If you rent unfurnished, or if you are just starting out in your first home, it can be a really daunting prospect buying all the furniture that you need. You can see why a lot of people go the flat-packed route so they don't plunge into the overdraft; but it is possible to get well made, individual pieces of furniture and homeware at a fraction of the cost. Unlike flat-pack, you will probably still love it in years to come, rather than chuck it out as soon as it needs replacing/you can afford something better.
This week I thought I would share my absolute top 5 tips for sourcing great furniture and homeware at really affordable prices. Unless there is something particular that I REALLY want from the high street, I will always try and source what I need from these five places first. I usually visit each place once or twice a fortnight to see what's new. I also get a total buzz from finding something amazing and unique that costs hardly anything! It's a feeling of being really lucky that it was you who found it, taking total pleasure in what you found, and having absolutely no guilt that it cost you most of your months wages!
1. FURNITURE RECYCLE/HOUSE CLEARANCE WAREHOUSES
BEST FOR: Getting beautiful, real wood pieces of furniture like wardrobes, dressing tables and cabinets for a few pounds.
Although some people might find it a bit bleak (essentially most of the things in these places have come from house clearances of people who have died) it really is the best way you can buy furniture and homeware. Items for sale in these places are getting recycled rather than thrown on the bonfire, and the money goes to help tackle local poverty and other good causes in the area. Often run by charities, they collect the goods for free (making it easier on the families who are carrying out clearing out their loved ones home), then fill designated warehouse/shop spaces that are open to the public.
Shopping at these places is not for the faint-hearted (they are often packed to the rafters with furniture, and you have to weave your way in and out and dig through tons of stuff), but if you find something good then you often won't part with more that £50 for huge items like wardrobes and dressing tables.
In their day most of the furniture would have cost a lot of money, and some pieces are in a lot better condition than others, but if you don't mind a few scuff marks here and there, or are keen to do any repairs, then you can get some really good quality, detailed pieces that would cost less than any flat-pack!
You have to arrange collection and delivery of any items you buy, so it's worth taking a big car/van, but you can purchase items on the day and collect them at a later date.
To find your local furniture recycle/house clearance warehouse simply do a Google search of your local area and type 'furniture reuse / donation / recycle'. Charities such as Sue Ryder and the British Heart Foundation often have designated stores for furniture/homeware donations, and local councils may also run projects in the community for furniture recycling.
All the pictures featured here were taken in Ecco, based in Harlow, Essex, the past weekend. You can find out more about Ecco and their other locations here.
BEST FOR: Picking up new, contemporary interiors for up to 60% off their RRP.
It is fair to say that I am a complete Homesense addict - I think most interior junkies are. I would happily drive quite far to visit a new Homesense that I have not been to yet! For those of you who have not heard of this shop before, Homesense is the home and garden offshoot shop from TK Maxx. It is basically TK Maxx for everything homeware related, although unlike TK Maxx it's a really nice shopping experience. Whereas TK Maxx can appear really jumble sale like, there is nothing jumble saley at all with Homesense - everything is categorised, labelled and displayed nicely.
The buyers for Homesense purchase interior products from all over the world, so you often see great brands and labels that you may have not encountered in Britain before. Everything is also around 60% less than the recommended retail price, so you are looking at some serious savings.
If you like to shop at Heals and The Conran Store but can't really afford it, Homesense is your saviour. You can get great contemporary lighting in on-trend brass and copper for anything from £10 - £30. Good quality cushions are around £12. There are loads of really interesting home accessories starting as low as £3. You can even pick up sought after designer items by LSA, Tom Dixon, Orla Keily and Jonathan Adler at really reduced prices.
There is currently no option to buy online so you need to visit one of their stores, which are growing at quite a fast rate. Find your local Homesense here.
3. USING THE 'NEARBY' SEARCH FEATURE ON EBAY
BEST FOR: Getting a great deal & finding things you didn't even know you wanted.
Ah Ebay, everyone loves Ebay, but it is harder to get a bargain these days on the site as everyone knows what everything is worth. Postage and packing can also cost more than the item, and if the seller lists nondescriptly you can miss a great item completely.
I now only use Ebay for home items with the 'Distance: Nearest First' filter applied. I find this the most effective way to purchase on Ebay for two reasons. Firstly, most pieces of furniture and home items are too bulky to post, people can't be bothered and list it as a 'collection only' listing. This means the amount of people bidding against you decreases as only people within your area will tend to bid. Secondly, it gives you a chance to find great items that the seller has listed really nondescriptly, as it filters down the huge amount of items that people have simply titled 'sofa' or 'cabinet'.
I recently purchased two of the pink, velvet bedside cabinets in the picture above for £6 each. I needed bedside cabinets so simply typed 'bedside cabinets' in Ebay, sorted by 'Distance: nearest first' in a radius of 10 miles from my postcode. About six items down these beautiful pink and brass handle cabinets popped up! No-one else was even viewing them, which I am sure would have been a different story if the seller had titled them 'PINK & BRASS/GOLD VELVET BEDSIDE TABLES/CABINETS WITH GLASS TOP', so i snagged them, then drove 20 minutes the next day to the seller and loaded them up in the back of my Fiat. I flippin' love these cabinets - and they were a total steal at £12 for the two!
BEST FOR: Not having to find a gem amongst a load of old tat - someone has already done the hard work for you.
I know not everyone is up for spending their weekend sifting through house clearance warehouses, or spending their evenings scouring Ebay. If you want original, amazing pieces of furniture for a good price you can't go wrong at an auction. An expert has already selected the best original pieces out there for you - you just have to make the best offer for it.
Unlike on the auction shows on TV, you don't have to go to the bid and sit there nodding your head, or call in at the right time screaming 'BUY BUY BUY!' Most auctions have an online catalogue for that weeks lot you can browse at your leisure then bid online for. Or you can visit the showroom at any time in the week before the bid and leave your bid on a commision slip before you leave. If no-one else is interested in the item you can often get the item for guide price. However, there are two sticking points with auctions - you have to pay a percentage of the hammer price to the auction house, and if you win you have to collect the item in 24 hours to clear the showroom ready for the next lot. Always check the auction houses terms and conditions before you place any bids.
If you live in London or Bath then http://www.criterionauctioneers.com is a great place to visit for furniture and home items.
5. CHARITY SHOPS IN AFFLUENT, SUBURBAN AREAS.
BEST FOR: Picking up items they would charge you five times as much for in Shoreditch.
I hardly tend to bother with charity shops anymore unless they are in specific areas. If the area is densely populated, trendy/gentrified, has a high level of young stylish twenty somethings, is inner city, or in a more deprived area of the UK, I don't even bother to look. Chances are anything good would have already been snapped up, or there will not be anything good in there in the first place. However, if the area is rural, full of 40-60 somethings, middle-class, not an overly 'trendy' place to live, more a 'nice place to raise kids', I'll be in the charity shops like a shot.
You are looking for areas with large, nice, well kept houses and nowhere cool to eat (something like Zizzi being the best option). The charity shops in these places are THE BEST! They seem to be full of good quality things that hardly seem used. Unwanted family heirlooms and items that are in great condition (they have just been replaced out of preference for another) all end up here. The nice ladies and gentlemen volunteering in the shops also seem to just price these items really low! You can pick up vintage mirrors, crystal glasses and decanters, brass candle holders and great vases for a few pence.
Are there any great places where you get furniture and homeware for bargain prices? Have I missed anywhere out? If so leave a comment in the box below - sharing is caring :)