Home Sweet Home, Indonesia, Life in Asia

My Indonesian Home Makeover Part 5: Furniture Shopping & Curtain Making

If I’ve learned anything about home decoration & renovations in Indonesia, it’s that nothing is simple as a foreigner. Furniture shopping is no exception. We chose to rent an empty house this time around, as our last home rental was fully furnished. So this was our first experience with buying furniture in Indonesia. And what an experience it is! We don’t have a Rooms 2 Go or another one-stop shop for tables, chairs, shelves and couches. There’s one furniture store I’ve seen in capital city that reminds me of furniture shopping back home. One. And it’s three hours away from us. In our new town, we shop for furniture a little differently.

First, as always, we started with our relationship network. Was there anyone we knew that knew someone moving away and selling furniture? Yes! We were able to buy a dining room table with 8 chairs, a queen size mattress & bed frame, 2 large bookshelves, a metal rack for the kitchen, 2 wooden folding chairs and a few smaller items from a family moving back to America. Buying used furniture is always a cheaper option! So we arranged to have these items delivered when we moved in. Additionally, our landlords left a queen sized bed and wardrobe in the master bedroom for us to use while we lived here. Things we were still looking for included some furniture for the baby’s room, bedside tables for the master bedroom & guest room, a desk, and some items for the entryway. We could go the cheaper route and shop for low quality particle board furniture. It’s readily available in some stores around here. The problem? It doesn’t last long. Because our homes don’t have central air conditioning, and we have a pretty intense rainy season, items that aren’t solid wood will absorb the humidity and mold quickly. The best piece of furniture to get for your money is always solid wood.

Shiny furniture shopping

So we began to look for a tukang meubel [furniture makers]! I searched for several that would match the style and price I was looking for. It was beginning to feel like a fruitless search. If I had to pick one word to describe in Indonesian furniture it would be “shiny”. The finishing on the wood makes many items in local woodworking shops look tacky and cheap. Not exactly the style I was hoping for. Then a friend told me about a woman who runs a furniture shop using recycled & reclaimed wood. I was hopeful. And when I first walked her in shop, I breathed a sigh of relief. This would definitely work.

The first three pieces we bought from Zakia’s Furniture Shop were a table for our master bathroom sink, a table for our entryway, and a bedside table for the guest room. They were stylish yet simple, which is my exact design aesthetic. She then told me what I had been hoping to hear… “I can make anything you want. Just send me photos and the size”. Perfect. I began searching furniture websites in America [West Elm, Pottery Barn, etc…] looking for desks, bedside tables and more. I kept sending her photos. And she kept making us furniture. So far, we’ve had her custom make a changing table for our little one, two bedside tables for the master bedroom, floating wall shelves and a desk. Occasionally I stop by her storefront to see if she has anything new, and always end up ordering something else. Probably by the end of all this, Zakia will have ended up furnishing the majority of our house.

The other furniture option we found was a shop that takes old furniture from hotels and repairs or remakes it. We got a great deal on a bench for our foyer and a kitchen table plus two wooden folding chairs to match our other two. These simple pieces were a great addition to helping our house feel more at home. We have yet to order or find a sofa we like, but I am more optimistic that we can something functional & fashionable to fill the space. I’ve really come to enjoy finding the right piece of furniture to fit a room or a space. It’s rarely easy, but it’s extremely satisfying.

The next big part of redoing our rooms was adding curtains. Our landlords left their ivory bulky curtains behind, and I wanted them switched out immediately. Again, just like with furniture shopping, I couldn’t just run out to Target or the local curtain store. I was going to have to get them custom made. So I stopped by a tukang korden [curtain maker]. He showed me samples of curtain styles and fabrics. I quickly realized what Indonesians consider curtain fabric is not what I wanted as curtain fabric. They were all thick & heavy polyester, and of course, shiny. I opted to look for my own fabric and bring it to the tukang korden.

Our little town has only a few fabric stores, and they are all at the central marketplace. I have been in my fair share of fabric stores. Back in America, I had a sewing machine and a serger and would sew regularly. I’m no stranger to fabric stores. Jo-Ann Fabrics coupons would be the highlight of my week. These stores however, are nothing like fabric stores in America. It feels like fabric exploded inside a storage unit. Many stores are so dark you can’t even accurately see the color of the fabric! There’s no organization by color or by fabric type. All the rolls of fabric are shoved haphazardly in bins and racks. I was so overwhelmed by the first shops I went into. But finally I found one that felt less overwhelming with a friendly owner. I explained what I was looking for and he pulled out many color options to choose from. He even cut samples of fabric from the roll for me to take home and match to the room. I picked a rich navy for the master bedroom and a Balinese batik for the prayer room. These would be the first set of curtains I would have made.

The tukang korden told me how much to buy, and I took him the fabric. Within a matter of days, the curtains were finished and ready to be hung. I was so happy with the final product. Simple but stylish and added a pop of color to both rooms. I will definitely be getting more curtains to come!

The final update we had done was the rest of the house painting. We loved the gray in our master bedroom so much that we expanded it to the living room, entryway, guest room, baby’s room, prayer room & hallway. It immediately changed the atmosphere of the house. It feels so light and airy in here now. We may continue to the back of the house & kitchen at some point, but for now, the painting is done and I couldn’t be happier. Hurray for new updates!

To read other stories from our Indonesian home makeover journey, click here!

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