Shopping Your Home: Put Your Purse Away
Furnishing your home can be an expensive job. When I first met Joe in 1999, we were both working in London and had no time for thinking about interiors. My job as an Executive Assistant at internet company Cisco Systems meant that I left my house at 5.30 am every day (I kid you not) to be at my desk by 6.30 am - my boss travelled every day from the Midlands and liked an early start. What this also meant was that my phone would ring as soon as I got into the car so we could discuss the day ahead as I bombed it down the M4 corridor in my turquoise Vauxhall Tigra (this was cool at the time btw), barely dressed or awake and make up askew. Needless to say, my chances of pondering on interior choices were few and far between and as a result, our home was more House Of Pine than House Of Hackney.
And I'm not just saying that. Our first house purchase was a three bedroom Barrett Home beauty off the Tilehurst Road with open plan sitting room and kitchen diner. Just down the road in Caversham was The Pine Cabin, a veritable treasure trove of every pine item available to man. We had busy jobs and no kids and we needed furniture fast. From bookcase to bed, from wardrobe to dressing table, from dining table to coffee table, from chair to mirror, every single bastard item was pine. In retrospect, we should possibly have put a little more thought into our decor but we were too busy drinking wine, going on mini breaks to Amsterdam and having 5am finish tequila slamming, chain smoking dinner parties with our similarly life phased neighbours to properly plan our purchasing choices for the future.
The downside to this poorly considered home decor option was that it took me fifteen years to get rid of it all. Every piece was painted at least twice, every mirror was spray painted, I even chalkboard painted wardrobes (I drew the line at decoupage). Every time we moved house, removal men would sigh heavily when accosted with huge, ornate pine wardrobes which looked like the door to Narnia but in reality would only hold about five pairs of trousers. When we moved into our current home, I made an executive decision to get rid of every single item that I no longer loved. eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle were my friends and the plethora of pine was no more. It was an interior revelation and unbelievably therapeutic, aided by the fact that due to it's popularity, pine holds it's value brilliantly so I was quids in. The abundance of pine that had dominated our homes for so long had certainly worked hard for us.
As a hugely transient decorator, I am always getting urges to change things up in my home. Many is the time the children have arrived home from school only to find that the living room is now the dining room or what they thought was a kitchen breakfast bar was now a dining table. Even when I was small, I was always moving my bedroom around, obsessed with the idea of creating a new space. As a woman who could relocate a sofa quicker than you could say DFS, my mum is solely to blame for this constant need to shift things around. Nowadays, with the constant barrage of real homes on social media, it's even more tempting to try out new positions (I'm talking furniture, btw). It's not feasible nor financially viable to be constantly buying new things.
But fear not. There's an answer to this creative conundrum and it's called Shopping Your Home. But what does this mean? I first heard this phrase used by my favourite American bloggers who are generally my go to when it comes to styling your home without breaking the bank. They're experts in making your space look a million dollars at minimum cost and the concept is simple. Instead of immediately dashing off to Homesense when you get the urge to restyle, assess your accessories and faff with your furniture. Here's my top tips.
1. Move It All About
I'm a huge believer in that furniture should be multi tasked. Who says that a drinks trolley should be used for drinks? I've got a few of these dotted around my home that I've picked up for a song in charity shops, and not one of them is used for the way it was intended. Perfect as a side table in the living room, I've even got one in Ella's room being used as a bedside table. My own bedside table is an old blanket box of my Grandmothers, a piece that would usually sit at the end of the bed.
My desk in my office is a vintage Pieff smoked glass dining table from ebay. It's big enough to take all my random crap plus a printer and my computer. My sideboard is ideal for storing stacked copies of Livingetc going back to 2006. And talking of sideboards, my sister has a sideboard that she uses as her dressing table in her bedroom. Add a mirror and it's the perfect size for storing toiletries and make up. Unless you are a 16 year old girl in which case you need a small lock up.
2. Curate A Collection
You've got to love a collection. It's a perfect way to add interest to your space without any investment at all. Shop your house for favourite pieces that you'd like to see in your room. Group items in colour, tone, texture or style. As pieces alone, my charity shop glasses look like, well, charity shop glasses. Group them together in colour order and they become a collection worth looking at.
I first did this years ago by curating all the white accessories in my home and displaying them together. Hugely effective yet so simple and completely cost free. Or pull together prints from around your home with a similar theme - whether it's typography, floral or abstract, theming your gallery makes it look as if it were meant to be. Trawl your kitchen for pretty plates and create a display. Anything goes.
3. Layer It Up
Cushions were not made to be static. I've got an actual cushion box (this is a thing) in which I keep cushions currently in limbo. By regularly swapping them in and out, it gives the room a fresh look without the expense. The same applies to throws - seasonal changes are good and it's an easy update with immediate gratification.
My house has wooden floors and I've got plenty of rugs strewn across the floor. These rugs work hard - I regularly change them around between rooms and layer them on top of each other to give a new look to the spaces. Position them anywhere you like - there's no rules when it comes to layering. I have three in my dining room alone which overlap and give a really cosy feel.
4. Make It Focal
Once you've started moving it all around, it's hard to stop. Changing the focal points in a room by mixing it all up is a great way to give you room a new feel. Get your styling head on and create new vignettes on side tables, mantelpieces, boring corners. I regularly shop my other rooms to find pieces that I haven't seen for a while and have forgotten that I love.
The same applies to lamps. Swapping your table lamps from room to room is another satisfying move - mix and match them, light up a corner that was previously unlit and it will change atmosphere and the feel of the room.
When it comes to living rooms, it's hard to take the focus away from the television but rearranging the furniture so it's not simply directed straight at it makes a difference to the way the room looks. Side on is good - what's a little neck crick in the name of interior styling, after all?
5. Upcycle & Recycle
When you've shopped your home to find pieces that can work in your updated space, also have a think about what you no longer love in the room. It's a good opportunity to ditch the stuff that no longer appeals to you. eBay, Gumtree and charity shops are all excellent ways of recycling pieces that you've tired of.
But before you do so, consider the art of upcycling - can it be wallpapered, painted? Can you swap the knobs, change the legs? Reassess the situation by considering it in a different room with a different use.
I have to admit that the pine furniture that we hastily bought all those years ago had served it's purpose. Over the years it endured in our home, it appeared in various rooms in different guises and seriously worked it's arse off when we couldn't afford to buy anything else. Shopping your home is the perfect route to making the most of what you have and what's more, it's bloody good fun.
There's nothing more satisfying than a good move around and the opportunity to look at the things that you own from a different angle. So get shopping. And in the words of Billy Connelly, put your purse away.