Design news: bargain finds

Auctions and flea markets offer cheap, good quality furniture that can be quickly updated to achieve spectacular results
Click to follow
As a strapped-for-cash Londoner furnishing my new home, I spent almost every weekend for a year going to auctions, car boot sales, flea markets, charity and junk shops buying cheap furniture and interior accessories.

Most of it was run-down or brown. But I knew it could all look good, so I got to work cleaning, sanding, waxing, painting and changing hinges and doorknobs, with spectacular results - some of which are in the book called Thrifty Chic by Simon Brown.

So when you return from auction (see Thrify Chic, pages 18-19 for where to buy) with your own booty, take heart, save yourself a fortune and enjoy the thrifty-chic results.

All photographs from Thrifty Chic (Cico, £19.99).

French without tears

The antique table (right) with its layers of old paint comes from Trouver Antiques (£450, The chairs cost £5 to £20 from junk and charity shops. The metal shade (£50) is from Retrouvius ( The folding grey table was £40 and the mirror was £25, both from a French bric-a-brac market.

Cupboard love

The cabinet (left) was left in the house by the previous occupants. It was shiny brown and had curly trims and brass handles. I removed them, put plain wood knobs on and painted it all with John Oliver’s China White paint. The chair is another £5 car boot bargain.

Cosy corner

The fire surround (right) is made from reclaimed floorboards treated with lye bleach from Danecare ( The mirror is from Trouver Antiques (£100). One table cost £40 from Chiswick Auctions; the other had been left out in a street. Both needed painting. The Habitat chair was thrown out by a friend.

Cuttings edge

This marble-topped table (left) was given to me by a friend and is the perfect stand for plant cuttings in pots and old tins.

A Madrid bargain

An old glass cabinet (right) caught my eye in an antique shop in Madrid for £50. I covered the stained dark brown frame with Farrow & Ball paint in Pointing, hung it up on the wall, and it now stores vintage wine glasses.

Old folding metal tables come in handy all over the house and garden. You can pick them up in French flea markets for £40 to £60.

Go for blanket coverage

I bought this Victorian upholstered chair (left) at Chiswick Auctions for £40 and covered it in a vintage pure-wool blanket that cost just £20 from Chiswick car boot sale. I knitted the smaller blanket myself.

The paint effect

Annie Sloan's Quick and Easy Paint Transformations (Cico, £14.99) is the best book to show how to transform your dull brown junk shop find into something lovely (right). Photographs by Christopher Drake. (

Treat your table

A modern hardwood table (right) is given Swedish-style good looks by being sanded, painted in a mix of grey and violet shades and then waxed.

Waxing Victorian

Clunky Victorian chiffoniers are cheap as no one wants them, but they are great in hallways. By replacing a missing drawer with a piece of wood, glueing back the peeling veneer and giving it a paint and wax job, this one (right) has been transformed. Off-white paint and a mix of clear and dark waxes were used.

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty, Facebook and Instagram