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Living in France: Looking for Furniture

We are getting ready to move into our new apartment so we are trying to figure out furniture. The apartment is partially furnished so it has beds and some basics (some of which are funny looking.) But it is so different buying for an apartment that is temporary versus one that has pieces you will keep (we likely won’t be bringing any furniture back to the states with us.)

It is like I’m back in college and have to try to make everything look good on zero budget. (A challenge but also kind of fun.) I’m going to try some thrift stores later this week and we’ll also make an Ikea run for some basics. (All of which include the logistics of renting a car and driving all over crazy Paris.)

Anyone have any tips for making a space look good on a super small budget? Right now my priorities are: good lighting, comfy places to sit, and artwork. Since those three things make everything cozy and pretty.

Here are some pictures Paul took last week of our new neighborhood. Like Ali said. “Too bad that huge radio tower is so close to your apartment.”

  1. Shauntelle @ A Beautiful Abode

    February 23, 2011

    Wow–how awesome to live so close to the Eiffel Tower! What an adventure you'll have…

    So far, I've mostly lived in rentals so I've become pretty good at decorating them. To me the most important thing is to really define your look BEFORE you start shopping. That way, you can choose the key pieces you need to get the look your going for, and then use inexpensive and creative accessories to make the place really feel like your own.

    Don't underestimate shopping on craigslist there. We've dream shopped in Paris and seen interesting pieces.

    Personally, I'd live in the space for a couple of weeks before making time and energy investments in hitting up the Ikea for additional furniture. I don't think you can ever REALLY tell exactly how you will use a place until you've lived there for a bit… and I've wasted time and money buying furniture in a hurry, only to find out later that we needed something completely different based on how we lived in the place.

  2. Lindsay

    February 23, 2011

    I would recommend not renting a car for your IKEA trip. There is surely a metro or bus that goes there and they deliver – and it's probably cheaper than renting a car. Plus they bring it into your apartment – no hauling it from your car and up stairs (or a probably rickety, small elevator). We did this in Madrid when we lived there for a year and a half. I think it was around 65 Euros, although that was in 2005.
    Oh, we also found our sectional couch at IKEA in the former floor model section at half the cost of a new one. We still have it (now in Greece) six years later.
    Good luck on your adventure! My husband and I met in Paris 15 years ago at the oh so young age of 21! It will always be my favorite city.

  3. hearttypat

    February 23, 2011

    the pictures are too cute! I'm also in the midst of posting my honeymoon pictures on my blog. i just don't know how to cut down on my numbers! I wanna share everything! haha

  4. Carla Cavellucci Landi

    February 23, 2011

    I second the opinion of not renting a car, unless you are thinking about going to other places, but keep it small. I rented a big SUV (way too expensive!!!)just to go there and find Ikea delivers and climb any mountain!
    Just go there and pick, leave the rest to them! Good luck!!!

  5. jordan

    February 23, 2011

    Ikea delivers!? Perfect.

  6. Leann

    February 23, 2011

    One good lamp, posters, a nice rug for accent.

  7. Ne

    February 23, 2011

    i would splurge on Art if you know you want to bring it home. if not, you and paul are far more talented than most of the rest of the world and can surely cover your walls. Remember time will FLY. Cheap lighting, so IKEA is probably a perfect option. Used furniture for sure. Free is best.

  8. annabelvita

    February 23, 2011

    Freecycle? I've had great success in London, but it can end up being time consuming: /
    Have you been to the Marche Aux Puces in Saint Ouen?

    And Ikea in France does deliver. (but all their pillowcases that come with sheet sets are square!)

  9. alexandra

    February 23, 2011


    Have you ever heard of Emmaüs? It's a place where You can buy second hands stuff for very low prices (furnitures/clothes/toys….EVERYTHING)

    There are a lot of stores here in Paris, for example:
    Boutique Emmaüs: 80 boulevard Jourdan, 75014 PARIS/ 54 Rue Charonne, Paris/ 22 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris / 18 Rue Aude, Paris
    I know the one in the 19th inside the art Center called "LE 104" (I sent You the link of this place via facebook a few days ago)
    You should defenitely go;-)
    À bientôt!

  10. Creole Wisdom

    February 23, 2011

    I have some good tips 🙂

    -Bargain. I know this will be harder in French, but it's certainly worth a shot
    -Know the garbage pick up days in both the wealthier neighborhoods and also the ones with lots of students. It's amazing what people throw out, and don't read that in a gross way, but I've found a few pieces (nothing fabric) just waiting for the trash.
    -Obviously sales and thrift shops. Flea markets
    -Getting creative, which you are good at doing.
    -Last I'd say to stick to a theme. Sometimes I find something very inexpensive and beautiful but it doesn't work with my space. So I resist.

