I would like to make a few quick spring updates to my flat, but I don’t want to spend too much. Do you have any advice?
In my column, I try to present ideas for the home to suit a variety of budgets. I’ll throw in the odd humdinger every now and again — some fabulous George II gilt-wood mirror or shell-encrusted table, perhaps, but usually I will do this because I want to reference a particular element of its design.
Or . . . it might just be an incredibly beautiful piece of craftsmanship and I cannot resist bringing it to people’s attention. Some things are too wonderful not to show off, even if we are all only window shopping. (And who knows, perhaps a reader somewhere wants to spend a cool £46,000 on a mirror?)
Of course, it’s about balance. I think most homes, my own included, are a wonderful jumble of unique pieces that one has saved up for, things gathered over time and inexpensive knick-knacks. The high-low. The special and the everyday.
I have blown the budget on certain things in the past, and usually these have been items that I couldn’t have found (and wouldn’t want) a cheaper alternative for. A wonderful, hand-printed wallpaper, say, or a drawing by a much-admired and long-dead artist. These are the things worth spending money on: objects that make your heart sing.
I save money on lots of things. I buy old vases and pictures for my walls at country auctions, cheap glass tumblers from high-street brands, knowing at least half a dozen won’t survive longer than a couple of summer parties, my simple white bed linen from John Lewis.
Now that spring is here, a lot of us are thinking about sweeping away the past few months and embracing the new. It is tempting when objects are inexpensive to chuck any old thing in the basket (I’ve been guilty of this in the past), but try to be mindful: shop for pieces you know you won’t tire of easily. There are various places that I turn to for inexpensive treats and tricks. Here are my current top picks:
Look to H&M Home for accessories, cane and rattan ones in particular. These natural materials have been enjoying a huge renaissance in recent years, and I’m happy about this: they are beautiful and classic, and add warmth to an interior.
H&M’s wood and rattan picture frame is smart and chic and will never date. Its oval tray in braided rattan, on the other hand, would make a lovely addition to a spring breakfast table, overflowing with hot cross buns.
I’m also a fan of its washed cotton bedlinen, particularly in mauve. We’ve all seen our fair share of pale pink sheets, but I love perhaps even more than pink a bit of dusty, greyish violet. It looks ravishing next to emerald green. (Fun fact: another name for the colour is mallow, with the first recorded use of mallow as a colour in 1611.)
I’ve mentioned Hay a few times in this column because the Danish brand is a favourite and it nails the balance well. It sells useful, functional furniture (steel bookcases and garden chairs, for example) along with everyday accessories that have been given a fun, irreverent and colourful makeover: elegant glass spoons with twist-patterned handles that recall iced lollies, doormats woven from jute in a two-tone design.
Inexpensive furniture is tricky in the sense that I do not believe in buying new, cheap furniture. I would always rather buy old — more often than not you’ll end up with something better made and more unique.
Case in point: you need a small chest of drawers to fit an awkward space
in a spare bedroom. I search for “small chest of drawers” on Antiques Atlas and on the first page of results I spy one from Kernow Antiques, in beautiful stripped and waxed pine, with highly unusual turned pilasters and a price tag of £395.
Saying this, not everything in one’s home wants to be old, and sometimes you just want a chair, plain and simple, no bells or whistles. There are some good, inexpensive, new and neat things out there: I like La Redoute’s set of two Cedak wood chairs, which call to mind French bistros. I’m a fan of its Ozevan metal folding chairs and table, too. These are available in bright red, forest green and blue and would add instant cheer to a garden terrace or balcony.
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Last, best not to ignore the I word. I like Ikea’s tall and elegant white Havsta cabinet with its shelves behind glass doors and cupboards beneath. It would work brilliantly in a kitchen filled with colourful drinking glasses.
With Ikea, it’s often about little hacks. Take the knobs on this cupboard, for example: switch them for some decorative brass ones and it’ll look much more than the sum of its parts. Or, even better: paint the whole thing bright yellow and wallpaper the interior. Happy spring saving!