How to cheaply furnish a Manhattan apartment?
December 20, 2006 7:42 AM   Subscribe

How can I cheaply furnish a Manhattan apartment?

I'm a student moving into my first apartment in New York. While this isn't my first time living there, my previous experiences have been in NYU dorms, where things like bookshelves, beds, and other furniture were provided.

Does anyone out there have suggestions as to how to cheaply get things like beds, couches, and bookshelves in Manhattan? I'm going to be in the Hell's Kitchen area, and the less I have to spend on delivery, the better.
posted by onthestereo to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You'll already have thought of Craigs List, of course, but a word of caution -- don't get anything upholstered or with any fabric at all from CL or thrift shops. The bedbug thing is a freaky problem!
posted by thinkpiece at 7:50 AM on December 20, 2006

I got a whole lot of things off of craigslist for pretty cheap.

The smaller thing I just brought on the subway (including a rolling office chair) without anyone giving me a second glance.

As for the bigger stuff I'd wait until you have a couple of things collected and then borrow someones car for a couple of hours on a Sunday. Or worse comes to worse rent a uhaul for a couple of hours and go collect all your stuff. Theres a location on West 23rd Street. It'll probably only cost you 20-30 bucks for a couple of hours.
posted by jourman2 at 7:51 AM on December 20, 2006

Ikea, Ikea, Ikea.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2006

posted by B-squared at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2006

This may sound strange, but garbage day on the Upper East Side is a great time to find free, used furniture on the street. I got several end tables, a great trunk, and a dresser that way. Granted you have to clean them - a lot - but you would be amazed what people throw away.
posted by sara558 at 8:05 AM on December 20, 2006

ikea seconded! I got a whole bunch of stuff for <$300, coffee table 3 really nice shelves, some baskets. Made from real wood too.
posted by Mach5 at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2006 has some low cost furniture, and they usually have a special running with either free delivery or just a couple of dollars for delivery.
posted by textilephile at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2006

embrace minimalism (or shop at the aforementioned Ikea and Overstock)
posted by mmascolino at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2006

Unfortunately the days of scrounging furniture on garbage days are over. Trust me, trying to get rid of bedbugs is far more expensive in the long run than obtaining furniture.
Keep your furnishings minimal, get stuff from trustworthy friends who are moving.
You best Ikea plan: you're probably not the only person in your situation at your school. Advertise on your message boards and bulletin boards for people to go along with you so that you can split the cost of renting a van. Far cheaper and quicker than Ikea delivery.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:39 AM on December 20, 2006

Bedbugs can also come in through non-upholstered furnishings, at least theoretically, since they tend to live in cracks in the wood, sideboards, and such, as much as they live in modern mattresses. At this point I am paranoid enough about them to never get any item off craigslist or especially off the street unless I am really damn sure it is not infested. is a good idea-- I got a set of pretty nice dining room chairs from there that weren't that expensive. I always found Ikea to be too much of a pain in the ass (and not all that cheap for shipping, since if you go over on the bus it costs $100 to ship back whatever you can't carry, although I believe it's $100 flat for however much you get). You can get a decent amount of small furnishings like entry tables and plastic storage for clothes at bed bath and beyond and they'll deliver it all for fairly cheap.
I did what mmascolino advocates and embraced minimalism for the first year I lived here, and it wasn't so bad.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:44 AM on December 20, 2006

Even cheaper than co-renting a van, take the bus from Port Authority (42nd and 8th) directly to Ikea - they have a route that goes straight there and back. I see people loading huge boxes onto that bus every time I'm there.

Also, check out freecycle - my sister's had some good success there.

18thing the don't get anything fabric/etc. from anyone you don't know well. Not worth the hassle.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:48 AM on December 20, 2006 will deliver surprisingly good quality cheap stuff. There are also a bunch of junk/thrift shops in the hood, the one on 52nd between 8th and 9th comes to mind.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:08 AM on December 20, 2006

2nding freecycle. You can request specifics (no guarantees), but it's all free.
posted by harrumph at 9:10 AM on December 20, 2006

Do not rent a U-Haul, first and foremost. It's too expensive. They advertise "low in-town rates" as a base, but then you have to pay for each mile you drive, and it gets very pricey very quickly. Try to find a man with a van on Craig's List -- it'll be a little bit cheaper than U-Haul, and if you find a good one, you'll get an extra hand to help move stuff, too. If you find one you like, it'll be easy in the future if you find another large piece of furniture you need moved to call him/her up and rent their services for another hour.

This, by the way, brings up a business idea my friend and I have cooked up:
1. a la the bookmobile, you start a furniture-mobile for large cities. Half of the time is spent hauling away old furniture people don't want, and the other half is traveling around to young person enclaves, offering on-the-spot furniture sales.
2. ???
3. Profit!
posted by one_bean at 9:22 AM on December 20, 2006

I bought lawn furniture, the folding kind, cheap my first year in my appartment. I had a few chairs and a few lounge chairs. I couple of beer cases with a cloth over it makes a decent end table.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2006

you can make bookshelves out of bricks and boards- put some little xmas lights and maybe a trailing plant or two on top, and they look pretty spiffy.

actually, if you search on flickr for any type of furniture + DIY, you'll find some neat ideas, many of which will involve cool mods to junky old crap, or clever repurpose jobs.
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:44 AM on December 20, 2006

Step one: Freshdirect
Step two: Purchase tape
Step three: Buy a futon
Step four: profit!! (aka, sleep/live on a futon and put all your stuff in cardboard box shelving.)

You can definitely get bugs from wood furniture. Thankfully I already come with a variety of lice .. you really can find great stuff on the street!
posted by shownomercy at 10:15 AM on December 20, 2006

I lived in Hells Kitchen for years and only recently moved out of the neighborhood (thanks to the escalating rents).

Try the Salvation Army Thrift Store on West 46th between 10th and 11th. Close enough that you can just haul anything you find home with a friend or two.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2006

I second the suggestion for the Salvation Army on 46th - It's huge and you're bound to find something.

I also second those people who warn against taking stuff off the street. I've had bedbugs and I would NEVER take something off the street again - and I used to do it.

Craiglists is not bad, but definitely ask about bedbugs.

2nd & 3rd Aves between 80th & 96th is home to many, many thrift shops with varying selection and price.

If you can hold out till the end of January, that's when Retail Stores do inventory and they will be putting stuff on sale and trying to get it out the door.
posted by brookeb at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2006

if you end up going new for a few pieces, I used gothic cabinet craft for my first purchases in the ny area. they have a store in hoboken accessible from the path & I think one in ny. delivery was ok, but you can check yr zipcode on the site.

it's solid wood, not particle board, so the resale value stayed high (I moved in 2 yrs, so that was helpful). not sure if that'd be true of ikea. note: i kept/bought it unstained.

I lived with a bookcase and platform twin bed for 2 yrs. in a small apt, less cam be better.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2006

Ikea, Craigslist, Target
posted by ASM at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2006

You can probably clean non-upholstered items well enough to minimize critter concerns. Best not to get used bedding these days.

You want furniture that is either cheap enough to be disposable, like folding director chairs that can become spare seating when you move up, or will be usable in the future, like Ikea bookcases. I find a futon to be pretty comfortable for sleeping, and it can be a couch if company comes over.

Everything at Ikea is flat-packed, so you can get it home in the box. Ikea delivery is generally not worthwhile, but Target is probably pretty good. Bookcases are heavy, even unassembled.
posted by theora55 at 4:02 PM on December 20, 2006

I'm pretty sure that freecycle link should go to, not .com.
posted by SoftRain at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2006

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