Learning About Remodeling And Buying Furniture In Our New Home Town

Our major task for this time in Mexico was to replace some furniture and get our kitchen remodeling going. Kitchen remodeling is always a challenge, more so in a new place especially if the new place is in another country. Furniture shopping isn’t much easier.

Kitchen Remodeling Project

We figured that the first order of business was to find a kitchen designer/contractor to plan and execute the remodel. We aimed to have the designer/contractor lined up before we left Mexico for two months in the US.

So we started with a designer recommended by our realtor. Her first visit involved figuring out what we wanted and taking some measurements. Since we are removing part of a bearing wall, she also needed to bring in an architect. The architect came in the following week and said we would need two posts and a beam, which was no surprise to us. We also determined nothing was in the wall but electrical and some ethernet cable going upstairs. None of this would be an issue.

Another week goes by and the designer comes by with an associate but only rough kitchen sketches. Our entire stay was only seven weeks and already we are up to week three and it is becoming clear to us that the designer doesn’t have her vendors who do the work. Then in week four, the designer brings in an architect/contractor who says he can do the job but he will take 20% on top of the actual labor costs. We still only have rough sketches with no relative measurements for us to study and adjust.

The final straw was in week five. The designer comes by, still no new drawings, and tells us that she will charge $15000 for her supervision time. Her charge was in addition to the 20% for the architect and we still had no idea how much the cabinets, countertop, appliances, electrical, and plumbing would cost. Needless to say, we told her we were going to look for someone else to work on this job. Yes, she was pissed, but the bids and the process weren’t boding well for actually getting the job done.

As an aside, I saw our realtor after this situation went down. After I described what happened, she was quite surprised and said she would note our experience.

Kitchen Project Take Two

After we fired the first designer, we reached out to another contractor recommended by the realtor. We met with him and he was great, but he called a few days later and said that he just got a big job he was going to take instead of ours. But he gave me a recommendation for another person who he had worked with in kitchens and highly recommended her. So I reached out and she was very responsive. We set up a meeting for the following week (week 6). Fortunately, we liked her.

After we described our timing, she said that she could start her part of the work in the middle of January, when she returned from vacation. She was able to get her architect to come by the following week. Naturally, we were very relieved and I was able to get a commitment from her that she would reserve the time to work for us. So we left Mexico for the US very happy we had met our goal of finding a vendor we liked.

Fast forward to now, mid-February. We received drawings that were detailed and had all of the relevant measurements the day before we arrived back in Mexico. After a short meeting a few days after we arrived, we were able to very quickly make the necessary changes. Also, she was able to find a contractor that she liked who could do the structural, electrical, and plumbing work. We are beyond happy with the situation so far.

Buying Furniture During Buen Fin

One of the recommendations we got from the first designer was where and when to shop for furniture. Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Mexico, the government created a holiday of sorts called Buen Fin to mimic Black Friday. So there was a weekend in mid-November when everything was on sale.

We were interested in a few items. First, we wanted to look at couches to see if we could find something more comfortable than ours. I also really disliked the dining room chairs and we only had five of them (the condo sleeps 6). Since comfort was our most important criterion, we had to sit in a lot of chairs. Finally, we wanted comfortable chairs on the deck so we could enjoy a lovely view of the surf and ocean while having our morning coffee.

After sitting in every dining room chair in several stores, we finally found one chair that had some lumbar support. So we bought six and they were delivered a few days later. Unfortunately, the only color was almost white, can’t have everything. But they do look nice with the table because both the table and chairs have wooden legs.

As for the couches, the only one I liked was an outrageous $5000. It also seems that there isn’t a comfortable swivel, rocking outdoor chair to be found anywhere. We had our hearts set on the type of patio chairs we had in California.

Getting the Couch Recovered

Back in April, I had gotten two estimates to reupholster our couch because it was torn in a few spots (more so when we got here in November). But before we did that, we had to decide if it was comfortable enough or if we needed to find something else. After furniture shopping, we decided to have our couch reupholstered.

The upholsterer came by with samples and we were able to ask for several extras. First, I wanted different seaming because the existing couch was weak in certain spots. I was able to specify double seams up both sections and around the outside. We also chose a nice sand color that wouldn’t clash with the new dining room chairs. Finally, we were able to add more padding to the lumbar sections of the couch. So he came a day later and took the two sections of the couch. He said it would be a week and it was exactly a week.

We were both so thrilled when we saw the couch. It looks brand new, the material is more durable than before, it looks rich and most of all it is super comfortable. We scored a new couch for $900. A little pricey for Mexico, but well worth it to us. I will be recommending this guy to everyone. Also, he is going to make me a custom outdoor chaise cushion because I can’t find one anywhere. Very reasonably priced too.

Outdoor Chairs

I had my heart set on patio chairs that rocked and swiveled. The only solution was to order them from Amazon. They came from California, which I think is funny but getting through Mexican customs was all on Amazon. I wasn’t sure what would show up so I ordered two. It took about two weeks for them to arrive. After Mike put them together, we were not disappointed and they have perfect blue cushions. All I had to do was add the pillows on the back and I had already planned for that. The cushions are covered in real Sunbrella fabric, which isn’t easy to get here.

Because the pair were so great, I immediately ordered a second set that arrived in less than a week. The world of Mexico runs in mysterious ways. Finally, I ordered two padded ottomans that match the rest of the patio furniture, because putting your feet up is essential. Score another point for me.

I was also able to order a desk from Amazon for the bedroom upstairs because it appeals to any digital nomads and my son works when he visits (special request). The view from the desk is probably the best in the entire place. We got the desk chair from Costco in Cancun. We hope having a desk improves our rentability.

Fixing the Bed

The final thing we had to do before we left in December was to fix one of the beds in a guest bedroom. We know they are original furniture from 2008 but they are in pretty good condition and I like them so I didn’t want to replace them. The issue is that it is easy to leave the door open when it rains and the bed is nearly up against the door. It turns out that the bedrails, the ones holding up the mattress, are made from MDF (particle board). Over time water soaked into the bedrail next to the door and it was ready to collapse. Back in April, we got an outrageous estimate from a carpenter to fix the beds.

But my super handy husband, yes Mike, decided he could repair the bed with parts from Home Depot. So off we went to buy brackets and bolts to repair the bed. It took most of a day, but after some over-engineering, the bed is again sound. The rest of the bed will probably collapse before anything happens to the corner he repaired. Go, Mike.

Somewhat to my surprise, we seemed to have figured out how to get the goods we wanted. We were also able to accomplish all of our goals for this trip to Mexico. Our management company hasn’t taken new beauty shots because we are waiting for my bedroom furniture to arrive but we hope all of these improvements will be as appealing to renters as they are to us. I’m sure our new kitchen will be wonderful too and I’ll be writing about our experiences with that later.

How would you attempt to get furniture and services in Mexico?

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