To kick off not only the new year, the new series but also a new decade to boot, we thought it timely to bring you our Budget interiors revamp special. Let’s be honest, Christmas completely clears us out but with plenty of thoughts of ‘New Year, new me home’ we felt our listeners to The Great Indoors would appreciate a round-up of mine and Kate’s thrifty insights. This is the sixth series of The Great Indoors podcast and we are delighted to welcome back our sponsor the lovely folk at Topps Tiles who, as it happen do a fabulous range of called “Get the look for less” which is well worth checking out. We’d also like to thank our fab producer Kate Taylor and of course you lovely lot for listening! You can catch the full episode here.
We recorded this episode on location at the very stylish vintage shop in West London shop Pheonix on Golbourne. It was quite the distraction recording amingst the beautiful vintage clothes in the basement! But with a very strong coffee in hand, on with the show!
Where to invest and where to budget
This is one of the burning questions I get asked the most to kick off, we talk about what we feel you just can’t scrimp on.
So, where to invest…
flooring – you can’t change this very easily so you need to get it right from the start. I went for an engineered wood floor in my own home, (you can read more about it here) which has a slither (between 3-7mm typically) of real hardwood on the surface and soft plywood wood underneath. It’s a mid-budget option but much cheaper both to buy and to install than a solid wood floor but more expensive than a laminate.
Flooring top tips:
We have all fallen for the recent trend for patterned encaustic tiles but they are v pricey – to buy, to lay and take forever to seal. Look out for some good vinyl imitations to get the look for less. Check out Carpetright and Harvey Maria.
Kate painted her original floorboards to achieve the look she wanted. If you’re not fortunate enough to have original floorboards that are in good enough condition, you could get some standard pine 2×4 planks laid and either paint (with specialist floor paint) or varnish them yourself. She also painted just around the edges of one room and laid a large rug made from a carpet remnant – another great budget tip right there (although the Victorians were the first to do this!)
Adorning the walls
I just love the pink Fern wallpaper by Molly Mahon in my guest bedroom, although budget it is not! The hand-blocked design has been digitally reproduced from lino prints hand carved by Molly so it looks really special. The table lamp base was in the sale a Laura Ashley years ago and the lampshade a picked up in a clearance sale at Zara Home. The bedside table is a hand me down from my Grandmother and the bed linen is by Society of Wanderes and costs a fortune!
Designer or budget paint?
Personally I don’t think you can justify spending loads on designer paint if you’re on a tight budget. Yes, the expensive ones are beautiful and entice you with gorgeous photography but if budget is tight opting for one of the big trade brands is going to cut you some dough. Manufacturers like Johnstones, Leyland, Crown, Dulux have a huge range of colours and not forgetting the fact that they can mix pretty close to any hue you might have seen.
One thing I love to splurge on is designer wallpaper, you can’t beat the colour, richness and depth of the design – hand printed – even better! If you have a small room or small area you could perhaps go all out for a really fab designer paper. The most important thing to keep in mind is to give yourself time to research all the designs out there and don’t rush into it. Check out WallpaperDirect who has an amazing range of designs from top-end to budget. Their search tool is really incredible and I love the way they help you visualise the pattern in the room.
This is a rather huge topic to cover but here are some top pointers:
Plan, plan, plan. If you are renovating do this first as it will be very pricey to change once the plastering and decorating have been completed.
I personally like to spend a little more on lighting, so if you can spare the budget, opt for quality. I used downlighters from All Square Lighting which cost more than the bog-standard Asian imports, but there is less glare and sits well hidden in the recess of the fitting and because colour is so important to me, they show the colours of my room more effectively.
John Cullen Lighting – aficionados of lighting offer workshops which are super informative – I certainly picked loads of helpful hints after attending one three years ago. They are based in London so this isn’t an option for you, I have written a blog post about what I learned from their workshop here
My bargain ready-made curtains from Habitat. The bench was bought for £50 at the car boot sale and then I asked my upholsterer to cover it in a collection of old needle points that I’d been collecting.
One of my favourite ways to add wow to a room!
Fabrics allow many budget options, so look out for remnants, end of roll and vintage. Although do be careful when it comes to vintage, as they may be more delicate and may not be fire retardant. A great source for designer remnants is The Haines Collection.
If you are a fan of vintage go for upholstery grade or search for Barkcloth as it is tougher.
Look at mattress ticking as this tends to be more affordable and hardwearing and will work well within a scheme of other patterns if you want to splurge on designer fabrics for smaller items. Ian Mankin has a great selection
If you can afford it go with a seamstress to make blinds and interlined curtains for a really professional lush finish. Roman blinds use far less fabric than curtains so opt for cheaper curtain fabric or spend out on a fabulous blind.
Having said that you can get some great ready-made curtains. I got mine, shown above, from Habitat in the sale and bought two pairs so my seamstress could sew two together to fit each window. I also got her to remove the eyelet heading and change it for a deep pencil pleat.
My kitchen is a case study of spending ans saving! The kitchen carcasses are from Howdens then I had my carpenter make door fronts on MDF painted in my choice of colour, Hunters Green by Zoffany. The worktops are from my local reclamation yard and cost all in all £500 although we had to and treat them ourselves. The reclaimed floor from Ca Pietra was more of a splurge and was timely to lay and seal, so the budget got spent there.
