By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Relocating to Brazil can be daunting regardless of where one is coming from, and for anyone used to the resources that facilitate essential errands such as renting an apartment, finding roommates, and furnishing a home, Brazil, and especially Rio de Janeiro, also pose great challenges.
The determining factors of how and where to find furniture for anyone relocating are many, including the purpose of the move, whether it is for short or long-term, the number of people involved, individual taste, and last but certainly not least, budget.
Moreover, shipping your existing furniture into Brazil is not as straightforward as you may think. Unless you, or more probably your company, has a good ‘fixer’ the time and costs of having your possessions sitting idly at the airport while awaiting the all-clear from customs can prove extremely frustrating. Regardless of your original shipping company’s contract, costs will almost always be incurred to finally release the goods and these increase with time, while the whole process can take months.
Missy Sturgis, an American who moved to Rio with her husband’s job, admits she was lucky to have the company helping to pay for furniture, explaining; “Otherwise our apartment would be looking quite vacant right now. Everything here is extremely expensive, and not the greatest quality. Also it is surprising that most apartments you rent are very bare, with no appliances at all, and sometimes not even things like lighting, so the money the companies give you doesn’t go as far as you think it will.”
For those who make the move to Rio individually or on a small budget, finding any affordable furniture may be a big challenge, especially due to the lack of stores that sell basic, low-cost items such as perennial favorite IKEA.
If the move is intended for the short-term, the easiest solution is to find a sublet, or a vacation rental, which will usually come furnished, and while the rent will comparatively be higher, it may offset the costs of buying expensive new items such as sofas.
For those intent on buying items for the home the ever-popular Tok&Stok or its more modest alternative Casas Bahia are an option, and both offer a good variety of furniture, with passable quality, for a variety of budgets and can be found across Zona Sul.
In the more popular stores, however, the majority of furniture is depressingly contemporary in style, making it harder for those who are not fans of modern designs like Missy. “I tend to like the more rustic style furniture, and mainly things that are not shiny and plastic looking” she says. “I have found two places that I loved: Empório São Francisco in Jacarepaguá, and Espaço Rústico, on the Washington Luís road on the way towards Petrópolis”, underlining the fact that trips outside Zona Sul, and even the city of Rio can be worth the effort.
Exploring options beyond high-street stores may be a wise choice, no matter what one’s priorities and limitations are. If you have strong preferences with regard to style, you can take matters into your own hands and get your furniture custom-built. “I brought a picture of a bed I liked from Pottery Barn in the United States to Espaço Rústico, and they made it for me” says Missy.
For those apprehensive about spending a fortune on furniture, buying second-hand can cut the costs by half or more; and even though online listing websites such as Craigslist are limited in what they offer and not so well-organized in Brazil, they are still used by many foreigners and well worth investigating.