In my post last week I shared ‘How To Fill Your House For Free‘ as inspired by Kirstie’s Fill Your House For Free on Channel 4 (UK). This week I thought I’d share some more tips on how to decipher the good, useful furniture from the temptation of getting an item just because it’s free. I’ll also share a story or two of a couple of unlikely items that bended the rules a little for me!
Will it suit your room?
Whenever I see a piece of furniture I immediately try and picture it in the rooms in my house. Which one will it suit best? Could I paint it or use DIY to make it suit the room better? If the answer to these is no, even if the item is lovely, I often leave it. I love an eclectic interior, but some items, however beautiful, may just not look right anywhere.
Will it fit?
This is probably one of the most important aspects when collecting free furniture as it’s a practical one! Make sure you measure the item and ensure you have enough space in your home for it. You don’t want an item that’s too big or too small, however tempting it is to give in to the ‘but it’s free’ idea. You’ll just end up getting sick of it and have to throw it out. Although I know you’ll do that responsibly, it’s unwanted hassle and means you’ll have to search all over again. Importantly, make sure the furniture will fit into your house. If it’s big, have a good look at the joins in the furniture to make sure you can take it apart without damaging it before you commit to anything. If you can’t, please, please make sure it fits! This is why…
Left in the middle of the road that we live in (right in the middle of a parking space, no less!) was this dining cabinet. When myself and my housemates spotted it we made sure it was ok to take it, then quickly carried our new prize indoors. We weren’t sure what we’d do with it (one rule broken already!) but we knew we would have room for it in the new house. At that point we had just signed for the new flat and we were still seeing it through rose tinted glasses and we were in total denial about the move process. We put the cabinet in our shed to store it and forgot about it.
When we began to pack the van to move into the new flat it suddenly dawned on us that we had to move this large cabinet (about 5 ft 11 ish tall, eek!) down a narrow alley, around a tight turn into a narrow gated alley, through our yard, up a narrow fire escape and around a very tight turn into the front door, while trying to make a tighter turn up the first small flight of interior stairs as our ‘entrance hall’ is pretty much a tiny square of laminate. Oops.
We made it, thanks to my housemate Gary and my boyfriend’s amazing ability to manoeuvre this beast of a cabinet, but it was a long and tiring process and it almost didn’t fit around the gap. We were so lucky it was just small enough (on the scale of things!) that we got it inside without damaging it or the flat, and I’m dreading getting it out again. If it had been any bigger it wouldn’t have made it. Lesson learnt! Although, it is a beautiful cupboard, and we’re so glad we have it.
Is the condition ok?
If the answer is ‘no but I can fix it’ then go right ahead, but just be sure you can. No matter how nice an item may look, make sure there are no imperfections that you can’t improve on, or be sure you know how to improve it! There’s nothing worse than cluttering up your home with half-finished projects you aren’t sure what to do with. With items like sofas or other upholstery, try and work out why they’ve been thrown out. Have any of those ominous stains gone through to the cushions or padding themselves? Maybe you need to replace the cushions too, or if you can’t then decide whether you still want it. If the item is electrical make sure it works before you take it away – or if you’re lucky like me and knows someone who is good with electrics, see if they can take a look at it.
Can you craft it?
One of the best things about free furniture, or any free materials, is that I never feel scared about cutting it up, painting it, or turning it into something else entirely! Kirstie’s Fill Your House For Free has lots of amazing tips for transforming salvaged items into amazing home decor pieces. Alternatively, there are so many blogs that offer upcycling tips and tricks.
Carry a floor plan!
When you’re bargain hunting, carry a floor plan or measurements of your rooms, even try drawing in your furniture that you have already there. This means that you can make sure your items are going to fit and have a visual guide of what you’re working with. Memory is fallible, and many times an imaginary space in my room has appeared when I really want an item, only to get home and for the gap to be half the size. Measurements save the day!
Do you really need it?
This is the deal breaker! No matter how gorgeous, quirky, or free an item is, ensure you really need it before taking it home. I’m terrible at this, and often get stuck in the ‘I won’t get this chance again’ trap and end up collecting items rashly. Clutter is never a nice surrounding, and it’s all too easy to get attached to possessions in a society where we’re always updating and reinventing our surroundings and ourselves. Do yourself a favour in the long run and be frugal about what items you furnish your home with and you may end up with a more thought out interior.
On the other hand, knowing what sort of item you need before you start hunting for freebies can make the process easier and harder in equal measure. Having a fixed idea of what you want isn’t great as you may never find it. Free furniture is a bit of a gamble! However, knowing what sort of thing you want without too many specifics (a three seater sofa/a table lamp/wooden crates…) means that you won’t be tempted by things you don’t actually need.
Having said this, this white draws unit was an exception to the rule above. When Gary came through the door of our old house covered in rain and trying to manhandle the heavy draws through the door, Ali and I sighed. We love free furniture, but we’d promised ourselves we would hold off getting any more until we’d moved to the new flat and we knew what we needed. We told him we couldn’t keep it, he said we might need it. It was late and we couldn’t be bothered to protest any more, so Gary put it in the shed and we decided that he could move that one!
But, once we got to the new flat, we realised how little kitchen storage we had. We also had no kitchen draws. What?! Thankfully, the white unit saved the day! It’s perfect for our cutlery and baking items, as well as extra storage for pots and pans that don’t fit anywhere else. We were so glad that Gary had found that unit and insisted we keep it just incase. I wouldn’t use this as a general rule, but if you have a gut feeling about an item then try acting on it. You never know how it may turn out!