Getting Pretty on the Cheap

This afternoon you’re in for a treat readers. Kimberly is back and with a bang. Her home was a huge hit when it was featured on FF a while back but now you get the real scoop, how she got it that way and without splashing too much cash. Thanks Kimberley!

Why hello gorgeous Florence Finders! I’m Kimberly from Swoon Worthy and I’m more than thrilled that Rebecca has asked me to fill in whilst she’s off on her travels. I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with you lovely lot in the past when Rebecca shared my home in progress a few months ago and I’m back again to share with you one of my most favourite topics: how to make your home gorgeous without spending bucketloads of cash.

It’s easy to think that in order to have a beautiful home, you have to have loads of money to throw at it. But who wants to spend more money than you have to? Why not save that cash for globe trotting, pretty shoes and going out with your mates? (See, when I put it like that, it sounds so much more useful, doesn’t it?)

In the last 2 years of owning our home, we have stretched every last penny out of getting this place up to scratch (and still going). We have bargained, searched, learned loads of new skills and made bargain hunting into an art form. So I’m here to share with you my Top Tips for Getting Pretty On the Cheap. Let’s get started, shall we?

eBay’s “Saved Search” is Your New BFF

This is by far my top tip. Thrift shops around my way aren’t too great although you can of course find bargains if you persevere. Personally, I like to shop from the comfort of my own pyjamas and home, and the beauty of both the eBay website and the eBay mobile app is that I can do it anywhere. Learn what you are searching for and then don’t assume that everyone knows how to list items properly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen things listed as ‘Shabby Chic’ that weren’t even REMOTELY in that genre. Consider searching common misspellings as well – so if you are looking for a chest of drawers, be sure to search ‘Chest of Draws’ as well!

Now, eBay has a little feature called ‘Saved Searches’ so if there’s something in particular that you are looking for, set one up. It will email you every day that there are new items listed that meet your criteria. I always have about 4 or 5 big ticket items that I’m looking for at any one time so it’s much quicker and more efficient to have eBay do the work for you and you’ll learn not only how often these items come up but also how much the going cost is.


I scored the vintage coffee table and white cowhide rug using Saved Searches and saved 50% on the cost of the rug (it was new) and only paid £30 for the coffee table.

For furniture, be sure to set your search results so that it only shows you items that you can reasonably drive to to pick up. If you know you won’t drive from Portsmouth to Leeds to pick up a tulip table, there’s no point in the search results bringing these ones up. Create your search specifically to your needs. At a bare minimum, be sure to enter Location (25 miles to my postcode works for me but you can go as near as 5 or 10 miles away) and the maximum price you are willing to pay. No point in the search bringing back items far above your budget and you’ll be less tempted to spend more than you intended.

Understand the Power of Paint

You’ll never feel more immediate gratification than painting a room. The impact a tin of paint can make is far greater than any cost to you. Bear in mind one thing however… cheap paints are a false economy. Spring for good quality paints and you can finish a room in two coats. Avoid the single coat stuff, it’s usually very thick and gloopy and it just doesn’t have the coverage nor does it go as far as the normal stuff. I tend to use Dulux the most often – it’s not as cheap as some of the own-brand paints and not as expensive as some of the higher end ranges but it gives brilliant coverage and Dulux will colour match to anything at all. The range of existing colours is truly never-ending.

The bathroom went from boring white to peacock blue – it’s saved me a bundle because I originally wanted to rip the whole thing out but this has bought me time to save before I look at a complete remodel. The full ‘makeover’ cost around £50 including the new hooks.

Learn How to Wield a Spray Paint Can

Spray painting is the perfect way to enliven any older piece or give something a new lease on life. I use it for any small projects, especially on those where I don’t want to see any brush strokes. Pretty much anything can be spray painted although bear in mind you may need a primer coat for things like plastics or anything with a glossy finish. In terms of technique, stand about 20cm back from your object and using steady strokes, move spray back and forth across the object, never resting it on any one place. A single thin coat is MUCH better than a single heavy one (think drips) so let it dry between coats and try at least one or two for even coverage. My go to spray paint? Montana Gold. It comes in lots of colours and is actually cheaper than the stuff you get in B&Q or Homebase. It also gives fantastic opaque coverage.

My vintage faux bamboo chairs were another eBay bargain – just £90 for four of them. They were an ugly dark green with beige seats when I found them but spray painting and recovering them gave them a new lease on life! The mirror was originally a grey wrought iron. Spray painting it gold and giving it an antique finish now makes it stand out on the bedroom wall.

Learn to Sew in a Straight Line

I know a lot of people are scared of sewing machines but honestly, with a few basic skills you can make so many things. Cushions, curtains and table runners? No problem. If you have a friend or relative that sews, ask for them to show you some tips and then just practise. There’s really something very satisfying about sewing your own soft furnishings and it’s not difficult at all!

