Furniture Hack Istanbul

terasmasacamsizWelcome to Istanbul, the land of expensive furniture… This is a place where age-old craftsmen using age-old methods create age-old looking furniture. It’s worth every penny, beautiful, solid, and romantic. But me, I’m on a budget, and not willing to say I’m happy with Ikea’s lowest end. I hack. Not just software/hardware, I have worked and lived within the mindset of a creative technologist and Maker for long enough that I can say I “hack life”. So, why then would I settle for Ikea? It’s not a jab, I actually like the brand, it has its space, and I admit I started in my new Beyoglu apt with a couple of mail-order pieces from the famed low-cost low-lifespan furniture maker… but on with it. Time to make my own living space as a maker.

Rent rates are one of the things that are a great value for an an ex-pat moving to Istanbul. Naturally, I compare everything to a dollar value when looking at things like rent and utility bills, I feel I’m living life at a bargain. I got a great place in an up-and-coming neighborhood. It’s way better than some of the apt’s I have payed much more for in New York City… but now to fill it with stuff. It would be a crime to put anything but creatively slick items in my newly renno’d Istanbul duplex. Opening up my “depo” (storage within the building), I found the pre-rennovation doors from this apartment. You can see how nicely this set of tables made from the old doors turned out. The aluminum was all cut to size in Karakoy, our own little version of Shenzen, China. Total price on that hardware was about $60. The glass was custom cut, finished, and delivered in about 5 hours, topped out at about $75. Tally was $135 for a smart looking piece that could seat 10 on my huge terrace. There will certainly be a lot of meze and Raki served up there this summer.

cratewidePictured is one of many wooden crates Cagla found while having coffee with friends in a cool area of Karakoy. She asked some local city workers who had a big truck if she could pay them to deliver them to our place. I scored 8 crates, some of which will be my terrace garden… The first treatment, however, is this coffee table for the living room. 1 crate worth of delivery was about 5tl, or $2.50, the custom colored paint (we matched it to an antique alarm clock sitting on a side table) ran me about $12, so, a total of less than $15 for this fun little piece. I later added some utilitarian looking wheels (ran me an additional $3 from a street vendor in Karakoy).

salonmasasiMy living room has an alcove window area, and I thought a raw wood table top would look really good. Problem is, whereas wood is relatively cheap in the United States, its kind of a rarity to find large slabs here at all. I luckily found smaller raw slabs at a Bauhaus location in Istanbul and proceeded to make this small dining table. I think it turned out as quite a nice version of the typical single slab tables out there. Wood slabs, 75tl ($37.50 for all 3). The cast iron leg was from a restaurant supply place, about $45 delivered. Total, $82.50 for the table I sit at with laptop every day. A classy looking alternative to a home/office desk.

UPDATE1: We are reupholstering the chairs (a set of 6 found cheaply at a shop on cukurcuma) with printed textiles ordered from, one of the chairs is pictured. I’m covering the droll bordeaux velvet seat upholstry with a variety of designs that suit the salon. I have come to love Spoonflower and what they stand for. Make your own, or choose from countless designs offered on their site.

dolap3UPDATE2: The process of home decor is never-ending… This time it is something a bit more functional. I needed a way to hang clothes, mine plus lots of Cagla’s. A behemoth of a dresser would shrink the bedrooms instantly. Again, I trekked to Karakoy and found a metal supply guy, who in turn called on a machinist. A couple of scrappy sketches later we agreed a design that I could comfortably carry on my shoulder up the hill past Galata tower to my place. The photo doesn’t do it justice, it is quite long, spans the guest room. Dresser problem solved, with the help of craftsmen working out of little shops that have known the smell and sounds of grinding metal and welding for many many decades. You might be thinking, it’s a stretch to call this a “hack”, I kind of agree although I include this open closet solution as a way to show how the culture of Karakoy, and Istanbul works – they are old hackers at heart, using a common sense get-it-done attitude, willing to make whatever idea you might walk through the door with. Maker culture and hacking is a way of life for the old craftsmen and craftswomen there, it is the current generation that needs a reeducation of this point in order to evolve it.


some additional photos:



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