Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding furniture

I was surprised to discover that it's kind of hard to find interesting furniture in Mérida. I love things that are old or modern classics, or at least unusual. Also, cheap. So it's a long hunt for the right object at the right price. NOB, I tend to find my favorite things at thrift stores and garage sales. Sometimes free, at the curb.

I'm not sure why Mérida, the oldest continuously-occupied (European) city in the Americas, and the wealthiest one in its heyday, appears to have a relative scarcity of good used furniture for sale. I wonder where it all went after the henequen industry collapsed early in the last century.

Still, the house in Mérida is slowly acquiring things I like that turn up here and there. On the latest trip, the priority was finding a coffee table or a couple of side tables for the sala. The front room had seating but no flat surface where you could set down a book or a drink, except the tile floor.

Over a couple of weeks, I searched without success, as far as my bike would take me.

Triunfo's basement
Triunfo, the overstuffed emporium of mostly junk and bad taste on Paseo de Montejo, sometimes has nice canework and tropical wood furniture in the basement level. On an earlier trip I bought a couple of plantation chairs there, but this time no coffee table spoke to me from the dark recesses.

"The junkyard", an open lot full of salvaged bits of houses, industrial remnants and some refinished furniture pieces, had some nice small tables that were tempting. So were the old-style wooden carts, possibly from the hacienda era although they seemed too pristine. However, the carts were too heavy-looking, and probably full of splinters.

"The junkyard"

Old wooden carts, or maybe reproductions?

Various shops sold mass-produced pieces made of particle board, or simple, rustic tables, or elaborately carved ones, but they wouldn't go with the other stuff in the sala. 

Then finally in one workshop near our house, obscured by the semi-darkness near the back, I noticed this old iron cart.

The shop-owners seemed a little puzzled that I would choose this amid all the lovely carved wood pieces they made. But dusted off and fitted with a glass top, we thought it was just what was needed.  


  1. That's brilliant! My hat's off to you for such a clever solution.

    Triunfo reminds me of the old Pearl River Mart in NYC's Chinatown, which used to be a cluttered firetrap that always held the promise of a "find." I just wish I was so good at separating the wheat from the chaff.

  2. I am so glad you posted this. I am all about recycled, refurbished, repurposed items for the home. As a matter of fact I just sold a store that was dedicated to just that. I have been under the impression that used furniture etc was not to be found in Merida but I guess people just don't know where to look. When I get there and start treasure hunting for my home, I will need to know where these places are. Maybe we can go junkin' together. :>)


  3. The table is great. We've found the same kind of issues here. Honduras is much poorer than Mexico, and the notion of secondhand furniture - at least in Copan - just doesn't exist. People use stuff until it's beyond salvage. We wanted a sofa - the white plastic chairs we had for the kitchen weren't all that comfortable for lounging. But you can only buy sofa, loveseat, armchair sets in the two stores that sell such things. Our landlord had a line on a guy who would make a sofa, or at least a wood frame with clean lines, and we'd hunt down foam and some of some sort of covering. But, for a couple of weeks, he was always about to start on the project the next day. So we jumped at the rare chance to buy a secondhand sofa, loveseat, armchair set. It's not beautiful, but it serves.
    It's interesting, because there are some skilled woodworkers here. But they haven't thought much about design or marketing. And, as I learned at a workshop a couple of weeks ago, they're much worried about cheap Ikea-style kit furniture, but unsure what to do about it.

  4. Lee, I've learned to check out a few select corners of Triunfo and ignore the rest. I also learned not to carry bulky stuff around in the store, because I knocked something off a shelf and had to buy it - it was hideous too.

    Cheryl, I look forward to more junkin'!

    Paul, I am in awe of how much you and Jody have accomplished already in Copan Ruinas, with your cute little house and so many other things. I hope you're starting to feel at home there.

  5. Is Triunfo located beside, or near, Scotia Bank which is across the street from the Palacio Something-or-other?

  6. the basement of el triunfo is my favorite spot, love to find those junk yards. the table is absolutely amazing

  7. Like your finds. There is an antique shop on c. 49, between 60 y 62, I think, Lots of old furniture,tables,chests, etc. It's hit or miss, but the owner, Israel, has a good eye. I've found a couple of things there and the prices are reasonable (you can negotiate the price as well).
    The name of the shop is "Bagdag."

  8. Thanks! I'll look for that shop on our next visit.

  9. Did you go tothe "BIG" junkyard??? I have heard of it...but no one seems to know where it is...Would you have an address??? Several of us junkers want to go!
    Dany Ream

  10. I too would like to know where the Junkyard is!


  11. Hi Annette,
    I keep forgetting the exact address so I just cycle around until I find it. So I just went and did the same thing on Google Street View and found it at C. 81 x C. 50. I love Street View!