After failing to find nice cushions in my red and white palette, I decided to simply make my own. Cost? £10.

Learn how to paint furniture

An old piece of furniture from eBay or a hand me down from a relative can be completely revitalised with a bit of paint. There are a million tutorials for painting furniture online, no matter what kind of a finish you would like. Do a search on Google or You Tube for lots of tips from lots and lots of bloggers. Preparation and oil-based primer is your friend here. Look for items that are in good overall condition and have good lines.

This chest of drawers total cost was around £55. It was originally an orange-y brown eBay find for £30. Painting it cost me another £25. The sideboard cost me £50. A coat of oil-based primer and a couple coats of white paint gave it a much-needed refresh.

Get Comfy With Basic DIY Skills

If you are not afraid to wield a tape measure, a hammer, a screwdriver and a drill, you’ll be fine. Depending upon others just doesn’t do in this age of women being able to do it as well as the guys. Again, if you are unsure, check out tutorials online – there are video tutorials and brilliant blogger step by steps everywhere if you look. Most importantly, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Honestly, if I can tile a kitchen, anyone can do it.


My boyfriend learned to plaster, lay underfloor heating and install lighting via the internet.

Flower Power

Don’t be afraid to scatter cheaper blooms around a room. I always have fresh flowers and have no problem buying £3 packs of roses or carnations from Tesco or Aldi – single blooms work better so you can throw a few blooms in various containers and group them randomly. Fresh flowers just add a natural touch, colour and texture that simply can’t be replicated any other way. Ever better? Grow your own and during the spring and summer, you won’t have to spend a dime!

All these flowers were from my own garden and the ‘vases’ are simply empty alcohol, vinegar and oil bottles! Cost? Free.

Give Yourself Permission for 1 Splurge Per Room

If you fill a room with only cheap disposable things, you may be less inclined to truly take care of it. Save your money for the really special stuff and when you are ready, go for it. There are certain things like sofas and bed linens that are a false economy. Buy the best you can afford and take good care of it. It’ll make a room that much more special to you.


The sofa has been our biggest splurge to date but after 2 years, I am still utterly and completely in love with it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips today! Now it’s your turn! What are your best bargain ideas? Have you got a great eye for a bargain? Any favourites in the list I created? Anything you feel I’ve completely missed out on? I would love to hear your ideas for Getting Pretty On The Cheap and keep the blog warm for Rebecca while she’s gone.

Remember, if you want to follow along our adventures for Getting Pretty on the Cheap, come pay a visit to Swoon Worthy, it would be lovely to have you! And thank you, Rebecca, for having me!

PS Like the cushions? You can buy them here in Kimberley’s shop – Swoon Worthy Homewares

A DIY: Modern China

This afternoon, unusually for Florence Finds, we’ll be getting our craft on with this DIY project sent in by Anna from Angel in the North.

It’s fair to say that shabby chic and vintage china isn’t usually my style but I instantly fell in love with the modern take on these charity shop finds and the bold type Anna used for the lettering. I think they lend a really quirky touch to the trend and I can see them anywhere in the home, maybe even a child’s bedroom with a name stencilled on instead?

Over to you Anna!

What you need:

  • China plates in a style of your choice. (Mine were £1.50 for three in a local charity shop. The number you need and size will depend on the text you want to use. Mine were 16cms in diameter which meant the letters were 7cm high).

  • Sharpie permanent marker in black, fine point
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Ruler
  • Scissors and craft knife

1. Create a stencil for your letters by printing your text onto thick paper or card and cutting it out. The font I used was Bodoni MT in 400 point.
2. Position your stencil in the right place on your plate and draw round it using a ballpoint pen.

3. Go over the line with the Sharpie (it helps to use a ruler for the straight edges) and fill in. Let the first coat dry overnight, then you might want to do a second coat to get a dense, even finish.

So, do you like readers? I think it’s a seriously clever idea and I love that it’s so easy yet so effective.

As ever, if you’ve got a home DIY, whether it’s a revamped and painted chair, a window treatment or anything else you think is worth sharing, I’d love to hear from you – send them in marked SUBMISSION to hello@florencefinds.com

Thanks Anna!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Real Homes: Thrifted Colour

This afternoon you’re in for a real treat with a real home tour by Zoe from Conversation Pieces. I knew as soon as I found her blog that I had to ask her to share her home with those of you who don’t already know her via her blog. As Zoe says below, it’s right up my street because of all the colour and the seriously quirky style she has curated through a mixture of ‘finds’, up-cycling and fantastic taste. I am more than a little bit jealous of her colour mixing skills.


