Skint girls don’t need to head to pricey interior design shops – not unless it’s to pinch ideas. There are a whole host of other options to make your cash go further. Here are some of the best places for a stylish woman-about-town to bag herself a home bargain.
Charity Shops: When I bought my first flat I didn’t have a stick of furniture to my name. What’s more, paying the deposit had
practically bankrupted me, so I had no choice but to get creative when it came to furnishings. The Salvation Army was my saviour. On my first trip I picked up a great dressing table for £10 – no joke – and you know what? I still have it today. Maybe I could afford something better now, but it still looks absolutely terrific, with the most original old handles and a high polish. It fits perfectly in the bay window of my bedroom and has drawn countless compliments over the years. It also came with a great large mirror, which I didn’t want, but gave to a friend. With thrifty buys like that you can afford to spread the love around a little. Another great find in charity shops is linens. Heavy damask curtains are in right now and look stylish and expensive. And you can’t beat the craftsmanship of old lace and linen.
Skint Tip: Find out when your target stores receive new deliveries and make sure your visit coincides. My local Salvation Army gets deliveries at lunchtime so I time my visits to take place then, before all the good stuff goes. The store also knows what will be coming in on the lorries, so I often call in the morning if I’m looking for something specific, to save myself a wasted trip.
Car Boot sales: I’ve got two sunburst clocks in my house that came from car boot sales. Both were seventies-brown when I bought them: now one is silver, the other gold and they’re frequently admired. I often see similar in high end stores. Car boot sales are cheap as chips and a fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning. Check out www.carbootjunction.co.uk to find your nearest one. Jumble sales and even church fetes are also great places to find quirky home items for next to nothing – my past finds include a sixties cocktail cabinet and a beautiful art deco mirror. It’s buys like these will make your home stand out from all those other identikit flats. Sales are often advertised in the local paper and noticeboards, so keep you eyes peeled when you’re out and about.
Skint Tip: It’s the early bird who catches the goodies – arrive half-an-hour before the official start time and you’ll have the pick of the crop. Also, at care boot sales and jumble sales, cash is king so leave your credit cards at home. And remember to bring along your own bags for your haul: they always run out.
Markets: Similar to car boot sales, but more permanent, are markets, full of quirkiness and glorious variety. In my home town of Glasgow
the famous Barras market plays host to everything: from rare books and old vinyl to pre-loved dolls and rabbits ears. Sure, it’s got knock-off DVDs and tobacco too, but also plenty of brilliant vintage buys, such as gilt mirrors, rattan chairs and tailors dummies, all jostling together on rickety tables. I recently bought a Queen Anne sideboard there for a hundred pounds, including delivery, took it home, painted it silver and attached some funky rococo handles. Oh happy day. Check out your local council’s website for details of markets in your town.
Discount Stores and Value Shops: Skint, stylish folks don’t turn up their noses at discount stores. Instead they know of the recent trend for low-price stores to pair up with designers – and well aware of the benefits. The last few years have seen Matalan partner with Justin and Colin and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, making seriously stylish goods available at low retail prices. Formerly down-at-heel shops like In Store have also greatly smartened up their act. These shops should be the go-to places for things like canisters, place-mats, napkins, bathroom storage and bedding. They’ve got good-looking, stylish pieces at great prices and, quite honestly, who wants to blow their budget on a toilet roll holder?
Auction Rooms: The auction room is a treasure trove and a brilliant way to furnish a home with style. Why anyone would go to a modern store and spend even as little as £50 on a flatpack chest of drawers is beyond me, when, for the same price, auction rooms are offering items a hundred times better. One of my best-ever auction buys is an art deco wardrobe. It has the most beautiful, intricate art nouveau carvings on the front and inside it’s beautifully made. I bid £150 for it, which is less than you’d pay for most flatpack ones and it’s such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that I imagine it will be passed down through the family when I’ve passed over to the great cocktail party in the sky.