Interior decoration on a budget:the best brands for first-time buyers looking for cheap but chic bargains

No money left? It's still possible to find stylish gems, even by designers, without the price tags.

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There is something deeply unenticing about the words “style” and “shoestring” — conjuring images of first-time buyers sitting in new living rooms decorated with student posters, a balding chenille sofa donated by granny and a coffee table clumsily upcycled from wooden pallets.

But once a first home has been bought, and stamp duty and solicitors paid, the fact remains that there is unlikely to be much cash left in the kitty to go shopping at SCP for a nice Matthew Hilton flipper table (gorgeous, but RRP £895).

However, there are always ways and means of putting your own stamp on a property, whether it is the blank canvas of a modern flat or a do-oer upper with everything wrong with it.

Spray paint should be the first item on the first-time buyer’s DIY shopping list, a fantastic little product for brightening up shabby kitchen cabinets, reviving secondhand furniture and creating blackboard walls. 

It is cheap and ridiculously simple and even the inept can create a professional finish — just be sure to cover up anything you don’t want sprayed, and go for several thin coats rather than one thick one. 

The market leaders in spray paints are PlastiKote and Rust-Oleum, both available from high street DIY and craft stores for less than a tenner a canister. You can use them on anything from tiles to plastic. Rust-Oleum’s chalkboard paint looks good on walls or furniture (a blackboard kitchen door could also work), while PlastiKote’s super gloss in bright red would give a fabulous pop of colour to a kitchen chair.

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Bright ideas: revive an old chair with Rust-Oleum's metallic paint range

Discount Outlets

A first-time buyer’s little black book also ought to contain details of furniture discount outlets — most buy discontinued stock or returns and sell them on at rock-bottom prices.

Trade Secret in Adderbury, Oxfordshire, has a huge warehouse and a particularly good range of beds and sofas, while Frank Hudson Outlet in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is strong on dining tables and chairs. A trip to Swindon is made worthwhile by a visit to John Lewis’s outlet. Innes in Hessle, East Yorkshire (but with a good website) is the place to hunt down classic brands such as Magis, Vitra and B&B Italia at much less than regular price. 

Most outlets don’t throw in delivery, which is where Shiply.com comes in. A brilliantly simple concept if you need an item delivered, and a bonus for eBay addicts, you just register and post what you want moved and where you want it moved to. 

Companies, all vetted, then bid for the job and the deals they offer are usually a lot cheaper than better known couriers. Briefly on the subject of auctions, don’t forget about old-fashioned auction houses when it comes to furnishing your new home. Sites such as the-saleroom.com give access to catalogues of dozens of sales every week. If you like your furniture vintage or industrial and don’t mind taking a bit of a gamble — there are no returns at auctions — you can pick up some magnificent bargains.

All-Powerful IKEA 

No discussion of how to furnish on the cheap would be complete without a mention of Ikea. The retro lines of the Lillasen desk are still on trend, and its slender dimensions (just under 20 inches wide) mean it will fit into a tiny space. It is made of bamboo and looks a lot more expensive than its £115 price tag. 

HomeSense, the sister brand to discount fashion store TK Maxx, is a fantastic trove of designer homewares — its furniture is slightly peculiar, but it is great for designer bedding, kitchen kit, and crockery at serious discounts.

Tesco has upped its interiors game considerably and is worth a look. Its classic tub chair in teal would provide a pop of colour in a bedroom or living room, for £89. Its Miami coffee table in white is simple and stylish and won’t break the bank at £50. And the high-gloss butler’s tray table in summery sky blue could be used as a bedside table, in the living room, or even to hold bathroom kit (£35).

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Lighter life: This butler's tray table, £37 from Tesco, could make a great bedside table

Wayfair has a massive collection of lighting to choose from and the simple clean lines of Eglo’s Rondo 1 globe pendant lights (from £23.99) would look good with a traditional or a contemporary scheme and has the look of designer brand Flos without the price tag.

Finally, La Redoute isn’t all about sensible work outfits. The French catalogue company does furniture and its good quality rugs are excellent value. The Afaw shaggy rug has a traditional Berber colour scheme and a hand-made look. From just £99, it is the perfect cover up for that grotty old carpet you will replace — one day.


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