Home is the dead centre of our lives and where skint girls really get to show their mettle. Whether you’re renting a room, saving for a deposit, or already a proud owner, chances are you don’t have much to spend on home improvements, but the great news is that when it comes to styling your home, verve and imagination matter far more than money.
My best lesson in creating a chic home from pennies came when I was living in Barcelona. At that point – the late nineties – the city wasn’t as expensive as it is now, but my meagre salary meant that I still couldn’t afford much in the way of furniture. A stroke of luck
saw me bag a one-bedroom flat on the roof of a beautiful old apartment, slap-bang in the middle of the city. Although the location was amazing and the terrace enormous, inside was teensy and the kitchen could only take one person at a time. My bathroom was joined on to the kitchen – I’m sure the city’s environmental health officers would have had a if they’d known – but it was all mine and I had brilliant fun furnishing it from scratch.
When I moved back to the UK I once again found myself with very little money, an empty flat and not even a kettle to my name. Stick by stick, charity shop find by market bargain, I built a stylish home that I loved, making tons of cock-ups, learning new tricks and discovering that creating a stylish home has little to do with money. In fact, homes where everything looks expensive are a bit passé. You know the type: the swishest kitchen with no visible clutter; the bedroom decorated in neutral tones, save for a cheery, unchallenging abstract above the bed; and the blandest hallway, probably featuring twigs in a vase. Every room is magnolia and brown and matchy-matchy and makes you want to yawn: give me somewhere with a bit of personality any day.The first thing that all skint-in-the-city girls need to do – even more important than establishing a budget – is to work out your own personal style. Are you into shabby chic? Or does the very thought of anything pre-loved make your skin crawl? Do you yearn for a cosy nest filled with books and cushions or a sleek space full of clean lines?
When working out your personal decorating style you can find inspiration anywhere, not just in the pages of magazines. A couple of months before I moved into my first flat I went on holiday to Greece. Trawling the museums of Athens I not only swallowed down the art but also spotted a raspberry-pink wall that I immediately knew was the perfect shade for my lounge. Inspiration is everywhere: beg, borrow and steal the best style tips from wherever you can.
Great places to pinch inspiration
Lobbies of swish hotels: living in the city you’re at a great advantage – you have access to hundreds of hotels, restaurants and funky new bars. Even if you can’t afford to eat there, nicking their ideas is free. Just wander round, pretending you’re sizing up the place for another day, then squirrel away their best decorating ideas for future use.
Art galleries and museums: these places know how to use colour better than the ordinary Jill – they do it for a living. As with my flash of inspiration in the museums of Athens, so a trip to any art gallery can yield terrific ideas for new colour combos.
Your wardrobe: take clues from your clothes. Chances are that if you’re a boho-chic dresser your home decor preferences will be in the same vein, whereas if your wardrobe consists mainly of tailored clothes and crisp shirts you might well favour a streamlined look for your home.
Nature: My turquoise kitchen wall was inspired by an unforgettable Italian holiday where the sea was the most inviting thing I’d ever seen. From bright purple heather to the pinks and reds of a sunset, city girls let nature inspire their homes.
The web: there’s no longer any need to fork out on pricey home decor magazines – the web is awash with interiors sites catering for every taste. Even if the items featured are too expensive it’s a terrific way to pick up quirky ideas. Check out www.apartmenttherpay.com for starters.
Your friends: let’s be honest, is there anyone who hasn’t left a friend’s home green with envy after seeing their latest DIY project? Don’t sweat it though – that way heart attacks lie. Instead, use your envy as a motivator. Notice how other people use colour, or maximise space, or mix together furniture, then pinch their ideas and add a little of yourself to the mix. That’s how style evolves.