in the Yucatan in our Real Estate section.
Would you rather buy antique furniture? Check out our article with Merida's antique stores listed.