Inside the Dream House!

Designing and building our dream house was absolutely incredible and a lot of fun...but let's call a spade a spade...the bit I was always really looking forward to was furnishing it! 

My parents are both architects and my Mum specialises in interior design, so I practically grew up in Ikea and spent my holidays in forced admiration of famous buildings and design galleries. Not to mention the fact that the inside of our childhood home seemed to undergo a complete re-design on an annual basis as my parents embraced the latest trends and colour fashions. I guess you could say that a love of interior design is in someway in my blood.

But let's just clarify that I have exactly zero training or experience! Nevertheless, I was chomping at the bit to fill our empty house with beautiful, comfortable & fun things.

First up, I had to navigate the scary and overwhelming world of figuring out how I could source, order and end up with furniture and accessories from the US in my lovely home in Cayman. As mentioned in previous posts, I'm a big supporter of shopping local, but the fact of the matter is that for a project of our size the options on island were:

1. Go with a traditional style - the likes of Ashley Furniture and Marksons are full of great products if you like a traditional style home.

2. Stick with my contemporary taste and buy one piece of furniture a year for the rest of my life because the prices for the gorgeous things in the designer stores like Design Studio are sadly outside of my budget. 

So I had to look elsewhere - and that meant shopping in the US.

The first thing I did was figure out a shipping option. Deluxe had been recommended to us so I reached out and was immediately impressed with their responsiveness and eagerness to help. I filled out a couple of new client forms and within days I was set up with an account and a dedicated rep. The process is simple - you ship anything you want to their warehouse address in Miami and as soon as you receive your order confirmation, you email it to your rep who makes a record of it and ensures it's received at the warehouse. They will store packages free of charge for up to 30 days so you don't have to worry about everything arriving at the same time. They'll pile items up together as they receive them and store them until you give them the go-ahead that you're ready to ship. 

I had created mood boards for each space so I had a good idea of how I wanted each room to look, and hubby and I had agreed on a reasonable budget. Now we were ready to shop! We did most of our furniture shopping in one of six places - each with it own merits listed below:

1. Ikea

Contemporary, Scandinavian furniture and accessories for the whole house at unbeatable prices. My Mum describes shopping at Ikea as the equivalent to H&M for clothing. You wouldn't wear a whole outfit from H&M out to lunch, but when worn in combination with other labels, H&M pieces can pass for designer and, in some cases, last forever. 

PROS: Good quality at incredible prices. 

CONS: You can't shop online unless you have a US credit card and you need to have a lot of time and patience for assembly! Delivery can take 6-8 weeks depending on stock availability and items aren’t necessarily well packaged for shipping so you can expect some damage (although we were lucky and everything arrived in perfect condition!)

TOP TIP: You can make international orders by wire transfer over the phone! Call the kitchen ordering team and ask them to put you through to the export department. If you have a shopping list saved on their website (it's easy to set up an account and put a list of all the things you want together) they can pull it up using your email address - they'll then email the order over to you with wire instructions. As soon as they receive the funds they'll process your order - AND they don't charge tax on export items. 

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IKEA TOP FINDS:

1. Stocksund chair: $429

2. Strandmon chair: $249

3. Ottoman: $69

4. Malm bed: $499

5. Morum Rug: 6x9: $99

6. Branas Basket: $12.99

7. Smaata chopping board: $19.99

8. Lantern: $3.99

9. Fargrik Dinner set: $24.99

10. Hektar lamp: $54.99

2. AllModern

Wayfair's sister site, allmodern basically has the same stock at Wayfair but automatically filters for contemporary styles to narrow down the search if a modern look is what you're after. 

PROS: You can find items for incredible prices, much cheaper than the high street, as well as unique and fun designs. They'll also refund sales tax to your credit card as soon as you send them the bill of lading on receipt of your items in Cayman.

CONS: It takes a while to trawl the site and as there aren't any physical stores you can't try before you buy which means taking a bit of a leap of faith 

TOP TIP: Read all of the reviews and make sure you measure properly. Pictures can be deceiving so make sure you check the dimensions of items to ensure they're going to fit your space. Reviews from other customers are also hugely useful - many shoppers post photos of the items in their own home as well as their personal experiences with the items. 

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ALLMODERN TOP FINDS:

1.Bedside Table: $115

2. Chaise: $350

3. Cushion: $30

4. House Numbers: $25

5. TV console: $350

6. Coffee Table: $190

7. Patio hightop and chairs: $450

8. Rhino lamp: $65

10. Dog Bed: $85

11. Table Lamp: $160

3. West Elm

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous items at what I'm call "reasonable" prices.

PROS: Beautiful products, great quality, easy assembly and well packaged for safe delivery. With store locations in pretty much every city in the US it's easy to pop in to window shop before you make your final choices. 

