Furnishing your Off-Plan
Furnishing your new home in Spain can be an overwhelming and under budgeted for task. You may have already stretched yourself to the limit to fund your second home in Spain, so the last thing you want to do is overspend on furnishings, especially if you intend to rent it out.
The following points are certainly worth considering before you embark upon this huge task:
Some people find it more cost effective to drive furniture over from the UK.
Will you select furniture according to your own personal taste and comfort, or do you need to consider durability particularly if you are going to be renting it out?
Many Spanish furniture shops offer furniture packages including everything from the beds to the cutlery. This is useful if you are under pressure to furnish your apartment quickly. You can expect to pay anything from £5000 upwards. However, your home may look a little contrived and lack individuality.
Unfortunately, there aren't many IKEAs in Spain, however there is one in Seville and plans to open one in Malaga in 2007. In the meantime van drivers across the Costa del Sol will do a pick up and delivery run for yours and others' orders.
It's worthwhile checking out the hypermarkets such as Carrefour, Alcampo, Hipercor (El Corte Ingles's supermarket). With regards to Carrefour they have a selection of sofas, beds and cheap, flat pack furniture in their bigger stores. We were lucky enough to pick up some great Portuguese, rustic furniture ie dining table, chest of drawers etc for a very reasonable price in Alcampo, La Canada, Marbella. However, you really have to keep your eyes peeled for such offers and buy it as soon as you see it because it goes very quickly. For all your kitchen utensils you will find everything you need from can openers to crockery in any of the stores mentioned above.
Bed linen can be a tricky issue and many British just don't know where to start as the Spanish do beds differently! Instead of the square pillows that we are used to, the Spanish use long, narrow ones that lie under the head and not the shoulders. So if you are going to bring pillowcase sets with you from the UK, make sure you bring the pillows to go inside them. As is becoming fashionable in the UK, the Spanish are fond of using throws to give a 'finished' look to the room.
Duvets aren't as commonly used as blankets and sheets are preferred. However, you can buy duvets, again the same stores would be your easiest option. They also sell duvet covers sets but remember the pillowcases are long and thin to cover the long pillows. For summer bedding look out for packs labelled 'juego de sabanas' which contain a fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcase cover, again a long one for the long pillow. The summer nights are unbearably hot and it's worthwhile having a few cheap sheet sets because you will need to frequently change them.
If you are looking for familiarity you might want to take a trip to Gibraltar where Marks and Spencer and BHS have some choice, although it is not quite what we are used to with our bigger UK stores.
When decorating children's bedrooms there is a lack of choice compared to the UK and if you have a particular theme in mind, it might be worthwhile bringing bed linen and accessories in your luggage. However, if you are into Pooh Bear and Mickey Mouse, they are everywhere!
If you've ever spent time in Spain during the winter you will know that it does get really cold indoors at night. You will certainly need a couple of electric heaters and these can be bought at the stores mentioned above or any other electrical appliance shop. Some people use gas heaters, however you will have to be approved before a company like Repsol will issue Gas. Electric blankets are useful for preventing the damp bed feeling that you get on retiring for the night. Before you go kitting out every room with heaters, I should point out that electricity is much more expensive than in the UK and do not be surprised if you are landed with a big bill at the end of winter.
Don't forget to buy a couple of rugs for the floor. Although marble and tiled flooring can be refreshingly cool during the summer, it can feel like walking on ice when bare foot in the winter. Bring your cosiest, fur lined slippers and flannelette pyjamas for winter!
If you decide to buy leather sofas, you will definitely need throws for the winter. You can again pick these up at the usual stores or at any of the various markets, which are held on different days in different towns.
Markets and more
On the subject of markets, be prepared to haggle, furniture bargains can be had. Look out for the market in Marbella for chests of drawers, mirrors and all sorts of eclectic pieces.
If you are looking for soft furnishings, which are little, more stylish than the hypermarket fare, check out Zara Home, La Canada, Marbella. It looks like it should be very expensive but it is probably in line with Marks and Spencer prices. They have themed ranges covering bed linen, beautiful tableware etc.
Another good chain of shops worth mentioning is CASA, La Canada, Marbella who have candles, glasses, and accessories etc.
Check out your local Euro shops, the equivalent to a pound shop for useful bits and pieces.
Top tip for landlord/ladies
If you are going to rent out your apartment, do not waste money by filling it with toddler tempting, unnecessary ornaments. My advice would be to think more basics and fewer frills. People like to relax on holiday, not spend the whole time on edge thinking that they might smash your best china!
As kitchens tend to be small with limited cupboard space in off-plan apartments try to avoid filling the entire cupboard with glasses and crockery. Remember to leave sufficient cupboard space for food storage.
