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Furnishing the Dream

Published Apr 1, 2009 - (Updated Dec 3, 2012)

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Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2009 issue.

The deal is done. After hours of signing unintelligible documents, the keys to your new condo are in hand! Suddenly, all those essential square meters of condominium you bargained so hard for seem like a vast wilderness. There’s no place to sit, nowhere to sleep and hectares of white walls – very “Zen,” but not very comfortable.

Your new quarters in Vallarta are doubtless your special place, a dream home by the sea, a private getaway-fantasy fulfilled, or maybe an investment to rent out. In any case, the daunting but exciting task of furnishing and decorating your new casa is at hand. Your development may have 10 or 20 or 200 condominiums exactly alike, so enhancing this space to reflect your taste and personality is key to not feeling as if you’re living in a hotel.

A four-hour trip to Guadalajara used to be required for furniture and home decor items, but Vallarta’s real estate explosion has produced a parallel increase in decorating options right here. Although quality furnishings, fixtures and home accessories, together with professional interior design services, are available today without leaving Vallarta, figuring out where to look, what to buy and whom to ask can be intimidating. While most upscale stores have personnel who speak English, once you’re dealing directly with craftspeople, a bit of Spanish comes in handy. And although you can pick out appliances and a TV at a USA-styled “big box” store easily enough these days, getting the water line to the refrigerator ice-maker installed may be a bit problematical on your own.

If you’re anxious to complete everything because family members are descending on you for their vacation or you’ve rented out the condo for the next three months, you’ll probably want to hire help. Many people simply don’t have the time or desire to deal with shopping – paradise should come complete with a shower curtain! And there are services that provide absolutely everything. Alternatively, if you can’t imagine paying someone to pick out a mattress pad for you and don’t mind living with the washing machine box as a dining table for a while, you can do it all yourself and have a wonderful adventure while creating a unique environment. Or, perhaps you’re moving to México forever and want to bring your north-of-the-border life with you – grandfather clock and all.

Getting Help

Assistance of every kind is available in Vallarta to help you complete your vision. Think about a Feng Shui expert to select colors for your walls. Do you need a landscape architect or just someone to help you find a sofa fabric that won’t fade in the afternoon sun?

A recent trend in condominium developments is the predesigned furnishings package for purchase along with your real estate. Similar decorating services are offered by individual interior designers, furniture stores and even real estate agencies. Packages can vary from just the basics to everything from wine glasses to hand towels – and, of course, the price will vary based on contents and quality. Turnkey furnishing by someone else certainly has appeal, but make sure your taste is reflected in the result.

More traditional than the “one-stop-move-in solution” is working with a specific decorator. Although it may be more expensive, more individuality is possible. Just explain about needing space for the 78 ceramic iguanas you’ve collected on beach vacations, and the decorator will arrange for shelving to be constructed. Did you want lights on those reptiles?

Choose your decorator carefully. Ask for references and to see completed projects. Check for experience in choosing furnishings and fabrics for the unique conditions of Vallarta: sun, sand and sea spray! Make certain that your styles are compatible and your budget is clear. Also, be unambiguous on cost and pricing. There may be an initial fee, as well as a percentage charged on any item purchased for you. Find out if you’ll be paying wholesale or retail prices and ask for facturas and invoices for everything. If there’s a problem with the special-order organic hemp upholstery later on, you’ll need a receipt.

Do It Yourself

Be brave. Fall in love with a bold painting or a hand-woven rug and decorate around it. Buy just the essentials at first, and then take time to explore the myriad stores and markets in Vallarta. Most shops will take the time to help you design the perfect sofa or suggest the right chairs for the table you’re purchasing, so don’t be shy – just ask. And from the smallest store to the biggest chain, if you don’t see exactly what you want, there are probably catalogs to choose from.

Make a trip to meet the wonderful furniture carvers in Michoacán and order an intricately carved headboard and gaily painted chairs. Journey to Puebla for talavera tiles and to nearer Tlaquepaque and Tonala for pottery, glassware, ironwork and rustic furniture.

Don’t worry about your Spanish; it will be a great chance to learn. Just bring pictures – from a magazine or of your neighbor’s condo – and a pad of paper, so there are no mistakes when bargaining. Do keep in mind that you’ll be paying flete, or shipping costs, for anything you buy outside of Vallarta, so compare prices with that in mind. Also remember that the fabulous, striped cotton fabric you buy in the Toluca market may not be designed to withstand the Pacific Coast afternoon sunshine!

Bring It All On Down

re you downsizing in the States or Canada and making Vallarta a main home? In that case, consider obtaining your FM-3, a visa that permits you not only to remain in Mexico an indefinite amount of time but also provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring all your household goods, or menaje de casa, into the country. The rules are somewhat convoluted and involve time limits, lists, serial numbers for anything that ever plugged into a wall and many forms, so be sure to check with the Mexican Consulate where you obtain the FM-3. Your lists are then certified by the Consulate, to be presented at the border crossing. You can load up a car, a trailer or a truckload and drive it down or arrange for an international mover and customs agent. But before loading the worn leather recliner into the van, think about how it will fit into your fashionable new apartment. Will Grandma’s dishes still look as great on your modern granite countertops?

However you decide to complete your Vallarta residence, enjoy the process and make it reflect your own dream, your own vision of a home, and you’ll be content.


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