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waiter, i'll have the table
shopping restaurant supply stores to decorate your digs
by Jennifer Johnson Avril
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Restaurant supply stores are also a prime resource for certain larger furnishings. You can find metal shelving, cabinetry and tables, like my dining room table, as well as butcher-block tables, which can be used as side tables or nightstands. Go into several stores and compare prices if you're interested in one of these items, as cost can vary widely. Also, ask if the store will cut table legs to the height you want, and if so, what they will charge. To figure out what height you'll need, check standard table heights at furniture stores, or measure at home by sitting on the chair, bed or couch that'll be used with the table and getting a sense of where the tabletop should "fall".

If you're looking for a specific item at a lower cost, it's a good idea to do a little homework first. For kitchenware or other supplies that you could just as easily find somewhere else, first check prices at a superstore like Target or at your local 99-cent store. While some restaurant supply goods are true steals, others are priced similarly or higher than what you could find at a regular store -- such as the plastic water pitcher I found for $4.95. And unfortunately, some of the most unusual items are also the most expensive. I was overjoyed to come across a plastic sushi dinner, complete with plastic pickled ginger, thinking this would make the best wall decoration ever -- only to find out that the cheapest one available was $100!

While some restaurant furniture and other items would look very cool in the context of a home, such as upholstered diner booths, bakery shelving, rotating cake displays, or freezer cases, they are often pricey. If you're interested in one of these kinds of items, ask your supply store if they sell used. According to Bruno Sosa of Restaurant Auction Outlet, also in New York City, the price difference on used items versus new is often as much as 50 percent. It's also worth keeping an eye out for local restaurant closings or auctions.

With a little preparation and a sharp eye, you may find just what you're looking for -- not to mention a kitchen sink.


Jennifer Johnson Avril is a communications professional who lives and works from her Brooklyn, NY, home, which she is slowly furnishing through ingenuity, IKEA gift certificates and the kindness of strangers.


check out these related articles: 
10 tips for furniture foraging | estate sale shopping | thrift store shopping


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