On a budget
Spain could really do with Argos as there is a lack of cheap and cheerful kettles and toasters. Prices aren't competitive, even in the hypermarkets. However, microwaves are cheap. Before you ask, no there isn't an Argos in Gibraltar, although I have heard that there is an Argos ordering service.
Although, it is not always possible, if you are budget conscious it is advisable to take your time when furnishing your new apartment or house. To begin with buy only the very necessary things then take your time to let the rest come together. Otherwise, it can be an enormous initial cost if it is done hastily.
Don't forget the boring housework related stuff a clothes airer, ironing board and iron, mop and bucket, dustpan and brush etc. I would advise anyone to get a hard floor specific vacuum cleaner as sweeping can be back breaking and it really isn't in our British nature to be sweeping. If you enjoy sweeping (some do) then take no notice of me.
Let's Go Outside
If you have outdoor space terrace or garden, you might want to check out Agro Jardin, a fantastic garden centre on the N340 km 164. It also has a lovely coffee shop and children's play area. Worth saving for a rare rainy day.
When you make the decision to buy an off-plan property you are so preoccupied with finding the payments that you tend to push furniture to the back of your mind. However, before you know it, your place is built and it's time to go shopping. If you are on a budget, take a look at the classified ads in El Sur in English. People drag all kinds of stuff with them from the UK and often find it no longer fits in with the look of their new Spanish home.
If you are not on a budget and money is no object, then disregard all of the above, get yourself down to Puerto Banus and hire the most expensive Interior Design company you can find!
Practical Guide to Supermarket Shopping
- Familiar supermarket names particularly along the Costa Del Sol are Mercadona (excellent value for money), Carrefour (lots of choice), Supersol (geared towards expat demands), Eroski, Hipercor (part of El Corte Ingles).
- Mothers of more than one young child, be prepared, I am yet to find a supermarket, which has twin-seated trolleys.
- Mothers, you won't be getting annoyed with childless drivers pinching mother and baby parking spaces as they don't exist.
- Always have a euro coin at hand or 50 cents for some trolleys.
- Lots of supermarkets have underground parking, excellent for extremes of temperature. The UK supermarkets should take note.
- Unlike the increasing trend in the UK, you will not be charged to park in the Supermarket car park.
- Supermarkets are generally quieter than in the UK especially first thing in the morning and mid-afternoon when the Spanish have lunch.
- Supermarkets have less convenience food than in the UK so you will either want to dust down your old recipe books or dump them and go out to eat! Frozen food usually has to be fried. It is quite hard to come across oven food and chips.
- There is a wider selection of fruits and vegetables on offer. Again, you will not find washed and prepared vegetables in handy little microwaveable bags. And you may even have to chop your own lettuce, although I have started to see bags of chopped lettuce appearing on the shelves.
- Ready made pizzas in the chiller counters are great for convenience, as are the Spanish omelettes.
- There is a huge choice of fresh and frozen fish and seafood.
- There is a much wider choice of yoghurts, dairy desserts and cheeses than in the UK.
- People tend to rely on their local shops for their every day produce. You see housewives still visiting the local butchers, fruit and veg shops on a daily basis for fresh produce to cook on the same day.
- My advice to anyone who wants to cut the food shopping bills whilst in Spain is to follow the Spanish housewives because they know the best deals!
- If you really miss your familiar foods then you might want to throw the towel in and take a trip to Morrisons in Gibraltar which stocks everything you are used to.
Ten Good Reasons for buying in the Costa Del Sol
- Hardly any traffic and the motorway running from Guadiaro to Malaga is always empty. So despite the more relaxed lifestyle you get from A to B much quicker than in the UK.
- 300 days of sunshine but be warned when it rains it pours for days but you can put your wellies on and splash around quite comfortably in the puddles because it never gets so cold that you have to stay indoors.
- Lots and lots of choice of new off plan developments. On our database, we list over 4500.
- More relaxed lifestyle. Where timing is concerned life is a lot more flexible on the Costa Del Sol. People drop in to work between 9 and 10 in the morning and there are no fixed timetables for anything.
- You can actually make use of the beaches all year round.
- You can eat breakfast outside even in the winter.
- The children's play parks in every town along the coast are fantastic. They are well designed, with a huge choice of equipment for little ones to practise climbing, balancing, swinging etc.
- No long queues at the supermarket except at Christmas.
- The colourful and vibrant fiestas, which are celebrated mainly during the summer months. The whole town comes alive and everybody including babies and young children parties until the early hours.
- You can use the Eye on Spain service to keep a check on the progress of your off plan property in Spain.