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Style on a Budget

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

There are many ways to make a beautiful home but our way in our own home is the budget route.

Like most people we’ve never had much money to spare but we’re too driven by aesthetics to let the small matter of finances get in the way of living in style.

In this shot the flagstones were an indulgence but everything else was on a tight budget. The radiator and sink were eBay items that needed some tlc. The hooks, mirror and bench were all free items

Everyone loves a bargain, it’s just that for some of us bargain hunting becomes a way of life; it might be by choice or it might be by necessity. Ours is a world filled with DIY and make do and mend ethics; spending time in research rather than throwing money at a solution.

From our point of view (there are plenty of ways of styling a home on a low budget – this is just our way) the key to making the place not feel like a budget interior is the mix of sources – we have our fair share of Ikea staples but it’s easy to mix these in unobtrusively if half your stuff comes from other people’s sheds, junk shops and your grandma’s house; and just like when you dress in vintage clothes people will assume you're a bit fabulous the same goes for interiors.

We have saved up and spent good money on a few key items where we thought it’d be really worthwhile for longevity and value and where the benefit of spending well on quality would make a real difference to our lives: good quality insulation, bespoke oak doors and windows, large reclaimed flagstones for the floors, a woodburner, range cooker and kitchen taps. Apart from these few items everything in our house has been resourced on the cheap or free where possible.

In this shot: the floorboards are made from old scaffold boards that we sanded and oiled. The sofabed cost just over £200 from Wayfair. The vintage filing cabinet was £10 from eBay. The candlesticks and urn came from car boot sales. The best bit was the battered artwork that we found in a friend’s shed. He’d got it out of a skip and cut it in half to save for it’s plywood backing. He gave it to us free when having a clear out.

So where does the free stuff come from?

  • This is a big one for our place – it’s more luck than judgement – it’s about talking to everyone you know about the stuff you need and not being too picky – if people know that you’re a likely candidate to take stuff off their hands that they don’t want they’ll keep offering you stuff – if you don’t want it maybe you could help them out by taking it to charity for them – next time they’re thinking of getting rid of something they’ll come back to you and eventually there’ll be something in it for you.

  • A bit of old fashioned skip diving –  you have to be keen and a bit cheeky but keep your eyes peeled for skips (always ask the permission of the owner before taking things from a skip otherwise this is legally considered steeling but generally people are delighted you'll make more space in their skip)

  • Be vigilant at your local recycling centre (aka 'the dump' or 'the tip'). Once things have been deposited they're the property of the recycling centre but ask people for items as they're unloading them and they could be yours - so much perfectly good old stuff has come into our house this way - we're perpetually amazed at the things that get thrown out.

  • Help people clear places – my mother has been faced with clearing the houses of three of my grandparents in the last 10 years – clearance is a big job and I was happy to help, and as we have a van our assistance was particularly appreciated. During the process I was able to keep items that meant something to me but also to save items that might otherwise have been got rid of.

Key free things we always say yes to:

  • Books – in anyone’s book collection there are some worth reading and some worth displaying – the rest can easily be shipped off to a charity shop

  • Good quality timber – but don’t exceed your storage capacity

The console table was another eBay bargain. We cut it in half – we used the other half in my office and got two for the price of one. Lamp from a car boot sale. Mirror from a junk shop. Vase from a charity shop. Plants from Ikea. Plant pots from The Plastic Box Shop. Cushions Ikea and homemade. Sofabed from Wayfair. Radiator from eBay. Pouffe and scrabble box from my Grandmother’s house clearance.

Where does the reclaimed stuff come from?

  • Reclamation yards are not cheap these days – most of our reclamation did not come from dealerships. Again first talk to friends – you never know who might have a sink hiding in the undergrowth at the end of the garden or a pile of timbers they think they’re going to have to burn!

  • eBay – or similar – you can always find treasures that someone else deems to be junk – maybe broaden design horizons by browsing related topics to find inspiration beyond what you thought you were looking for. Be prepared to put some work into pieces that might have seen better days. Try to avoid buying into the latest trends on these sites – you’ll be stung for high end prices. Create your own style rather than buying into trends or try to interpret trends in an alternative way so you can avoid paying the price for popular items.

  • Piece things together – ie make stuff. Most of our cupboards are made from doors from eBay added to simple cupboard frames plus a lick of paint and new handles – this is the route to bespoke furniture. We weren’t exactly master craftsmen at the outset – Martin invested in a few key quality tools when we began the project – a chopsaw, a router and an electric drill for starters – then he taught himself the skills needed for each job that came up by watching videos on Youtube. Just always remember to measure twice and cut once.

  • Car boot sales. If you’re up for an early start on the weekend there are loads of bargains to be had.

  • Junk shops. Our go to favourite junk shop is Sprauncy (at the top of the high street in Stroud) – interesting bits and bobs often at charity shop prices.

  • Charity shops. Still worth a browse but they don’t tend to be as fruitful as they once were

Key vintage items to keep an eye out for:We have a few items we always keep our eyes peeled for at junk shops and charity shops

  • Jugs – great for styling shelves but also abundantly useful

  • Old frames – what’s in it can be replaced by new stuff but it’s not cheap buying new frames that look good

  • Old mirrors – fill space and throw light and add mood/atmosphere

The shelf is an old scaffold board. The books and jugs were free from helping with a house clearance. The plant comes from Ikea and the black gloss plant pot from The Plastic Box Shop.

What about new stuff?

  • We’ve got tonnes of Ikea stuff in our house but it’s not obvious as it’s mixed in and not noticeable in the melee

  • Most of our plant pots are high gloss plastic and cost £2 – £6 each from The Plastic Box Shop.

Job done and a packet saved and it doesn’t look too shabby once you get it all in the mix.

One last thing though in this time of constant flux – I’m sure I’m not alone in the urge to change things up regularly – even on a budget it’s perfectly achievable. So long as I’m never buying into the height of fashion and selling once it’s passed (this will lose you lots of money); I simply put things back on ebay at a starting price of what I paid for it then use the money to buy the next thing…


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