As a busy person, caring for my family, studying my PhD, managing this blog and my diabetes blog, I was thinking recently about how hard it can be to keep up with all the things I would love to do at home. You know, all of the painting, fixing cracks, scrubbing the deck outside, getting a new bathroom cabinet, and the list goes on. Partly the reason we don’t get things done is simply time, partly it is finances. The thing is about our home is that so much of it is filled with stuff I found either for free, cheap, secondhand or was given.
In fact, there are really only a few items we bought new, such as our beds, a few rugs, my gorgeous coffee table, our ceiling fans and pendants in the bedroom. I also bought our whitegoods new and our kettle and toaster. I think all of the furniture was either bought from ebay, gumtree, roadside finds or second hand; as were many of the throws, cushions, decor pieces such as lamps and art; and light fittings. Our kitchen was new about a decade ago, but I also added a lot of vintage flair with a pressed metal splashback and vintage tins and collectibles displayed.
For our bathroom vanity I am looking at the moment for a secondhand pedestal basin, or a way of creating our own upcycled one. We already have an upcycled tool box as our shelf on the wall, and a handmade recycled shower head. It is remarkable how thriftily you can create a beautiful home and do great things for the planet by reusing at the same time. You really do not need to spend a lot to make your home lovely.
How to create a beautiful home on a vintage budget
1) Get Thrifty
Work out where the good opshops or thrift stores are in your town or city and then check them every week or so to get a feel for when items come in. Don’t go on a Saturday late in the day as often a lot of good things have been bought. But it is a bit take your chances, so visit a few times on different days to get a feel for when they bring out the new items. If you see something you love, get it NOW as it will not be there when you decide later you really wanted it! There are plenty of throws, tablecloths, cushions and decor pieces to be found in Thrift Stores, as well as kitchen items and often furniture and art. Here are some more opshopping tips.
2) Suss out the local Salvage Yards and make friends!
Again they have rotating stock so if you want a particular item, such as a bath or sink, let them know and they will contact you when something comes in that you are looking for. See potential – an old window frame may be used as a shelving unit base, an art piece or a bed head framework. As can old doors be used for bedheads or tables. Crates and boxes make great statement pieces on the wall as shelving units, or piled on top of each other on the floor, or as a single side table. Paint them or leave them as the raw timber depending on the look you want. Many have recycled timber for building purposes, or creating a unique piece such as a table. They will usually have bathroom and kitchen pieces, fireplaces etc
3) Garage Sales are your best friend
The Garage Sale can be a brilliant place to find things for your home makeover. But go early. The dealers tend to almost camp out overnight at any well advertised ones! So you will need to make a bee line for any you think may have what you are looking for. You can look at garage sales listings on Gumtree and some of the Garage Sale sites on Facebook etc Or take your chances on the day and look through the paper for listings. Work out your track and take food and water! The Garage Trail day is a brilliant national initiative held once a year as well.
4) See the potential
Be prepared to paint, reupholster or varnish. Just as when you buy a house and look past the decor that may not be to your taste or outdated, look past the exterior of a piece of furniture to its bones – if it is structurally sound and has the shape and line you want, as well as perfect function, then go for it. You can paint, strip, varnish it and more, to get the look you want.
5) Consider Industrial
Industrial is HOT HOT HOT and this means you can take an old warehouse light fitting, some wire to make into your own light shade, or an old metal box and turn them into show pieces in your home. Think raw materials, metals and raw timbers and then layer them with textiles to create a softness. An industrial piece looks fantastic in any home, and works beautifully against a more traditional look, adding a touch of difference.
There is treasure to be found on the side of the road! It is unbelievable what people throw out. You may just happen across some treasure, but by checking local council hard rubbish dates if they still have them in your area, you can be assured of a day out “shopping” the kerb when this happens. Just be prepared to take a trailer! I have been known to walk home from my daily exercise, or hide something in a bush until I can get back with the car!
7) Get your upcycling skills working
Taking something and giving it new life is a wonderful feeling. Good for you, your pocket and the planet. Practice on a range of furniture or other finds, pieces to get your skills up and remember this is your home, so it does not matter how something turns out. By doing more projects, your skills will increase. Keep old wallpaper samples, cards and papers which can be used in decoupage and lining cupboards and shelves, or even as wallpaper. Consider what materials and finishes may turn an ordinary piece into something with the wow factor.
8) Seek inspiration and use your imagination
Think outside the square when it comes to decorating. Rather than recreating a look you see in a magazine and places like Pinterest – use these to get inspiration for DIY, upcyling and Vintage ideas. Or just take a walk through an opshop and consider how a piece may fit into your home. I take the evolution approach to decorating in my place. I don’ t have a “style” or theme. I find pieces I love, take them home and love them hard. If you really want to you can however use these ideas you find and love, to create a mood board with a bit of a plan for a room when you set out to source items.
9) Secondhand Stores
There is a trick to staying on a vintage budget if you are going to go with secondhand store. Know your local ones and which tend to be over priced. Some Antique Stores are way too costly, but there are second hand stores who have very reasonable prices and you can pick up some of your major items. For example I bought my imported Scandi Sofa from a Mid Century specialist store for the same or cheaper as a sofa from a furniture store, and my divine depression era Australian kitchen cabinet for a bargain price.
10) Ebay and Gumtree are your best friends
Search, gather and watch. Find items you love for inspiration and jump on those you really love. Again you may need to do some work to some pieces. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves. There are often giveaways on Gumtree too and we have found some lovely pieces, such as our fireplace surround we use as a shelf display, for free.
Let your friends and family know what you are looking for and they may have something in their own shed, or be making a change at home you can benefit from. They may also know someone else in their network who might have something to giveaway. We have had fans, air cons and bath tubs in the past from friends!
Do you have a similar story? Would love to hear!
**update from a post in 2015