    Good luck! 🙂 I'm sure it will all turn out lovely!

  11. janel

    February 23, 2011

    You’re so lucky! One of my dreams is to be able go shopping in France for antiques/furniture! But I wouldn't want to leave it 🙁


  12. Little Coco, Little V and Emilie

    February 23, 2011

    I would check out Craig's list and the village Popincourt (a cute area with vintage furniture shops). The Emmaus in the 104 is good. Also there is a group of shops called with is a "depot vente" site which I love having a look at: there is so much cheap stuff that can be upcycled. They don't have any shops in the centre of Paris but in the outskirts. Do also check out fusac as a lot of expat put in ads to sell off their furniture when they move… Hope this helps

  13. Diana

    February 23, 2011

    I would almost want to make sure I hate the furniture if you know you have to leave it one day. Shipping overseas is expensive!

  14. rebecca s.

    February 23, 2011

    loving all of your paris posts! i have to say, i am sure you will make your new home just lovely. why not use some of the wonderful photos your husband has been taking for art? or maybe have the children create some things for the wall…? this way you can bring them home with you and they will always remember that they made it in paris…

  15. Noemie

    February 23, 2011

    You can find Emmaus. It's cheap price for old furniture. It's a place where people works to find a new place in the society. It's realy cool cause you can create for few money. You have one in Villiers sur Marne Plessis Trevise (on the RER E). On the same station you can go to Ikea… (15minutes walking or 5 with the bus 110 or 106)
    I hope i will help you. It's just amazing, I read you when you lived in USA and now you are in Paris. Live with the city and she will give you the best!

  16. {BlueEyedYonder}

    February 23, 2011

    You and your husband are super talented and more than capable of making art for your home, however I think it would be fun to involve some of your blog followers.

    Have them volunteer to create small pieces of art that exude the "Oh Happy Day" vibe. They could mail them to you and you could create a meaningful art display. It would be fun to see what readers create and watch as the piece comes together.

    There's lots of fun ways of doing this. I just love the idea of creating a piece for you and knowing in a small way I am a part of your very big adventure.

    Happiest of wishes on your exciting move!

  17. Miss Rubio

    February 23, 2011

    How exciting to be shopping in Paris for your apartment. Lamps definitely make a place cozier…go for a large rug too (inexpensive at flea market), maybe purchase some inexpensive fabric and make window treatments, and lots of cool funky pillows to cozy up the space, you can throw them on the floor for seating have more on the couch, beds…and you can go for pillows that have zippered covers so maybe that way if you love them so much you can bring back the pillow cover with you and not necessarily the entire pillow 🙂 Good luck and have fun…can't wait to see pictures of the new place.

  18. The Time Is Now

    February 23, 2011

    Oh yeah, that radio tower, what horrible view.
    Congratulations on the move! Bloody hell, France! I'm jealous:) That right picture, what a cute shot, the little kid's pose cracks me up, like a marching toy soldier:)

    I don't have any tips, unfortunately. Looking at your blog I know whatever you come up with will be pretty and cozy, just perfect for you.

  19. Anna

    February 23, 2011

    wow. just wow. you even have a cute little babe too! Have fun!

  20. suzie

    February 23, 2011

    Hey, if you want second-hand furniture you can go to Emmaüs (very cheap) or (it's a french website where people put advertisments in order to sell stuff they don't want anymore)
    You've also got Troc de l'Ile and That's all i know for second-hand furniture. Anyway, you can find "cheap" furniture at Ikea, Fly, Conforama… But Ikea is the less expensive one in France, for sure. Good luck : ]

  21. Katherine

    February 23, 2011

    I'm an American who has been living in Europe for 9 years.

    I second the comments that you should definitely check out Emmaüs for furniture and the like. Very cheap stuff that you can repurpose. I'm trying to think of the US equivalent – maybe The Salvation Army. I agree that you do not need a car to go to Ikea. And, yes, Ikea delivers, but usually only large(r) items – sofas, etc. For decorating on a budget, you should definitely also check out these stores:
    1. Castorama ( – France's answer to Home Depot/Lowes and then some. It's a chain, so you can find them all over.
    2. BHV ( – BHV stands for Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville, and the original store was and still is in the Hôtel de Ville of Paris, Rue de Rivoli. It really is a big bazar. There's a little of everything, from hardware to linens, and the prices tend to be reasonable.
    3. Fly ( – France's answer to Ikea. I think it's only an online store, though. I would take a look at their website before trekking to Ikea, because you might see something you like more and for less. Plus, you can shop from your sofa.
    4. AM/PM by La Redoute – perhaps one of France's best online/catalogue retailers ( The furniture is not too expensive, and the bed linens tend to be of good quality.
    I hope this helps!

