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Cheap way to add chic design style

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

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THESE days having handmade or second-hand furniture and fittings is far from naff, it's positively designer and with some imagination and creativity, you can add unique features in your home for very little money. If you're having to pull in the purse strings a bit don't worry, use it as an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and maybe learn a new skill.

1. Go to auctions Obviously, I'm a great fan of buying property at auction, but if this is too daunting, you can have great fun (and pick up some bargains) by going to auctions selling furniture and homewares. If you go to one in a posh area, you are more likely to pick up genuine antiques but you don't have to pay a fortune for stuff that can make a real statement.

2. Buy direct from designers Try buying from artists and designers directly. Local art and craft fairs are good for this as well as websites. In most cases, you'll also be supporting British industry rather than buying imports.

3. Upcycle furniture A great way to give an old piece of furniture a new lease of life. Scout second hand furniture shops, auctions and car boot sales for furniture and homewares at knockdown prices. Search online for tons of upcycling ideas but here's just a few: Use old magazines/newspapers/sheets of music or even old family photos to decoupage (using varnish and layers of paper) wooden items. You don't have to cover the whole thing - just a small area can look good. Start with simple, flat shapes such as toilet seats or kitchen chairs.

Bung some old woolly jumpers into the washing machine to create your own felt and use it to create cushion covers, place mats, door stops and so on. Ask retailers for their old fabric sample books and sew together pieces in patchwork to cover sofa cushions.

Pick up old broken tiles from shops and create a mosaic perfect for outdoor furniture as well as mirror frames or fire surrounds.

Remember if you pick up a piece for a few quid and personalise it, it doesn't matter if you don't like the result so its a great way to experiment or could make a great Christmas gift.

4. Kitchens and bathrooms Even larger items such as bathroom suites and entire kitchens can be found advertised online. Consider items a bit further a field, since the savings you make could easily cover the costs of hiring a van.

5. Get spraying You can buy cans of spray paint in a wide variety of colours and textures. Consider spraying drawers in the same unit, different colours. Go for bold, shades if the background wood is neutral. You can use stencils to create fun patterns or hire a paint sprayer to transform larger pieces of furniture such as wardrobes, fire surrounds, dining tables.

6. Charity shop curtains You can often find perfectly decent curtains in charity shops. Shortening curtains is easy and you can make them bigger by sewing on a contrasting border. Some have just been used in show homes or interior designer displays. If the curtains are for display only, consider varnishing tree branches instead of curtain poles.

7. Ditch the shag pile These days there are so many options for flooring materials that are cheap, hard-wearing and environmentally friendly so you don't need to go to the expense of carpeting throughout. Some cheaper alternatives are cork, wood laminate and even lino has come on leaps and bounds since the 1970s.

8. Visit salvage yards Particularly if you are renovating older, period property, salvage yards are great places to find architectural pieces that can give your property a bit of extra character without breaking the bank.

9. Mirror, mirror on the wall Interior designers use mirrors to make a property appear bigger and lighter but you can also use them for wall art. Customise mirror frames with driftwood, bottle tops, beads and shells or create an arrangement of unusual shaped mirrors or even a phrase made of mirror letters.

10. Crafty lighting Retro lighting is very in at the moment. Ask relatives if they've got old lights they no longer use and update them with a statement lamp shade.

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