When Rebecca first emailed to ask to feature my home, I was delighted… not the least because I’ve always loved how bright and colourful the Florence Finds logo is!

If you’ve come across my home before, you’ll understand why I think we’re a great match. If not, well, this little tour will probably show you why.

So… a little about me. Well, I’m an Edinburgh-based copywriter and freelance writer, who’s secretly a ‘frustrated artist’. Yes, my fondness of interior design comes from the fact that I can’t paint but I can paint furniture. (I think it’s why I also like styling and photography so much too!)


I’m also a bit of a thriftoholic (ok, maybe a big bit). My ideal day sees me hitting a car boot sale early and coming home with lots of lovely finds.

Our home gave me the perfect excuse to hone this ‘talent’… after buying it, we had next to no money (and no furniture) so decorating and furnishing our home had to be done on a very strict budget. Always one for a challenge, I became an expert at recovering old chairs from Freecycle, spotting bargains on ebay and tarting up charity shop finds.

Except that wasn’t the only challenge… the flat we fell in love with and moved into straight away was missing windows, had no heating, no kitchen, no modern plugs and no hot water. We must have been bonkers – but we were head over heels with the place! (The only low point was when my now husband tried to recreate a shower using a plastic bucket and some tepid kettle water over a freezing to touch cast iron bath… I may have uttered a few expletives that day!!)


Fast-forward three years and we still have some bits and pieces to do (no more than most people)… and we have a home filled with colourful things that make us smile. From our wedding sign that hangs in our kitchen to the felt ball rug I made in the living room, everything has a happy memory attached to it.


It’s not the first flat I’ve owned, but it’s the very first that anywhere has ever really felt like ‘home’. Though that’s probably more to do with who I live with… and that the fact that he loves as much colour as I do.

Are you not in awe of Zoe’s talent for combining her finds? This is the sort of home that always makes me green with envy. I never know how you make it look so cohesive, like all those things were meant to be together!

If you’re the car boot type (and I wish I could make myself forsake that Sunday morning lie-in!) then Zoe has some great tips here. Head over and have a look and do tell me your favourite part of her home, I’m way too in awe to choose! Thank you so much for sharing Zoe!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Films: The Artist

Before going to watch The Artist last Wednesday with one of my best girls, the last time I’d actually sat in a cinema to see a film was in Cuba, where the entry fee was so low you can’t even count it in pence.  So apart from what seems like a great expense, (you know, if you can sign up for LoveFilm or the like for a month for around the same price as a ticket) it seems such an effort when you’re busy to faff with pre-booking and arriving a wee bit early, and not being able to pause it to make a cup of tea, when in this internet age we’ve got more movies, music and t.v shows at our fingertips than we would ever have the lifespan to watch.

But.  If ever there was a film that celebrates going to the cinema, and should be seen in full, velvet seated glory, it’s this one.

More or less utterly silent, The Artist has a relatively simple storyline and follows the fortunes of George Valentin, a silent movie star, and Peppy, an up-and-coming ingénue.  Cleverly referencing Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Citizen Kane and A star is born along with casting and effects that call to mind Gene Kelly and Errol Flynn, you don’t actually have to ever have watched a silent film or know anything at all about the history of cinema* to enjoy it.  In fact, it’s worth seeing simply for the breathtaking detail in costuming and set design.

Without going into the plot in too much depth, I’ll say that The Artist deals with themes of love, loss and redemption in silence more adroitly than many dialogue heavy ‘classic’ films,  and that the two leads are completely mesmerising.

Has anyone else seen The Artist? Is anybody now obsessed with cloche hats? Let us know what you thought of it and as always, if you’ve seen a film you’d like to review for FF drop us a line at submissions@florencefinds.com

Love,
Gemma C-S

* I can pick an Errol Flynn reference better than most because he was born in the house next door to the student digs we rented at uni.  This is the level of specialist knowlege we like to bring you here at FF 😉

Win a Lee Broom decanter light with Heals

Just a short interlude to let you all know about a competition that I think is well worth entering.

Lee Broom won Designer of the Year at the 2011 British Design Awards. Already a favourite at Heals (who have previously worked with him in their Heals ReDiscovers collection, on the exclusive to Heals Architrave series) they’ve teamed up with Lee in celebration to offer one person the opportunity to win a Lee Broom decanter light from his collection.


Each light is sourced from vintage suppliers and antiques markets and transformed from the original lead crystal decanter into a repurposed light.

I think they’re gorgeous and the competition is only open for another 3 days so head on over to the Heals blog for more information and sign up to the Heals newsletter (at the bottom of the page on the left side) to be in with a chance to win!

Good Luck!
Rebecca
xo

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