Generally speaking, this is probably the most expensive room to update and can really consume a massive part of any renovation budget. There are some ways around through:
Buy affordable basic kitchen units and source smaller items such as handles and taps elsewhere to create your own personal style.
Budget allowing you can buy replacement doors – either bespoke MDF or there are companies such as Superfront, Plykea and Custom Fronts who supply the fronts and accessories for Ikea units. Naked can also supply Ikeas fronts but also offer other sizes and bespoke very stylish designs.
The good thing about Howdens is that their carcasses come ready built so there’s no need to build it yourself or pay the builder to, which is something to consider when you are looking at your budget- as the cost of labour to build a kitchen can be significant. I went for this option and then I had MDF door fronts made to my own design.
A rule of thumb in the kitchen is always to invest in a quality worktop as takes so many knocks. For my worktops, I went to a local reclamation yard and grabbed some old school science worktops made from iroko wood which is incredibly durable. However, the laminates from Formica are worth a look as they have a great plain colour selection. I’d be wary of faux laminates.
Lastly, another top tip is to look out for A-graded appliances, they tend to have surface scratches or knocks – usually to the sides while in transit. Often they have never been plugged in but due to the slight surface damage cannot be sold full price. Look out for them on eBay or specialist A-graded appliance websites. Do your own research on this one as warranties may not be affected.
Keeping the walls plain will allow you to go for a patterned floor. Berkeley™ Charcoal Tile, £12.15 per 45cmx45cm tile, Topps Tiles
I think bathrooms are particularly hard to do on a budget and tricky due to all the technical stuff involved!
With this in mind if you are doing a complete overhaul try not to move the position of the utilities i.e drainage, plumbing and sanitaryware and work with the original layout. Plumbing is expensive and so save here and have more to spend on the decorative elements.
Avoid the cheapest taps and shower valves as they just won’t last and will need replacing sooner rather than later – another cost.
Painting the majority of the walls can save quite a bit of cash on tiling.
Tongue & groove is an alternative wall covering and can add interest and colour when painted. Look for bathroom graded MDF T&G panels which are resistant to water.
Beware of cheap online sanitaryware that is shipped from Asia. Often these products aren’t compatible with European plumbing fittings. Check with your plumber first to see if they will be compatible.
Create one bold focal point in the bathroom, be that cheaper tiles on the walls and a fabulous patterned floor, or a few well-chosen patterned tiles above the basin.
Check out Topps Tiles Get the look for less range of tiles. Faux finishes like porcelain marble tiles or printed ceramic tiles that mimic cement tiles are a lot cheaper.
The living room and bedroom
The good thing with other parts of the house is that you can take your time and update gradually – unlike the kitchen and bathroom that often need a big budget to tackle. My whole house renovation is a slow process of spend and save, spend and save! But here are my tips
Look to buy the big-ticket items, like the sofa, in the sales as there are huge savings to be had, especially this time of year. Likewise, when buying your bed, you spend a third of life in it so it is really worth investing in a good mattress. I bought mine from Vi-Spring which is a top-end brand but I got 40% off.
Do ask your retailer about interest-free credit deals as it’s not just the big high street brands that offer this service.
Save on budget with accessories – they don’t have to be designer as the high street has a great offering, allowing you to create a high-end look without the price tag.
Kate’s stunning kitchen dining room with her coveted vintage eBay chairs
eBay has to be the headliner for great finds, check out Kate’s fab dining chairs. You have to be very specific with your searches and tick as many filters as you can to save trawling through thousands. But what about getting your eBay finds home? If it’s not a hop, skip and a jump away there some great companies out there who can help – Any Van and Shiply
Freecycle – a hub for giving (and getting) stuff for free in their your own town
Preloved another great place for buying and selling
Haines Collection – they source leftover top-end designer fabrics from seamstresses and end of rolls at a fraction of the price.
Don’t forget about repurposing leftovers. Whether it’s fabric remnants for patchworking, bathroom tiles used in a fireplace or carpet remnants made into rugs – there is usually use for them somewhere! In summary, Kate urged us to be more granny (I feel a new # coming on) so do hop on to our Facebook group and share your budget hint and tips.
Malachite workshop with Annie Sloan
Continuing with our budget revamp special, we got to tackle some upcycling of our very own. Luckily for us (and everyone else), we were under the watchful eye of renowned decorative paint expert Annie Sloan. With a fine art background, Annie carved a name for herself in the colourful world of paint, created Chalk Paint and has published an astonishing 26 books and has been hailed as one of the UK’s most influential female designers by the Telegraph.
So, what did she have in store for us? A Malachite effect, no less. Which is a green precious stone (a basic carbonate of copper) which is oh-so-fashionable in interiors right now but impossibly expensive if you want the real thing. We tried our hand at recreating the natural banded effect in varying shades of lush green on a small tabletop.
This was my attempt and I have to say I was quite pleased with myself as I was very daunted at first! This is a great way to personalise and revamp some cheap furniture you may have bought or been holding onto. The great thing with Annie’s technique is that you don’t have to spend ages on the prep – she created the Chalk paint to do just that, which was music to our ears as I’m all about the quick results! You can find detailed step by step instructions in Annie’s bookazine The Colourist.
To round up I would just like to say a huge thank you to Annie Sloan for her time and wonderful company on the day, and of course, our fabulous sponsor Topps Tiles who make it all happen.