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You can buy a designer Italian sofa in the city, but on considering the mark-up and alternatives, most prefer something custom-made (bespoke if you wish). Made-to-order carpentry is very affordable, although don't expect flawless workmanship. Curtain makers abound. There's a whole neighbourhood of warehouses with row upon row of small lamp stores. No, the PH lamps are not genuine. Not-so-old "antique" pieces abound, but despite the sales pitch, they will crack during Beijing's dry winter. So will most teak pieces bought in Hong Kong or Southeast Asia. Fortunately, repair work is inexpensive.

Beware of buying too much at once, many an expatriate household has gone overboard on arrival, only to give the furniture away a few months later. For a one-stop solution there's always IKEA. This is purportedly the chain's second largest store after Stockholm, but to avoid the crowds, avoid it at weekends. There are also home-grown brands like QM and Illinois with their own take on modern furnishings. In short, here's a massive range of warehouses, boutiques and small shops to choose from when furnishing your home. The art is in selecting the right combination.


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