Buying second-hand furniture is one of the most obvious cheaper way to furnish a house, and still one of the most successful, ways of saving money. Chairs, in particular, can be found at phenomenally cheap prices. In large second-hand stores, dining chairs can be picked up for small sums. They may not be particularly pretty, but stripped and lacquered a bright colour, with the seats recovered (try blue and emerald, black and tobacco brown) they look extremely presentable. Most pre-War furniture has the merit of sound, solid construction. For an extra-comfortable sack chair, make a ‘sack’ of canvas or shiny pvc, and buy polystyrene granules by the cubic foot. Of new furniture, the cheapest in Britain is white wood, although kit furniture is sometimes more durable and it pays to compare the two before you buy. Again, this can be painted, stained, or lacquered. Foam rubber blocks, covered in tough, cheap and washable canvas, can make anything from push together seating or sofas, to divan mattresses to stack on the floor. Some office furniture is cheap as well as durable. So are chipboard tables on trestles that can be bought from builders’ merchants. Cover one of these with a tablecloth, and you have a good-sized dining table. Coffee tables or storage systems can be made from chipboard, and supported on anything from aerated concrete blocks (cheap and paintable), or brick to cheap brackets. An ancient filing cabinet-again from a secondhand furniture store painted in bright gloss coach paint (as used for car bodies) makes an excellent storage place for toys. Or an old, second-hand trunk can be painted, and stuck with transfers or cut-outs. Keep an eye open, too, for shopfitters rebuilding premises in your neighbourhood. Often, old counters and shelves which will provide useable timber are available for little cost. In a bedroom, a thick felt curtain across one wall, hung from a track in the ceiling or from a rod and rings, comes much cheaper than any wardrobe. Clothes can hang from moveable dress rails, which you can buy through mail order; other clutter can go in anything from cheap Moroccan rush baskets to shoe boxes or plastic cutlery trays. Jewellery looks fine hung from hooks on a felt or hessian pinboard on the wall.
The rule here is ‘never skimp’-or it wilt look cheap. Be as lavish as possible with quantities, but use cheap materials. Curtain lining materials, when lined and interlined so that it hangs in thick, ‘extravagant’ folds, has the dull sheen of expensive looking satin. Hessian is extremely cheap, does not need lining, and comes in attractive, earthy-looking colours. Calico bought by the bundle can be used in its original creamy state, or dyed. Deckchair canvas has the firmness and solidity to make, good blinds (which use far less material than curtains), and blind-making kits are cheap. For curtains, or for a padded bedhead of the kind you hung from rings,ordinary wooden dowelling, painted or fabric-covered, is the cheapest sort of rod. Many stores have ,drawers full of odd rings and finials.
Chain stores sell cheap duvets, which,in the long run save money otherwise spent on, sheets and blankets-and immediately will save time, trouble, and possibly temper. They sell duvet covers, too-but it could be cheaper to make your own. It is only, really, a large pillowcase, with press-studs or tie tapes at one end.With any duvets ,you will need a bottom sheet. About the cheapest way of getting a ready made one is to scour the ‘small ads’ in your local newspaper. Chances are you will find someplace where odd single sheets, usually white, are sold off cheaply.