Following on from my blog post last week about what to expect when buying furniture at auctions, here are some very important tips you should know before embarking on your bargain shopping spree at your local auction house…
Measure up! I have a little notebook I take around with me everywhere with all the important dimensions of our home in. You never know what you’re gonna find on that day, so although you might go in thinking, I need a desk that is ‘xyz’, you may get there and find a gorgeous mirror and end up wondering what the heck is the distance between ‘abc’ instead. I asked, Catherine Hockley, director of our local auction house, Andrew Smith & Son, to share some tips on finding something that is the right fit for you: “Our salerooms are very large and so some items look small in them – always bring a tape measure, or borrow one from us, and make sure that the item you are bidding on will fit through your door or up your stairs.”
She also goes on to say, “Check the condition well before you buy, for wobbly legs or sticking drawers etc. Most things can be easily mended, but make sure it is within your capabilities or you will end up paying for restoration.”
Does anyone else love those kinda interior articles where they pick an expensive ‘investment piece’ and then source a budget option that is often very similar? I love it when magazines and bloggers try to make their content accessible to people like us who have a realistic budget and can’t blow the families’ winter shoes and coat budget on a new lamp.
Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated though, because even the ‘budget option’ makes my debit card quiver with anxiety, which, all things considered, is a bit unfair on the author really. Everything is relative and they can’t please everyone. I’m sure spending £179 on a coffee table IS a budget option for someone, and, in a similar vein, when I suggest spending £40 on a coffee table as a bargain, others may disagree with me too.
With that in mind though, I’d love to let you know about some of our own resources for spending less money as well as sharing a few of our mistakes so you can learn from them…
I can honestly say it’s the best £1000 we’ve ever spent. We’ve never had a huge budget for doing up this house, but to spend 1/6 of that on getting rid of the old UPVC door and transforming our homes curb appeal was definitely the best decision we ever made. I absolutely hated our old door, and I hate to admit I’m this shallow, but it genuinely made me feel embarrassed about the house. We’d worked so hard on transforming the interiors, but 95% of people only ever saw that horrible plastic white thing more akin to a static caravan home than a Victorian cottage in the beautiful South Downs National Park. I remember our first Christmas in the village, taking Darcey for a little walk in the pram to get some fresh air and coming home to Matt exclaiming ‘I swear we have the only UPVC door in the WHOLE village, everyone has beautiful Christmas wreaths on their beautiful Farrow and Ball doors and ours is just BLEURGH!!!’ (You may come to realise I’m never one to understate my feelings…)
It was definitely at the point where we had to strip the wall in the girls room right back to the original wood when I thought we were never going to achieve our three week deadline. It was also the moment where I sent an urgent plea out to good friends requesting help with the decorating. Quick!!! Darcey has to sleep in this room in 8 days!!! PLEASE help. Emotive? Guilty. Using a baby to get you free labour? Guilty. Desperate? Hell to the YES.
Due to previous damage and decay we had to strip this wall right back and our plasterers boarded it up for us and re-plastered. It was an unexpected and unwelcome job but it had to be done and at least it gave us a bag full of wood perfect for kinder on the fire?! (Essential to clasp onto any positives you can whilst going through a renovation I think!)
There are definitely moments when you are knee deep in rubble, power tools and paint samples where you come to think this must be your life forever. Will I ever rest my fingers on a surface in this house and it not be covered in a thick layer of dust? (Probably not, actually!) Or will we ever have a house without lights hanging precariously from the walls, a rug covering up untiled surfaces, or living a life where you frequent Homebase more than your local pub?!
The first birthday of our firstborn, Darcey, was definitely such an occasion. We were three days away from moving in and had so much painting to do before the carpet fitters arrived that we just simply did not have the time to celebrate her birthday ‘properly’. Obviously, in a world where searching ‘first birthday party ideas’ on Pinterest can send you into a land of vomit inducing unicorn utopia, I found it quite sad that we weren’t making much of, what is, quite an important milestone. We had been a family for a whole year! We had survived! And more importantly, so had she!
As first time home owners there are certainly many things you have to consider that I’d never even thought of before. Now don’t get me wrong, I am really happy with the overall finish and we certainly have made a huge aesthetic transformation to what we started with, but there are some aspects of our renovation that I would do differently if I could.
So, firstly, why the rush?!
We were living in rented accommodation and managed to get a three week overlap where we could live in the comfort of one home, whilst drastically changing the next. Most of the work required was dusty and messy and in a small two-bed, we knew there would be no ‘give’ once we’d moved us, a baby, and all our stuff in, so we really needed it to be liveable and child-safe by the end of those three weeks.
People often ask us how on earth we do it all whilst looking after the children and to be honest with you, there is no magic answer. There is no wand that turns a dingy and dated hallway into a new fresh, practical and modern entrance unless you’re willing to put in the hard work (or hard-earned cash). Whilst we don’t have much of the latter, we have attempted (and completed) many DIY jobs around the house so here’s a few tips that we’ve learnt along the way…