One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure
I LOVE a bargain. The main reason that I started this blog was because I am often asked, where did you get that? And I can guarantee that most of the time, it won't be from a High Street store. Actually, I can pretty much guarantee that a fair amount of the things in my home are over 50 years old. Apart from me. Just clarifying that one.
Everyone loves the idea of recycling. For me, furniture buying is no different and I love the idea that a piece of furniture can be passed down through the years, through different owners, different memories being made each time. Unfortunately, second hand furniture buying has it's drawbacks and I recently had to Freecycle a gorgeous light up 60's cocktail cabinet as it smelt like someone had directly blown 10,000 Silk Cut into the cupboard. You win some and you lose some.
Over the years, I've found other routes of looking for the perfect item and in the interests of caring and sharing, have outlined them for you below.
I'll Start With The Obvs - eBay
I discovered eBay after the birth of my son Max when I was home with two babies under two and needed to remind myself that my brain could be used for something other than calculating milk feeds. My first real buy was a Heals grey velvet four seater sofa that I won for a tenner. The satisfaction was intense and I was immediately addicted. After the initial euphoria, there have been good buys and bad buys, over bidding and under bidding, winning and losing. But the thrill of the bid is always there. Over the years my favourite win has been my red leather vintage Natuzzi sofa for £400 - my husband took a van up to the City and brought it single handedly down three flights of stairs. I've also had some not so great impulse buys - two pink velvet Andrew Martin theatre chairs that looked amazing but when they arrived they just didn't fit anywhere at all. The days of nabbing midcentury furniture for twenty quid are long gone now that eBay sellers have got savvy to it, but every now and then you can still pick up a bargain.
I've only discovered Gumtree in the last two years and it has some significant benefits over eBay. Firstly, it's free to post an advert and you deal directly with the seller for payment, so there's no fees to pay. You can search by your area so you only pull up local sellers. All posts are open to negotiation as well so you can often get a really good bargain. People often post to Gumtree in order to sell something quickly for cash so it's always worth a look.
The title of this post certainly applies to Freecycle. This site, like Gumtree, is town specific. It's constantly updated and always worth a look - you never know what people will tire of and simply can't be bothered with the aggravation of selling. Personally, I've found it really useful when we move house as you can list an item from your mobile and someone will collect it within the hour. Particularly useful when having a clear out when your husband isn't there - Joe made me hang on to the fake Christmas tree for years. Two minutes on Freecycle and they'd picked it up and it's real trees all the way from now on! He didn't even need to know.
I absolutely adore charity shops. My shop partner, Karen, and I spend many happy hours doing charity shop trawls and always come back with something fab. Obviously you have to be careful that you don't overdo it and be up for the next series of Storage Hoarders. My collection of small vintage glasses is totally out of control to the point that I have had to buy a display cabinet from another charity shop to put them in. China and glassware are the best buys, check the bases and know your makers marks. I recently bought a Sylvac plant pot for £4, beautifully made and classic retro design. Always check out the fabric too, my favourite recent purchase was a huge crochet knitted folk blanket for £3.
House Clearance Warehouses
These tend to be removal companies who have a sideline in buying furniture that you don't want to move with you. They're usually smaller local companies who have a warehouse and are definitely worth a look. Last time I popped in I negotiated (i.e. smiled a lot and wore them down) the carboy in the above photograph for £8. The lovely Tina was from the same warehouse and I used the same negotiating tactics to secure her for a tenner.
Community Furniture Warehouse
I've only recently discovered this gem thanks to my friend Pandora. These warehouses are dotted all over the country and they are run as a charitable concern. They take in donated furniture and then sell it on to people who need it. There are two prices on each item for sale - one for people who are entitled to Benefits and another for people who are not. These organisations are non profit making so everybody benefits.
The Sue Ryder Sale Of Donated Goods
If you live in the South, the Sue Ryder sale is a recycling, bargain hunting, vintage obsessed mecca. We moved to York three years ago and I still dream of it. The Sue Ryder Hospice is in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, a beautiful old building surrounded by outbuildings. Every three weeks, they fill these outbuildings with surplus shop stock and items which are too big for their stores. There's one barn for glass, one barn for china, one barn for books, one barn for clothing. You get the picture. Most excitingly there is a huge outside area in which they put the furniture. People start queuing hours before the gate opens and for good reason - my favourite buy was a Jentique sideboard for £10. It's a total bunfight but hugely exciting and worth the effort. You can check their website for a list of sale dates.
I know that recycling furniture and second hand goods isn't for everyone. There's a lot of joy to be taken from investing in a new piece that you will keep for ever and I understand that too. However, I find second hand bargain hunting satisfying on three counts. Firstly, you are helping to fund worthy causes - if you donate your own unwanted goods at the same time you can double that feeling and surround yourself in a glow of smugness. Secondly, you are buying a piece of furniture to breathe new life into it, thus perpetuating the recycling process. And finally, you are not giving your hard earned money to an overpriced High Street store charging £400 for a coffee table. Everyone's a winner.