|Bed: Freecycle. Chair, side tables and footstool: found on street and refurbished.|
When you're a student renting in London you can't really afford to kit out your flat, and you don't want to be weighed down with tonnes of possessions when you inevitably move. But with a little bit of vision you can turn random freebies into a cosy interior that doesn't look anything like a scrap-yard.
An excellent resource is a site which brings together freebies and recycling, called Freecycle. It's a group of people who alert their community when they have something they no longer want, so that somebody else can take it. Recycling is of course beneficial for the environment, so to keep your carbon footprint petite, Freecyclers are encouraged to stay within their own neighbourhood. All of the stuff I have picked up on Freecycle has been within walking distance, and mostly it can be carried home on foot.
An exception is this bed from Freecycle. I got it from a lady who had moved in to a new house which already had a bed so she advertised it on Freecycle. Of course I couldn't carry it, so I rented a van from Zipvan which is £20 annually and then £9/hour. It's incredibly simple to use, you don't have to worry about insurance or petrol, or speak to any human beings. If you have a new apartment to furnish, you will make good use of the annual fee. Since I picked up a FREE dishwasher from Freecycle in a Zipvan in the same year, you could say the bed cost a total of £19! The solid wooden bed was originally from House of Fraser, which is normally way too posh for me. The "super-king" mattress was a welcome upgrade from the double bed, which in my opinion is not fit for two adult human beings.
I spoke about refurbishing the little footstool pictured on the right in a previous post, where I also described how furniture is left out on the streets of London. Usually it happens when people are have a spring-clean or are moving house. They simply leave things on the pavement and if nobody picks them up then the garbage truck will. That's the story behind the side tables pictured here, which I gave a new coat of paint. Small things like the lamp and clock are from Ikea, a shop which itself is a reason to live in Europe.
My boyfriend and I found the chair on a busy road and carried it home. It's a pretty solid construction and was originally from Habitat (one of my fave stores too), who were smart enough to design it with removable covers. I gave the covers a really thorough wash and then a bleach to clean them up. The arms are still slightly discoloured, so I draped a tasseled, white table-runner across it which hangs over the arms.
I bought the marvellous cat rug impulsively at Urban Outfitters in Boston, and had to lug it all the way back to London. I thought it was too cute for the floor so I wrapped it around the base cushion. I then placed a leaf-patterned cushion on the back, which was given to me for FREE by friends who were emigrating.
Some people are put off by the idea of finding furniture on the street, and think second hand furniture is dodgy. Well, if you're renting a semi-furnished apartment you're most likely sleeping on a second-hand bed anyway. Of course you can use some common sense; if you see a blood-stained couch floating in Camden lock then maybe leave it alone.
When you first move into an apartment the vast open walls can look really intimidating and make it seem empty and cold. I decided to fill the wall above the bed with a cloud of hearts:
I cut equal sized hearts out of a vintage, yellowed book, traced out a red border on each and stuck them on the wall with tack. I feel bad a about destroying good literature, so I used a trashy cowboys and indians novel that nobody would miss. If you're more of a romantic type, you could use a book that is significant to you and your partner. Ditto for the vintage music sheets. Over the time we have lived in our apartment I have slowly added other hearts to the wall made out of mementos of things we have done as a couple. For example the tourist map we used to navigate around a foreign city, the menu from a restaurant we loved, or a ticket-stub from a band we watched. It's a great way to use all those scraps of paper that have sentimental value.
The other bedroom wall was also decorated on the cheap; a wall hanging is a great way to cover a big wall. I bought fabric from Ikea and folded it over at the ends so I could slide a rod in the top and bottom for shape. At that stage I didn't have a sewing machine, so I used iron-on hemming tape to secure the folds.
I have also hung a few pictures on the wall. On the top is a frame with three Marimekko postcards from Stockholm. Under that is an old mirror I picked up, covered in some rub-on decal stickers. Under that I framed a felt piece by my talented friend Maaike that I got at a charity auction, and a felt coaster by Genevieve Gauckler. Hanging your tote bags is also a cheap and quick way to decorate a wall, and it keeps the pile of bags at bay. The tote bags are from Laura Walsh, Nigel Peake, and Black Ink.