CONS: They also don't accept international credit cards unless you order over the phone. Getting a sales tax refund is a NIGHTMARE (it's taken me 9 months to get our money back!)

TOP TIP: Make use of their regular sales - they usually coincide with public holidays in the US and over Thanksgiving they often have a "buy more, save more" promotion which can save you up to 30% if you're spending $3000 or more. They also have flash sales on different departments fairly regularly but they only last a day or two so sign up for their newsletter and hop on when the price is right!

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WEST ELM TOP FINDS:

1. Urban Sofa: $1500-2500

2. Counter stool: $270

3. Mod upholstered Bed: $1099

4. Audrey Nightstand: $399

5. Outdoor sofa $2198

6. Portside deckchair $699

7. Kilim rug $899

4. CB2

Crate & Barrel’s little sister - CB2 has some very funky products at lower prices than it's more expensive counterpart.

PROS: Great quality products with gorgeous stores and exceptional customer service

CONS: I'm not sure I can think of any?!

TOP TIP: Sign up to their newsletter for 15% off your first order. You can also claim your sales tax back quickly and easily by sending your bill of lading to their customer service department

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CB2 TOP FINDS:

1. Joya basket: $69.95

2. Asa rug: $799

3. Milk jug: $12.95

4. Audrey nightstand: $229

5. Dining chair: $399

6. Dylan dining table: $1399

7. Bone table: $499

8. Pineapple Ice Bucket: $69



5. Amazon.com

Great for smaller home accessories like bedding, kitchen utensils and storage solutions

PROS: Shop for pretty much anything and receive it in a matter of days. 

CONS: There's no way of claiming sales tax back and it's incredible different to make a claim for damaged items once you've shipped them to a freight forwarder. The packaging is hugely inefficient and wasteful and you’ll often end up shipping a box thats’s four times the size of the item.

TOP TIP: Similarly to allmodern or wayfair, reviews are your friends. If an item has only one or two reviews and isn't available on prime, steer clear! 

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AMAZON TOP FINDS

1. Floating shelves: $40

2. Frames: $11-50

3. Lamp: $19.99

4. Placemats: $8.99

5. Instagram frames: $63.99

6. Kettle: $70

THE PROCESS

Some things you can take a gamble on and order online without seeing them first, like small pieces of furniture and accessories with good reviews that you’re confident will look like they do in the picture. But some things you just have to try before you buy. There was no way we were dropping large sums of money on sofas and dining chairs that we were going to use every day without sitting on them first. So we booked a trip to Miami to put everything through it’s paces. If you want to do this efficiently I would suggest the following:

  1. Chose things you like online first and make a shortlist, by store. Include product names, codes and prices on your list so you can identify them easily in the shop.

  2. Figure out the fastest route around the shops you want to go to. Plan it on google maps and get a hire car with GPS!

  3. Go into each shop with a list of things you want to look at and try not to get distracted. If you can find a shop assistant to show you the items you’re looking for, even better, as furniture shops aren’t always arranged in a logical fashion!

Trust me when I say that although furniture shopping sounds like a lot of fun, it’s exhausting when you have to cover off a lot of items in one day and there was no one more grateful than my husband for a focused approach! It meant that once we found the things we had picked out online, and seen them in real life we could give them a simple thumbs up or down and move on, rather than being overwhelmed by options, getting fatigued and not being able to make any decisions.

SHIPPING TO CAYMAN

As I mentioned, we used Deluxe shipping who consolidated all of our orders as they came in and shipped them as and when we were ready. It takes 2 days for items to get to Cayman once they've left Miami, and Deluxe work with CICA to clear all of their shipments. You don't pay a penny until the items have arrived on island, and have been cleared through customs, at which point CICA will contact you to let you know that your shipment is ready for collection or delivery. Be warned, this process can take anything between 2 days and 2 weeks from when the containers actually arrive on island....it's a lesson in patience! Oh and they don’t take cards - so you need to take a step back in time and order a bank cheque once you know how much you owe, or have cash to pay for both shipping and duty. Only once you’ve paid off the full amount can you collect your items or arrange to have them delivered.

UNPACKING & BUILDING

Don’t think it’s all over when your boxes arrive! That’s where the hard work really begins! Ikea is in it’s own league of flat pack, but most furniture requires some sort of assembly so you need to be armed with a sharp pen knife for opening and flattening boxes, a screwdriver or drill and a hammer.

Then TA-DA you’re done! (Only you’re not ever done because now you’ve caught the homeware bug there’s no turning back from adding trendy accents to your gorgeous abode!)


So there we go - all your need to know to furnish your house with beautiful things without getting overwhelmed or paying too much. Good luck!

 
Furnishing a contemporary home with designer pieces on a budget. Full guide about building a home in the Caribbean and importing furniture on www.caribbeansnowflake.com.png