When Toby and I were first married, we were broke. As I think most people are in their twenties! We were still living out of an overdraft in our bank accounts left over from University days and were not yet earning enough to live and pay off what we owed to the bank. We chipped away at it bit by bit over time and I think we were in the red again after being married for 2 or 3 years. During that time we did the same as most people and took as much donated furniture from friends and family as we could and got everything else from Ikea. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this. I love a bit of Ikea to this day and I personally think that the best items in our house are the ones we’ve inherited from grandparents. Every piece has a story and people tend to ask about them when they visit. But I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief when we donated two Billy bookcases and three Billy cd racks after our recent move. Our back garden looked like a branch of Ikea for a while as we stored them out there until they were collected. Those pieces served us well but they weren’t exactly well made or individual.
So how do you source unique pieces of furniture or every day household items when you are on a tight budget? My advice is to go to antique markets. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, our local one is Kempton antiques and I can’t recommend it highly enough to you.
If you’ve never been to an antique market before, let me encourage you to give it a try. I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic myself at first. I didn’t relish the idea of an antique market as I hate crowds jostling for bargains. Those kind of situations don’t invigorate me. They annoy me! I also wasn’t convinced we’d be able to afford anything. Surely the nature of an antique market is to sell rare pieces and rare means expensive right? Well, in some cases yes, but not always. On our first trip we picked up an amazing wooden chest that has 8 drawers for storage and measures about a metre by a third of a metre. It’s solid wood, (i.e really heavy, remember that if you are looking to buy substantial pieces of furniture. You’ll need to go prepared with a van and some sort of wheelie trolley!), it’s sturdy and well crafted. As soon as we saw it we loved it and bought it for just over £100. Bargain. To buy something like that brand new would cost about £1,000 in a high street store.
Of course you might need to be prepared to do a bit of cleaning when you buy an item. Sometimes pieces of furniture have travelled across Europe in the back of a van and are a little bit worn. They have a history after all. But I think the joy you get sourcing something completely unique for your home is worth it.
Toby and I went back to Kempton recently to look for a chair or small sofa to put in our dining room. We came back with this beauty above. It’s been handcrafted from two old chairs to make a double seated bench. Bearing in mind this is a bespoke piece, we were really happy when the dealer sold it to us for £125. We had a bit of a barter with him and got him down from £150.
As you can see the cat loves it as much as we do. We use it as a place to sit whilst we put on shoes in the morning before heading out as we don’t have a hallway. We live in a Victorian house and the door is in the side of the house and opens on to the stairs at the moment. We’re hoping to have that changed in the next few months but that’s another post. I’m currently playing around with styling the area where the bench seat sits and have an idea to create a unique take on a gallery wall above it which I’ll share once it’s complete.
In the meantime though, if you are strapped for cash this January (not unusual!) but looking for some furniture for your home, perhaps you could give an antiques market a try? If you are in the South west London/Surrey area, perhaps pop along to Kempton? It’s inspiring to have a wander around even if you are not in the market for buying anything particular. I’ve come home with so many amazing nick nacks from there and spent just a few pounds at a time.
What are your feelings towards antique markets? Are you a joyful rummager or does the idea feel you with horror?
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