“Bloom… On the Cheap and Easy”


How to Bloom on the Cheap and Easy…

Moving to a new area, particularly moving overseas, many people adopt the “Bloom Where You Are Planted” mentality but blooming can be hard when what was once familiar now seems like a million miles away, not to mention when the language and culture is different and the money doesn’t seem to go as far.


Congratulations! You’ve just received orders to Germany. After you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, you jump on Facebook and join every welcome group you can find for the area you’re moving to. You ask tons of questions, look at on post housing floor plans and begin to make “Take” and “Don’t Take” lists of your HHGs. There is only one problem…everyone has a different answer to your Facebook questions…take your king size bed, it WILL fit! … don’t take your king size bed, it WON’T fit! …leave the sectional…take the sectional.

Four months later you arrive in Germany and realize you left behind half of your house and the idea starting over and buying new furniture and home décor seems daunting and costly. Don’t be discouraged…putting together a home on a budget is very doable, sometimes one just needs to know where to look and how to start.
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Repurpose: Before buying a new piece, take a look around at what you have. Can a dresser be an entertainment center or a nightstand turned into a table for the entryway?

We hacked an inexpensive Ikea Tarva Dresser to create a television stand. We reworked the bottom drawers to make the doors. We built shelves on the inside to store the AFN receiver and DVD player. Tutorial can be found on White Walls here


Sperrmüll AKA Trash: This is furniture and items left on the street. In Germany, these items can be AMAZING! Germans like new. It’s not uncommon for German families to put stuff out on the street that is an antique. You can call your local waste office and ask when Sperrmüll days are. It is a good idea to ask the owner of the Sperrmüll if you can take it.


The Barn Door, Armoire, Trunk and Wood to create the Sofa Table was all free Sperrmüll. We ordered the Barn Door hardware from Lowes. The trunk is solid wood and had the original skeleton key. Once painted and distressed, it made a nice housewarming gift for our friends. The Armoire was is poor shape but cleaned up nicely with replaced wood trim and chalk paint. There are no closets in Germany so it comes in handy to store our coats. Finally, the wood used for the sofa table was left on the street by a neighborhood carpenter called “Schreinerei” in German, it was from an 1800’s barn and it was free.

DIY and Upscale Projects: Create something special either by starting from scratch or upscaling something you’ve picked up second hand. The NAF Property Sales on post can offer some great items for little money. Baumarkts are German Hardware/Home Supplies Stores similar to Lowes and Home Depot. While the wood sizes are slightly different, you can often find already finished wood for shelving and signs for a reasonable price.


We recently renovated a closet and created a mudroom to store the endless amount of soccer, golf, school and winter gear from our twin teenage boys. We snagged the lockers for $9.00 from a NAF sale. The tutorial can be found on White Walls  Here!

We built the Faux Fireplace from scratch using inexpensive wood from the Baumarkt and tile that was on sale. The tutorial can be found here!

The sofa table was made using free barn wood and plumbers pipe from the Baumarkt. Pottery Barn knock offs using ready-made finished wood from the Baumarkt and free pallet wood for a fraction of what the original costs. Typeset “how to” is here, though we used a router instead of a chisel. Check it out here!

Find resources in your own local community: Don’t underestimate the talent of people around you. Just like you, they have been moved but may have been very established in their trade in their home town. When incorporating my twin boys love of soccer into their bedroom décor, I found a young college student in the commissary’s produce department to create these incredible 3D renderings of USA Soccer and the Yale Bulldogs for less than $80.00.


Perhaps there is a military spouse photographer building his or her portfolio and willing to take family pictures for a lower price and sometimes even for free; a Gallery Wall of family pictures can make a grand statement and inexpensive when put in Ikea frames.

Flea Markets Finds: Flea Markets are a great source for finding inexpensive and distinctive items, especailly overseas. European markets offer items that are highly sought after in the states but not with a stateside price. At the same time, Flea Markets carry a lot of junk, so shop wisely. . . you don’t want to blow a bunch of money on items that you can pick up for a few dollars at your local thrift store back home. However, with that caution, there are definitely treausures to be found. Longing for a dough bowl, antique crystal chandelier, olive bucket and yes even a Mora Clock?…gather some friends and drive to one of the many markets that take place every weekend in Europe.


Starting from top left…Hungarian Hand-Carved Dough Bowl, Olive Bucket, Demi Johns, Grey Kraut Crock from Germany & White Crock from the UK, Double Baguette Bread Mold, 1880’s German School Desk, 4 foot long restored Dough Bowl, Cigar Mold.


My friend Michaela S. created an amazing display combining her Flea Market Finds of an antique French bottle drying rack, called “hérisson bouteilles” and wine keys. She has 54 wine keys. Wine keys are special to Europe, they are a 2 piece corkscrew and when put together, they look like skeleton keys. There are varying accounts of where wine keys come from but one version and my favorite is that wine keys were made for European vineyards. The symbol or another identifying mark of the vineyard was incorporated into the key and the keys were gven as gifts to store owners and other businesses.

If you’re in Germany you can search for markets in your area by visiting one of the following sites and putting in your post code.

Learn your off post resources: Connect with other people to learn about local stores. In Germany, Ikea, Maison du Monde, Butlers and Depot are just a few of the many stores that carry quality home furnishings. All of these stores have a scratch and dent section containing floor models or items that have slight imperfections. Often, these items are marked down 50-75%. Second Hand Stores and online shops like Ebay Kleinanzeigan (similar to Craig’s List) can yield one of a kind pieces for very little money and someties free. Earlier, I mentioned “Sperrmüll,” prior to putting things out on the street, Germans will offer it for free on Ebay Kleinanzeigan. This version of ebay is either free or priced items, no bidding. I always contact in English so don’t worry if you lack German language skills. VB or VHB means OBO and Zu Verschenken means “to give away.” You can search for items near you using your postal code.


Combining the old with the new, upscaled and recycled, you can create a space that is special and affordable. Our living room is a combination of furniture from Ebay Kleinanzeigan, the scratch and dent section of IKEA and Butlers, Flea Markets, Online Garage Sales and DIY projects.


Our dining room is a combination of DIY projects, on sale furniture, chairs from IKEA and Butlers scratch and dent and fleamarket finds.

Bloom on the Cheap and Easy” has a sister site called “Bloomers’ Sales and Trade.” The Sales and Trade site is for Bloom members to recycle their vintage and flea market items. If you’re currently in Europe pop on over to both sites and join, we’d love to have you. Since most Bloomers are also White Wallers, we’ve partnered up to offer a hand-carved Hungarian Dough Bowl for the next White Walls Giveaway.


Discovering what is available in your new home can lead to many opportunities, a chance to pick up European treasures, buy quality furniture and home décor items at a discount price, sharpen your DIY and upscaling skills and travel Europe one market at a time, making new friends along the way.

Europe based “Bloom on the Cheap and Easy” created by Stephen and Toni Springer, provides a place for military families to share ideas, learn suitable substitutes for the stores we miss back home and provides solutions to help the U.S. dollar stretch a little further. The group also has many local Europeans who help us navigate this unfamiliar territory as we learn how to live fully in a foreign country. Whether you’ve just received orders overseas or across the country, we welcome you to Bloom.








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