How To Furnish a Berlin Apartment in Four Days

I haven’t posted this week because I moved. To a real apartment. Because I am a functioning adult.

The last four days have been like a reality-show challenge: Move into a completely unfurnished apartment. In a neighborhood you’re not familiar with. In a city where you’ve never shopped for furniture before. In a country where you don’t speak the language. Do this without a car, while working full-time and while hosting a houseguest from Copenhagen.

Day 1: Dirty Deeds

Arrive at 10 am, pick up keys from former tenant and discover he hasn’t cleaned the apartment before moving out. Sit crosslegged on the crackling rug and negotiate with IKEA to deliver a bed before you next see Halley’s comet.

Take tram to thrift store with the canvas bags you stole from last week’s pre-emptive IKEA trip. Thrift store has nothing of use, and don’t deliver furniture anyway. Depart feeling like a spurned marauder.

On tram ride home, talk IKEA into letting a van driver pick up your furniture for you, instead of trekking to suburbs to get it yourself. Pay 100 extra euros.

Back at apartment, frantically google ‘thrift stores berlin open late’ to try and get some lightbulbs before it gets dark. Give up and go to a real furniture store, spend way too much buying two lamps for your three dark rooms. Move them around as you clean after dark.

Day 2: Cash and Carry

Wake up early for more googling. Identify three secondhand furniture stores in Wedding and send houseguest to Prenzlauer Berg in likely-futile search for lamps.

Spend two hours at ‘Penny Land’ buying the kind of household items you only notice when you don’t have them: Welcome mat, cutting boards, garbage cans, soap, sponges, extension cords.

Receive text from houseguest: ‘The motherload. Get here. Bring cash.’

Bike to specified address, find acre-long junkyard of used furniture. Resist urge to drop to knees and tear off shirt like Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption.

Pick out all the furniture your cash will allow, put it in a pile and start haggling. Call Van Guy. He can’t pick you up for two hours, so walk to the other junkyard across the street. Wheel your items on a donkey cart back to the first junkyard before Van Guy gets there.

You haven’t eaten all day, and Van Guy refuses to help you carry anything up the stairs. Eat at your new dining table for the first time: Falafel and salad, easy on the yogurt sauce.

Spend next two hours carrying furniture to your fifth-floor apartment. Wonder how much of this houseguest can take before he deletes you from Facebook.

Day 3: The Quick and the Bed

Think about furniture at work all morning. Go to gym over lunch to de-stress. Receive call from furniture store: ‘We’re outside your building with your couch. Where are you?!’ Dash home in gym clothes to let them in. E-mail boss to apologize for leaving computer on and ask that he pour out the coffee you left on your desk.

Attempt cooking in new apartment for first time. Realize as you turn on the stove that you have no olive oil or salt. Saute vegetables in vinegar left in cupboard by former tenant. Chicken bouillon is mostly salt, right? Sprinkle some on top.

Spend rest of evening building IKEA bedframe. Two people, three master’s degrees, two and a half hours.

Lift mattress into bedframe, feeling genuine sense of accomplishment. Sit on mattress for first time and feel it sag down the sides. Mattress is now an upside-down taco, resting on middle support bar. Lift mattress back out of bedframe and set on floor again. Note that this feeling, monumental accomplishment followed by instant failure, must be what it’s like to be elected president.

Day 4: Photo, Finish

Struggle not to unload IKEA-related bile on coworkers when they ask you how The Great Furnishing is going. Visit another round of junk stores on the way home. You still only have two lamps.

As sun sets, take train to furniture-burbia. Ask IKEA employees how to solve mattress-taco problem. Buy recommended bed-slats and spend the last of your willpower staying awake to put them together. Put bedslats into frame and mattress onto bedslats. Carefully climb on top, roll back and forth, appreciate horizontality of sleeping arrangements for first time. Ask houseguest for one last favor: Take the lamp out of here.


Filed under Berlin, Germany, Personal, Pictures

9 responses to “How To Furnish a Berlin Apartment in Four Days

  1. Candace

    Hey, I recognize Houseguest. He’s in the Copenhagen ballet. I’m a big fan. The place looks great. No one would ever guess such a struggle.

  2. Dirk

    ha ha, Mike, I love reading your stuff. And at the moment it is like you are writing about my life. I had EXACTLY the same bed experience this past Sunday!!!! End result:

    since my budget for the month is exhausted, I still sleep on the floor. 🙂

  3. Richard

    how does one find an “acre-long junkyard of used furniture”?

  4. Hi love reading your blog! Where did you exactly found the furniture? Thanks

  5. Janet

    I am in a similar situation right now, and am wondering which places you went to. I’m assuming it will be less epic of a junkyard because of the weather. But I will try anything!!

  6. Barry

    I read this with a mix of joy and terror; I’m about to get into the same boat. Sans houseguest though… O_o

  7. Enri

    Hey, funny writing! I’m just about to go throughout the same stuff. I would love if you could make justice to the title of the post and tell us “how” you did it, especially the used furniture stuff. Adresses, links? Anything would be useful in your post, apart of being funny! 🙂

  8. yup, address of mile long junkyard would be amazing please!

  9. I absolutely love the pictures! It’s really funny. Thankfully you had a good friend! 🙂 Ikea is also my favorite option but there are other ways to find cheap/free furniture around Berlin like facebook groups and so. I made a little guide out of frustration for not finding a clear set of options in the first place :