  22. .caroline armelle.

    February 23, 2011

    what a fun adventure!

    i used to live in that neighborhood just near the military school on avenue de la motte pique, and i loved the area, and my morning runs had a nice radio tower view!

    so jealous of you..

  23. Lori C.

    February 23, 2011

    I wish that I was living in France with you and Gabby! I would gather eggs from Gabby's neighbor and make fresh crepes for all of us in your apartment next to the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy every minute of this adventure. I will be enjoying it vicariously through your blog.

  24. Anonymous

    February 23, 2011

    Jordan, have you ever seen the Nomadic Furniture books by James Hennessey? I think they may have been written before you were born. If you type in Nomadic Furniture under Google images you will see seating ideas made from cardboard. You are so creative, I bet you could make something beautiful. There are also other interesting ideas there for children. Good luck…

  25. sya

    February 23, 2011

    jordan, you are such an inspiration. a really huge one to me and my husband. we're crossing our fingers that someday we would also be able to live and work in paris. the photos are rad! wish you all the best in decorating your new parisian apartment 😉 cant wait to see more pics when all's done. cheers!

  26. Christy

    February 23, 2011

    What a fabulous adventure!
    My husband and I are planning to make the move to France with our 2 little ones as well. This gives me great encouragement!! I love reading your posts and the tips from everyone. So fun!!!

  27. Alie

    February 23, 2011

    I know it might not be the best option, but have you considered shopping for ugly pictures (beautiful frames) in thrift stores? We're on a college budget and found this giant frame at the thrift store and I repainted it. I just painted right over the current painting. It doesn't look fantastic, but it looks pretty good:

  28. Mariela

    February 23, 2011

    Not at all about the furniture, but… was just in Paris staying right below the Eiffel tower and happened upon the most magical little street of local food shops. You must go to Rue de Lourmel. The cheese shop, the boucher, the patisserie and other shops have the most beautiful food displays both indoors and on the sidewalk. It's a very special place to take it all in and mix with the locals. ENJOY!

  29. Barb @ getupandplay

    February 23, 2011

    I don't have any practical Paris advice (although I'm really impressed at all these commenters who do!) But It think defining a color palette ahead of time for textiles is a great way to ensure that things look pulled together. Then I would choose a few versatile, useful items to serve as art or color- like a throw blanket or curtains.

  30. Chica

    February 23, 2011

    Haha, he actually called it a radio tower 😀 ! But its so col that you live right next to the Tower ! Lucky !

  31. jonahliza

    February 23, 2011

    i totally understand what yah mean. I've become a little more particular about purchasing furniture. on a side note, these photos are so beautiful.. i love the one with you strolling down the street. i wanna take one like that, whenever i finally travel to paris. have a lovely rest of the week.

  32. Bedroom furniture

    February 23, 2011

    It is quite hard to manage your furniture in a low budget, find some used ones if you can.

  33. La Ballena Elena

    February 24, 2011

    Yes Jordan, IKEA delivers.
    In Barcelona, it depends on the amount of the invoice, the more you spend the more expensive is the deliver
    They have an oportunity section (I don't know the exact word in English) where you can find things half price
    There's this second hand store too, you can check on their website the stuff they have in each store

  34. nik

    February 24, 2011

    Love your blog, I read it everyday!

    My tip: Save on the lighting: buy a pack special lampshade paper and d.i.y. the children will love to colour theirs and there is lots of really cool instructions for the grown-ups all over the web. Saving on each lamp in the appartement will sum up fast!

  35. hubbub

    February 24, 2011

    Hello, do you know the website le bon coin it's a kind of french craigslist. If you can go to emmaus also it's quite good for cheap stuff/furniture.

  36. Milimelo

    February 24, 2011

  37. Alfred Gamer

    February 24, 2011

    Pretty beautiful! I think that the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of love. Thanks!

