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.”
After my popular post last week about how we’ve furnished our home on a budget, I’ve had so many questions about all the auction bargains we’ve collected over the years that I thought it necessary to write up a little guide so that you can start buying amazingly priced, but beautiful, good-quality furniture for your homes too. In a poll created on my Instagram stories, 87% of you shared you have never bought anything at auction which shows it is a massively underused tool amongst our generation. Despite the gracious words of my husband… “as long as they don’t all start coming to our one and bidding against us for the good stuff”, I’ve decided to utilise that old cliché of ‘sharing is caring’… so here are the basic steps for how it works logistically which I hope will give you the confidence to explore this option further…
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…
In March 2017 we were absolutely delighted to spend five days at the wonderful Mill Farm Eco Barn which is the same holiday home that you can win a three night stay in by donating to the Spend for Syria 2017 Just Giving charity campaign. I was so pleased when Emma and Neil agreed to donate this prize (worth £600) because I really wanted to offer everyone an opportunity that we have tried and tested ourselves.
The Eco Barn, which is located in the village of Winterton-On-Sea and situated minutes away from the Norfolk Coast, sleeps up to eight people plus two babies (as there are a couple of cots available) and comes with a gorgeous open plan living space, four bedrooms, two en suites and a family bathroom. Not only does it pride itself on its sustainable build and eco amenities, but it is also an incredibly child-friendly place to stay.
I hate to admit since having children, I often find holidaying more stress than it’s worth. Due to the financial commitments of buying our first home and renovating, we have only been on a few short stays in the UK, but to know I was going to be somewhere where the owners totally ‘get’ what young children require was such a weight off my mind! The Barn already comes equipped with story books, plastic tableware and cups, highchairs, black-out blinds in every room (can I get an Amen?!), baby and toddler appropriate toys, puzzles and board games, as well as a large games barn with bikes to borrow, table tennis, boules, table football and so much more.
One of the many reasons I have a heart for Syria is because we have friends living there. There’s nothing like being in the comfort of your parents’ home in the middle of beautiful rural English countryside, sitting round the kitchen table as a teenager and tucking into your mum’s delicious roast dinner, whilst dear friends tell you about how their young niece would hear bombs going off on the school run, to make you realise how unjust this world can be sometimes and what an embarrassingly privileged life I lead.
I am so honoured to be able to share with you snippets from a Skype conversation I recently had with one of our friends, as I was hoping to share a more personal account of what life is like in Syria and some of the motivation behind the #SpendforSyria2017 charity auction. Sometimes, we get so used to seeing tragedy on our television screens or scrolling through the BBC News app, that it can desensitise us to the individuals living with it everyday.
Whilst our friend, Sophie, is a lot more privileged than most in Syria due to having Western contacts and her husband, Tom, has US citizenship which enables travel and freedom of movement (he was born and grew up in Damascus but studied for a degree in the US,) I hope it gives you a little more insight into life there and how it has affected people, just like you and I. Please note for safety reasons, all names have been changed in this interview. Sophie speaks incredibly good English but some words have also been changed from the original interview for translational purposes…
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…)
Well yes, apparently that seems to be the case. Except I’m not sure I would call myself a blogger just yet, the imposter syndrome I am feeling is in full force as I venture to make this post public with everybody. Who knew I’ve been bustling away behind the scenes, writing blog posts and not even telling anyone about it?!
So here we are then, another interiors blog to add to the already over-saturated market of interiors content online. Man am I aware of that! I must confess though, in all my time scrolling on the interweb or scouring social media, I haven’t quite come across another interiors blog that totally gets ‘me’ or our situation, so I thought I’d start one!
If you’ve arrived here from my Instagram, you will probably be well aware we are trying to sell our house. I must confess, we had no idea it would take this long and even our ‘worst possible outcome’ was that we’d have moved somewhere bigger by Christmas 2017 which is not looking likely whatsoever. Now that, my friends, is a whole other story of which I’ll love to tell you one day when I can report a happy ending, but, I did originally set up this blog to document our new house, our new project, the transformation of our ‘forever home’.
I hope and pray, that one day soon, I will be doing that, sat at my desk in my new office, smugly tapping away at my keyboard, full of energy and beans because the girls FINALLY HAVE THEIR OWN ROOMS AND DON’T WAKE EACH OTHER UP EVERY NIGHT! (I am well aware all my ‘energy and beans’ will probably then be spent on sanding a staircase, rolling a ceiling, or knocking down a wall but please do let me indulge in a future where I am not tired for one moment.)
It is certainly widely acknowledged that moving house is very stressful. Then add in the complexity of trying to sell your own home, whilst finding another appropriate one, PLUS having two little tornadoes running through the house, daily emptying the sock drawer on the floor, turning your plants upside down or throwing Weetabix at the wall like an Olympic shot putter on speed, and you’re in for a fun couple of months…
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!)
Before we bought ‘The Otto House’ we rented a large, detached three-bedroom house with an enormous studio in the garden. Like many here in the South of England we had to downsize to get on the property ladder so storage has always been a bit of an ongoing challenge. I am a curtain-maker by trade and not only used the old garden studio for making curtains but also for hoarding HEAPS of fabric, wallpaper, paint, magazines, books and anything else remotely crafty. It was like a creative paradise to me and something which I am sure I will never have again, but I am so very grateful for the two glorious years I spent stitching away in there whilst the sun streamed through the double doors. (And the winters spent in a coat, hat and gloves bent shivering over my sewing machine, but, you know, that sounded less poetic!)