Home furnishings on a budget

Scouting for thrifty furniture finds in Halifax

Perhaps you forgot to wave goodbye to Ikea on your way past Montreal, yet despite the Bring Ikea to Halifax, NS, Facebook group and its 2,092 members, it's true: There's no easy-to-assemble Swedish furniture store in Halifax. But don't let the lack of easy access to Billy bookcases and cheap European kitchenware discourage you as you set up new digs---get resourceful and find bargain furniture.

First of all, you will need a bed. The Salvation Army (2044 Gottingen, 422-2363; 5280 Green, 425-7684 and other locations) has affordable new mattresses starting at $128 for a twin and $165 for a double. They also have orthopedic mattresses ($160 for a twin, $200 for a double), metal frames ($42) and sets with box springs available. If a futon is more your style, check out The Futon Store & Pineworks (5730 Young, 494-9029), for locally made futons, futon frames and pine furniture. Package deals with a futon and a wooden frame start at $249 for a single, and $299 for a double. You can also try the Sears Outlet Store (7101 Chebucto, 454-5009) for discounted mattresses, box springs, futons and other furniture. Quality, prices and availability vary.

The Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank (2415 Maynard, 425-2125) is a great place to drop stuff off and pick stuff up, and its store, called Great Things in Store (6110 Almon, 406-3051), carries pre-loved furniture and gadgets, including coffee tables, televisions, bookshelves and dressers. Value Village(209 Chain Lake, 450-5134; 42 Canal, Dartmouth, 463-4054), pronounced "VAH-loo vih-LAHH-gzh" to the cognoscenti, is worth the bit of a hike for its selection of kitchenware, linens and fabric. Speaking of fabric, if you would like to get crafty with your curtains, tablecloths and dishrags, you might want to hit up Fabricville (7071 Bayers, 443-9675) or Atlantic Fabrics (114 Woodlawn, 434-7220).

Adventurous bargain shoppers will also want to check out the Halifax Forum Flea Market Sundays from 9am until 2pm (corner of Windsor and Young, 463-1406).

When the going gets tough, you can always go online to find your household goods for cheap or for free. Check The Coast's free classifieds (thecoast.ca), and your university's online classifieds, or go to Kijiji (halifax.kijiji.ca) to see what's on offer. There is also the local Freecycle Yahoo group (groups.yahoo.com/group/hrm_freecycle), through which members acquire and pass on all sorts of things for free.

For something better than online shopping, turn your eyes from the screen to the sidewalk. Halifax should be named the garbage-picking capital of Canada for its selection of curbside finds, especially in early September near the universities. Walk, bike or drive around town the day before garbage collection (garbage is picked up every two weeks on Mondays in the south end and on Tuesdays in the north end). Or you can rescue a sturdy desk or a vintage chaise lounge from the dump. Late summer and early fall is a great time to scout out yard sales.

If you are wondering how to part with your lovely trash at the end of the school year, Dalhousie hosts an annual community garage sale called Dump and Run in late April at the Studley Gymnasium (halifaxdumpandrun@hotmail.com, 494-6899), with proceeds going to local organizations and charities.

Is it time to elevate your setup from functional to decorative? A place to start is to patch and paint the walls. Amanda Mosher at Acadia & Quigley's Decorating Centre (6243 Quinpool, 423-4915) recommends choosing a similar colour to the current one to keep paint jobs affordable: Fewer coats means less paint. If that doesn't sound like fun, you can also ask for mistints (paint that is slightly off-colour of what was intended) or sheener (the store mixed the right colour but the wrong sheen) to get a deal on paint. She also suggests buying or borrowing good tools, and avoiding cheap, watery paint.

Now that you have a furnished, painted place and are looking for art for the walls, stroll down to Art Expo (Park Lane Mall, 5657 Spring Garden, 492-7128) for a wide selection of prints, posters and art. If you want something local and unique to really bring a room together, you should befriend some NSCAD students and purchase their art. Alternately, visit the NSCAD shop, the Seeds Gallery (1892 Hollis, 494-8301), for past and present student artists' work, or wander down to the Halifax Farmers' Market (1496 Lower Water, 492-4043) on a Saturday morning to meet and mingle with Nova Scotia artists and artisans, selling their pieces so you can adorn your new home.

Hunting Tips
1. Don’t worry about people here thinking you’re weird for scouring curbside refuse.
2. Cunning scroungers have found entire dining room sets, encyclopedias and leather couches. And if the gods of scavenging provide you with a karaoke machine, that means your digs get to be party central for the school year.
Avoid free mattresses.

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