While I know it’s not mid-century perfect, one of the things I think you have to do when you’re renting properties is buy furniture that’s good enough for as little as possible, because what if it doesn’t fit in your forever home – quite literally, what if it’s all the wrong size? There’s not much you can do about that! Hence I’ve become a whiz at scouring charity shops and eBay to find exactly – or close to – what I want. If you put the time in, it’s out there, just waiting for you to nestle in an alcove…
- Visit charity shops as often as you can – armed with all width, height and depth measurements for furniture you’re looking to find saved on your phone and a tape measure if you’ve got one (although most furniture shops will probably have one you can borrow). There’s nothing worse than getting it wrong, or missing out on something that’s perfect. I’ve found even large charity furniture stores turn over almost their entire stock weekly, so you can’t really pop in too often to catch a bargain, nor wait too long if you find something you like
- If you’re not prepared to drastically alter something that’s probably temporary, know in advance if certain wood finishes, colours etc won’t fit with your existing furniture or fittings – it’s not a bargain if it doesn’t fit in how you want it to and you’re not able or prepared to change it (and if you won’t, don’t kid yourself you’ll get round to it like me with shortening the legs on trousers…)
- Set yourself a budget for each piece you’re trying to buy and base it around how likely you are to take it to your next house; I knew I couldn’t spend much on a sideboard as it’s so large, chances are there may not be a space for it in my next house. Sort of cost per use for furniture
- eBay is great, but you can waste hours of your life trying to find what you want there and get suckered by people selling over the odds for vintage pieces – my advice is find the keywords of the crucial things you definitely want e.g. ‘table’ ‘teak’ ‘shelf’ and leave out period flags e.g. ‘mid century’ ’50s’ or you’ll miss out on the cheaper pieces that are from the era but the seller didn’t realise, or they aren’t from the era but fit the criteria pretty well, or they could be easily upcycled by sticking some different legs on or a coat of varnish (but, again, only if you’re prepared to actually do that! My limit pretty much stops at a layer of varnish)
- And if you’re shopping on eBay because you have a budget, sort by price to avoid temptation!
- Compromise – something I find very hard to do as I’m such a darn perfectionist, but as in the case of aforementioned sideboard, I was ready to drop x5 what I eventually paid to get something perfect… And in fact I really like what we ended up with as its the perfect size and…
- …Furniture can be dressed up with cheaper ornaments that are period authentic. It really makes a difference to see my starburst clock sitting right above my tv table. And maybe someday I really will get round to changing the legs and handles on my sideboard (yeah right), but until then it looks quite alright with a little retro radio on top
- Retro homeware can be picked up everywhere these days for cheap. Of course there’s eBay and charity shops (although I never have much luck in the ones near me), but in the UK, I recommend checking out Dunelm Mill and of course Ikea can be relied on for unusual things, not to mention they occasionally reissue things from their archives for great prices (a piece of which you will see when I get round to showing you the rest of my living room). Also, if you are in the UK follow Retro to Go as they’re always sharing cute house buys (among other things) in places you wouldn’t think to look
This all feels like obvious advice when I say it like that, and no one who’s already in the furniture thrifting game is going to have their lives changed by this, but it’s how I do it anyway!