Here is another subject that local expats don’t seem able to agree on. Many feel that you should not bring furniture when you move here from abroad and then, when you get here, buy whatever you need in Cuenca. Most, who feel this way, plan to live here for a year or more and then move on. This group may find it best to rent a furnished apartment and not have to buy anything that will later need to be shipped somewhere else. Some are concerned with the cost and hassle of shipping a container full of furniture and prefer either renting furnished or buying all new furnishings in Cuenca. Then there is the group, to which we belong, who are coming to Ecuador to live permanently and want to bring the furniture they love. We shipped a 40’ container from North Carolina through Guayaquil to Cuenca with no damage and nothing lost. The cost for a door to door shipment for a total of 15,000 pounds was approximately $12,000. It was a happy day when we opened all the boxes and our favorite things tumbled out. The house we bought in Challuabamba was quite large and needed some additional furnishings so we had to go shopping. As we have mentioned before, when you purchase a house or apartment in Ecuador, no appliances will come with the sale. They go with the previous owner. If you are shipping a container, it may be your choice to include your existing washer, dryer, stove, and refrigerator. Costs to buy new appliances in Cuenca are roughly the same as the US for Whirlpool, Mabe, Indurama, and LG so bringing yours may not make sense. Ecuador’s electric circuitry uses the same 110 volts and identical plugs as used in the US. Furniture can be purchased already made at many furniture stores and the choice is excellent if you want modern styling but few choices if you want a different period. There is some limitation as to the choice of fabrics because the fabric styling on ready- made furniture is quite unusual in Ecuador which makes choice more difficult. A second possibility, if you are looking to find inexpensive furniture is to purchase it ready-made at any one of many small furniture stores located primarily along Calle Larga. A double bed can be purchased at one of these Mom and Pop stores for under $200. They also have inexpensive armoires, chests of drawers, tables and chairs. A third possibility is to have furniture hand made. Since our home is filled with Victorian furniture we decided to have the additional pieces we needed made to order.
We looked at many places that make furniture and found one called Louis XV that appealed to us. In the front of the store there is a furniture display of items that they have made. But out back, in what must once have been a stable, a half dozen men stand in piles of sawdust and wood shavings as they sand and chisel by hand to make intricate designs in wood. It took about a month for them to finish the job but we were very pleased with the outcome. We had two queen size beds, two night stands, and two living room, low, center tables made of solid wood and when we say solid wood, we really mean it. They are not made of fabricated wood with veneer glued on top. They are solid wood and extremely heavy. It took a number of tries for the spray man to get the right look as almost all furniture made in Ecuador has a dark reddish-brown, high gloss look. You have to almost beg to get the workers to make the color a lighter brown with a see through, satin finish.
For mattresses, we found a small shop that is actually a distributor to most of the small furniture stores. His shop was about the size of a one car garage filled with mattresses stacked on end. We chose a couple to test. He put them on the cement sidewalk and asked Loretta to lie down on each to try it out. This is a photo we wish we had. People walked by only casually looking at this woman lying on a mattress on the sidewalk with her eyes closed. A queen pillow top runs about $230. At another hand made manufacturer, we had a couch, love seat and two upholstered chairs made. We chose a photograph from a furniture magazine as the model for them to duplicate. We then visited two huge fabric shops with the owner and chose the fabric. The pieces included loose pillows which were absolutely huge. We asked them to remake them half-size and they are still quite large. These pieces also came out well and fit right in with our old Victorian furniture.
So, there are a few different ways to deal with furniture, bring your own with you, buy inexpensive ready-made or store inventory, or have it made. Any way you look at it, the process, like everything else is long and tedious but well worth it.