How to Save More When Shopping for Furniture
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Published by TOP4 Team
The furniture that you start out with is likely to be a mixture of items you already own, those passed on by well-meaning friends and relatives, junk shop boot fair finds, and brand new purchases.
Once you’ve begun to weave your own look with colours, shapes, and surfaces, it’s easy to spoil the overall effect by amassing a collection of ill-assorted bits and pieces that (if you’re honest about it), you’ve taken on board largely because they’re sturdy and serviceable – and possibly cheap or even free.
However, the cost is high in terms of creating style and atmosphere, especially since you can easily get by at first with just somewhere to sleep, a comfortable place to relax (even if it’s simply a selection of squashy cushions piled up on the floor), a table to write and serve meals on, and some basic provision for storage.
Everything else can be added gradually as you discover what you need and find (or are able to afford) the things you really love.
Explore the options
Even if your rooms are small, don’t be afraid to use large pieces of furniture. One or two dramatic items – a sofa or table that spans one end of a narrow room, perhaps, or a huge chest of drawers that fills a wide alcove – make a bold and stylish impression, as well as being hugely useful.
Be careful, too, of apparently ingenious dual purpose designs: coffee tables that can be converted into dining tables; stools that open out into single beds and cupboards containing fold – down work surfaces, for example. They are only worthwhile if the item in question performs all of its functions efficiently, it is easy to operate, and you aren’t planning to put through its paces every day.
Buy second hand items
Ferreting through junk shops, flea markets, and charity shops is one of the great joys of furnishing your first home, and if you become hooked on this particular pursuit, it is likely to remain a lifelong pleasure.
When it comes to furniture, look for solidly constructed items in classic shapes or quirkily styled in a way that suits your look. Don’t worry too much about broken handles, loose joints or scratched paint – these things are fairly easy and inexpensive to put right once you get them home.
Beware of woodworm: a sprinkling of small holes in any piece of timber should put you immediately on your guard. Either pass it up or make sure it’s been treated properly before you give it house room.
Flexibility and function
Try to clear your mind of any furnishing preconceptions you may already have and look at every piece that appeals to you with a fresh eye. For example, apart from storing socks and sweaters in the bedroom, a chest of drawers can be used to hold paperwork, CD collections, videos or DVDs and board games in the living room; household linen, utensils and small items of equipment in the kitchen; gloves, scarves, bags and hats in the hall, or even toiletries for clean towels in the bathroom.
Although this way of thinking opens up a whole area of decorative exploration, it can be taken too far. For example, unspeakable acts of vandalism include turning heirloom jugs or vases into lamp bases and drilling holes in an antique cabinet to accommodate a television set and VCR.
As well as searching through markets and junk shops things that inspire you, widen your shopping base to take in office furnishes (look out filing and storage cabinets, plans chests, occasional chairs and folding tables); catering suppliers (for shelving units and hanging racks, as well as china, glass and utensils); shop filters (for clothing rails, cupboards, mirrors and funky display gear), and hospital equipment specialists (for trolleys and folding metal-framed screens).
These industrial designs often offer classic appeal and solid practicality at considerably lower prices than you’ll ever see in trendy furnishing stores.
If you live anywhere near an architectural salvage yard, make a point of dropping in on a regular basis to see what’s available. Apart from structural items such as interesting doors and period fireplaces, many of them also carry a fascinating assortment of furnishing treasures all rescued from about-to-be-demolished banks, shops, office buildings, theatres, schools, hospitals and ancient churches, as well as residential properties.
The rule of thumb is don’t be a snob when it comes to shopping for home furniture. That $700 dining set at the shop might cost half price at the flea market or junk shop; and with a few retouches would already look as good as new.
For more shopping tips check out our Buyer's Guide.