  38. kim

    February 24, 2011

    When in Montpelier (in the south of France) I remember seeing that you can hire a van from Ikea itself in order to take your purchases home, and that the hire periods were in blocks of half an hour, or something. I couldn't possibly have dreamt that, could I?! I wonder if they do that in Paris too?

    Super nice photos, by the way! What a perfect Parisian apartment you must have!

  39. little t

    February 24, 2011

    That is too funny. I think it was Hitler that said it was the ugliest monstrosity he had ever seen 🙂

  40. Busy as a Bee in Paris

    February 24, 2011

    Jordan, LOVE all your photos! Ikea is a perfect go-to for all your furnishing needs, also you can rent a van from them for very cheap to drive your stuff back home. One other thing you might want to try is for furniture, lighting and artwork. You can even limit your search to your postal code so that you don't have to travel too far. Bon courage! and can't wait to see what you come up with!

  41. Leaning on Grace

    February 24, 2011

    With your photo skills, my cheap idea is forget the artwork and print some of your photographs! You could print ones of your favorite places and your favorite people from back home to keep you company during your adventure!

    Ikea has these great inexpensive white dressers (and other pieces for the bedroom). They might also come in dark brown and black. But, you could totally personalize them with vinyl cutouts or paint. Or by themselves they are shiny and bright…and work great. You could use one as a table in LR, DR, or kitchen as a buffet (since I am guessin space is kind of tight!). And since they all break down for assembly, you just might want to bring them home when you are done!

    Lastly, some ambient can lighting placed on the floor behind a sofa or a floor plant and pointed upwards can really warm the place up…then you just need a couple of lamps and you can splurge a little more on those. But Ikea has awesome lighting! Have fun!

  42. Kris

    February 24, 2011

    My husband and I moved from Utah to England over three years ago. We had hardly any furniture to start with. I ended up buying most everything second hand on ebay(the UK site). I know there is an ebay France site too:

  43. Nancy

    February 24, 2011

    I don't know if France does this but Germany has junking days where people leave stuff they want to get rid of on the curb in front of their house and people can help themselves to the stuff. Later a truck comes by and picks it up.I got some great stuff on junking day! It goes on throughout the year. I only wish I would have picked up the giant glass olive oil bottles. Pottery barn now sells them for over $100.00!

  44. Noemie

    February 24, 2011

    To answer to Nancy : We have it, but it's depend of the City. In fact the first Monday/Tuesday/… of each Month. We called it "Les monstres".

  45. Dina

    February 24, 2011

    Ikea-that is what I bought while living in France, cheap and stylish, and then filled in with accessories (but I bet you already thought of this!).

  46. Sarah

    February 24, 2011

    Having moved from the US to London (and back!) recently, I understand your frustrations about temporary furniture.

    Mildly off-topic (and you might have seen it already) but there is the most adorable animated movie about french cliches I just posted on my blog, that might be fun to watch since you are a new Parisian:

  47. Natalie Marie

    February 24, 2011

    well how cute! too close to the radio tower!!! I love it! I just moved and had no furniture either… I did exactly what you are thinking, hitting up thrift shops, craigslist (I look several times a day under free, You will be surprised at what people get rid of). I have no doubt you will make your apartment beautiful and I can't wait to see the progress. Good luck.

  48. Katherine

    February 24, 2011

    ebay is huge over there for that sort of stuff, check it out.

  49. Laura

    February 24, 2011

    Having just graduated college, I definitely know what it's like to be looking for inexpensive furniture and decor that you like – but not so much that you'll be really depressed when you have to leave it behind when you move a couple months later.

    My best trick is to pick either black or white as an anchor point (I chose white because I didn't want to have to deal with painting the walls and then painting them back white when I move out). Then you can easily find decor items in that anchor color almost anywhere! Here in the States, Target and Home Goods are probably my favorites.

    It's also fairly easy to find furniture that "goes". It can be difficult to find solid black or white, but you can usually find something that fits with your other stuff. So keep color as your unifying element and it doesn't matter what style things are in!

    Also, fresh flowers are a must (and apparently you can get those very easily in Paris!) and they instantly make your space look more polished.

  50. Katie

    February 24, 2011

    Your life is so absolutely amazzzzzing:) I look forward to hearing about all of the amazing adventures that are in store for you and your family!!

    With the being said, regarding temporary furniture, have you thought of renting it? I actually work for CORT Furniture Rental here in the US and can check if they have locations where you are. Its fab for exactly what you need it for, super chic, and classy, yet fits in a budget and you don't have to worry about it at the end as they deliver, set up and pick up.

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