Whether you’re renting, or you own your own property in the UK, furnishing your home is a way to make a space truly feel like home, even if you’re miles away from where you grew up. Some small investments in your flat can really bring a sense of coziness and familiarity. Having recently furnished my own flat from furniture down to soft furnishings, I will share with you some tips I’ve learned along the way for where you might find affordable or indulgent ways to spruce up your home.
A common misconception is that making a place feel like home can often be expensive or not possible if you rent a flat: this is simply untrue. For design inspiration, I recommend heading over to Apartment Therapy for advice on how to furnish rentals and spaces tiny and large. Then, below, you’ll find a list of websites and stores that I bought / found things for my flat in the UK.
Buy / Sell
There are sites where you can either buy gently used items or find free items for your flat. Conversely, I managed to sell some mirrors, a dresser, and a sofa on Gumtree when I was moving into my new flat.
- Facebook Marketplace – marketplace app embedded in your Facebook app
- Shpock – a marketplace in App form; popular in the UK
- Gumtree – a more evolved version of Craigslist (it is owned by eBay); think classifieds
- Freecycle – people post things for free pick-up and everything is organised by neighbourhood, so you might be able to get anything from furnishings to furniture for free if you’re willing to pick up items
- Car boot sales – find a car boot sale that may be taking place near you on the weekends. You may be able to find good antiques or prints for the cheap. Google “car boot sale”.
- Furniture sample sales – look for any furniture sample sales that might be held in your neighbourhood as you can get some high quality gently used (display) furniture for cheap and it’ll be a bonus if you can carry / Uber it home.
Prints and Frames
If you’re renting and are worried about putting nails into your landlord’s walls, please check out 3M Command Strips! This product allows you to hang quite heavy things on a wall, without making holes, and you can remove the strips without damaging the paint when you move out.
- DIY – use what you got. Get creative and draw, paint, or print out all those travel photos that you’ve hidden somewhere. It makes your space a bit more personal and sentimental. I painted the Toronto skyline, and curated / printed out a set of my travel photos on Photobox. I bought a bunch of basic white frames on Amazon and IKEA, and with the help of Command Strips, created this gallery wall.
- iAmFy or Desenio – a lot of beautiful and very millennial prints at an affordable price.
- Etsy – if you want one of a kind, unique productions that sometimes come framed as well.
- Spittalfields, or other markets – support a local artist and check out what art is available at your local market.
Soft Furnishings and Homeware
- Flying Tiger – dubbed the “Scandinavian dollar store”, everything in here is not, strictly speaking, a pound, but you can find a lot of decorative items and homeware (glasses, plates, cutlery, corkscrew, etc.) that are both scandi-chic and cheap. I got this lovely letter board for £14 and loads of plain white candles.
- H&M Home – There are two locations in London, but you can also shop online. For me, this has been the perfect balance between stylish and affordable, as H&M home have brilliant pillow case cover, kitchenware, and candle holders.
- Next – The fashion retailer also has a large furniture and homeware collection at reasonable prices. My living room lamp was purchased from Next, and I’m planning on getting some of these planters.
- La Redoute – This website has a comprehensive selection of affordable rugs, but also of furniture and other soft furnishings that you might find in a Parisienne appartement. They frequently have sales and discount codes as well.
- John Lewis – Do not, I repeat, do not get bedsheets from Argos or Amazon unless you want to sleep on sandpaper. If you know how threadcounts work, then use your own judgment here. Otherwise, check out the sales that often happen on House of Fraser, as I’ve found high threadcount Egyptian cotton bedsheets for reasonable prices. If you want to spend some coin, John Lewis has a solid range of soft furnishings and homeware, from the more affordable home brand, to high end brands.
- Columbia Road Flower Market – no home is complete without a trendy fiddle leaf fig plant, succulents, or a Dracaena. The prices here are closer to wholesale prices, and you get a large variety of plants and flowers to choose from (vs. the limited section in a Sainsbury or Tesco). Make sure you go early (before 9.30am) to avoid the crowds. The shops along the street also sell beautiful pots. If not, the bigger Sainsburys, Tescos, and M&Ses do sell plants complete with pots for reasonable prices.
- Amazon – Most of the homeware I purchased was branded goods on Amazon on Black Friday, or at high street shops on Boxing Day. I use camelcamelcamel to figure out if I’m getting a good deal for my purchases.
Even if you’re renting, sometimes a side table or a lamp can spruce up a room. Furniture can retain its value depending on what you buy.
- Wayfair – I was looking for a fairly functional ottoman storage bed, and found one on Wayfair. It was easy to assemble and came reasonably quickly.
- IKEA – I really wanted a mid-century sofa, but because my flat is very small, I bought a double bed ottoman storage sofa, and an extendable dining table from IKEA. This sofa is the most functional and reasonably stylish piece of furniture that I own, and even though my flat is tiny, it allows me to host 2 people on a comfortable sofa bed.
- Zara Home – When I was first renting, I bought a country-rustic side table from Zara Home and managed to resell it at face value when I moved out, so while the items here tend to be pricier, they are good quality.
- Made.com / Swoon Editions – These companies do high quality imitations of higher-end furniture for a more affordable price.
- Ebay – Because I have a small space, I couldn’t get a large bar cart. I scoured ebay and found this vintage tiny barcart that suited my needs for a reasonable price. I also managed to get used, lovely teak dining chairs (4 for £100), and I’m planning on re-upholstering and oiling them to give them a refresh.
- Maison du Monde – they stock a great range of statement chairs that emulate the styles of the high end brands (chair from Maison du Monde pictured below with IKEA faux fir).
- West Elm – West Elm are on the high end of furniture and home furnishings often in the popular mid-century modern style; however, one little known free service they offer is free design services. I used this service before I started buying pieces for my flat, and there was no minimum spend required. Even though the designer obviously wanted to design a space with lots of expensive West Elm items, I ended up taking her designs and buying some West Elm furniture, but taking the other ideas and buying cheaper versions. Having the designer’s input greatly helped me best utilise my space.
What are your favourite home decor tips / places to shop?