Painting the fireplace white

living room

The living room before we moved in.

The fireplace was actually one of the first things I did, so details may be a bit sketchy. When I first moved in to the house the fireplace was a little off putting. Mum said it was like a pub fireplace. It was very dark, but also white in places, it was as if someone had painted each brick in a different colour, and really was a bit of an eyesore. Inside it was an old tacky electric fire. Next to the yellow walls and the artex ceiling, it didn’t feel very homely at all.

Simon wanted to tackle the living room first, as it would be one of the rooms we use the most and the room most likely to be seen by other people. I agreed and was happy to get on with the fireplace.

I wanted to paint the fireplace white, my Mum suggested just doing a thin coat of white paint and she demonstrated this by rubbing chalk on it. I wasn’t convinced. It had to be all or nothing.


I realised the electric fireplace was loose and managed to pull it out fairly easily and then I managed to give it away on freecycle. But then I noticed the bricks on the fireplace were not symmetrical. Mum and Dad had some fancy Portuguese tiles that I could have, so I decided to get on with the painting and worry about the asymmetrical nature of the fireplace later. They’d bring the tiles on their next visit.

The inner layer was very uneven.

The inner layer was very uneven.

I gave the fireplace a good dust and then a hoover and a clean. It’s amazing how dirty it had gotten.

Bye to the horrible dark fireplace.

Bye to the horrible dark fireplace.

The previous owner had left some paint, it was the dreaded satin paint, but it was white so I thought what the hell and I got on and painted over the horrible fireplace. It went on fairly easily with a brush. I made sure to protect the mantle from any paint. In the end I decided the satin was too shiny and I bought some matt and painted over. I also bought some blue paint for the walls.


So the fireplace had been brick, but then the previous people added to it and put the painted brick affect tiles over it. This meant there was several “layers” to the fireplace and is also probably why it’s not symmetrical. It was the inner layer of fireplace that was not symmetrical, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I hoped the tiles would work. I should have painted it white, but instead I used some sticky teal paper over it, looked rubbish, but I knew it was temporary.

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We left it like that for a bit and I painted the wall blue, the other walls in beige, though I was tempted to paint them blue too.

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My parents came and brought the tiles and tile cement, we had a go at doing it, but in the end I decided I didn’t like it and took it all down. I’m afraid as my phone crashed I don’t have a picture of this stage. But these are the tiles. They are lovely, but looked very busy and made the fireplace look even more uneven.

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Anyway with the tile cement I was able to even out the surface of the inner bit, and then I decided to try and even out the 2 sides, so they’d be roughly the same width. I found some wood in the garden and basically I wedged it into position and then covered it with tile cement. Once dried I did another layer and eventually it looked more or less convincing. It wouldn’t be safe as a fire any more, but at least it was more even.


I then couldn’t decide what colour to paint the inner layer. So in the end I ordered some different tiles, in a bluey turquoise colour. They come with paper on the back, which makes in theory application easy. Though in practice it was a bit fiddly and I still had to cut some to size, which was not easy. I shattered various tiles, instead of cutting them in half. Also not all of them stuck the first time.

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Once they were all properly attached I gave them a good clean. A damp cloth helped remove the paper. I didn’t grout them as the tile cement showed through a lot. I used some coffee to stain it, as it did look a bit “swimming pool.” As the edges showed up a bit, I painted them black.

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I’m now really pleased with the result. It’s been several months and it’s stayed more or less the same. We now have a fire affect light in it. But this is how it looked at christmas.

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CD rack into food storage shelf.

I bought these wooden CD shelves from a charity shop as I was moving into my flat. I think at the time I was just excitedly buying stuff, rather than seeing what I could use it for. They cost about £2 each, so it wasn’t a big splurge.

In a former life at the flat.

In a former life at the flat.

It turned out they fitted perfectly under the kitchen cupboards in the flat. They added some much needed storage space and each compartment could hold a cup. They worked well for my 4 years in the flat, and moved with me to the new place.


After doing lots of painting and decorating within a month, I was eager to find new projects. I’d just discovered chalk paint. Chalk paint doesn’t have all the harmful chemicals of normal paint, you mix it up yourself and you can wax afterwards to finish it, if painting wood. Some chalk paint comes ready mixed, but its interesting to mix it yourself. The type I have is so safe you can add the unused paint to your compost heap. So its got a good feel good factor. It has a similar finish to matt paint if used on a wall.

Mixing chalk paint for the kitchen cupboards.

Mixing chalk paint for the kitchen cupboards.

So I decided to paint the CD racks with chalk paint. I used an off white colour, the same I used on my kitchen walls. The CD racks were fiddly to paint as so many surfaces. I worked out a system of painting the bottom of each one, then rotating it 90 degress and then painting the side of each, and rotating it again, until each side was covered. I then painted the outside and left it to dry. It took about 3 coats, I think I’d mixed the paint a little bit thin.


Once dried I had to decide what to put in it. The cups now fitted in my cupboard. I bought some cheap glass containers that fitted in each compartment and stored grains, nuts and dry fruit in them. I added chalk labels. The other shelf has herb and spice jars as well as a few decorative bits. I may arrange it better later, as we do have a spice rack too, but for now this works.



It was a very easy project and used objects I already had, other than the jars. The jars make it easier to find things and leads to less cluttered cupboards. You could easily make from scratch some similar shelves, or keep an eye out in charity shops for something similar. Glass jars can be bought in various sizes, so hopefully you can get ones that fit. For bigger shelves baskets look great, or a mixture of glasses and baskets.



Practically free bedroom furniture

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably come to realise I like a bargain, I live life on the frugal side and don’t splash out without reason. So I wanted to share with you how I got my bedroom furniture to match for next to nothing.

Basically I keep an eye out for bargains. Read this post about getting Something for nothing. So the furniture in question is 2 bedside cabinets and a bedroom chair.


The chair came for my mother, I’ve had it nearly 10 years now and my mum had it a long time before then. Before it was red, it was blue and before it was blue it was black. It’s been repainted several times to match the colour scheme of whatever room it goes in. And red didn’t match the room any more.

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This little bedside cabinet, I found dumped next to the bins at my old flat. People often left things here for the taking, and for the most put them next to the bin, so they were clean and usually perfectly usable. I also got a bookshelf, some paintings and a bathroom cabinet from the bins.

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And this little cabinet, was one of the many things left in the house that a friend bought. My friend didn’t want it, so gave it to me. So none of this furniture cost anything!

So to start with I gave them all an undercoat, this was some paint I had anyway and would make it easier to paint over the various surfaces.

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Once they had 2 coats of undercoat, they were ready to paint. And in the January sales I’d picked up a small tin of gloss paint for 50p. Yes 50 pence, a bargain!

I coated the furniture and left to dry. And dry. Painting gloss in a cold, slightly damp shed in the middle of an English winter, apparently didn’t make for good drying conditions. But eventually they did dry.

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The furniture now is the same colour and despite being different styles, they looked like a set and matched perfectly with the room. This makeover cost the grand total of 50p. If  I did it again, I’d make sure to have better drying conditions for the furniture, as you can see a few drips, as it took about 4 days to dry. Also maybe 2 lighter coats, rather than 1 thick coat would work better. So next time you need some bedroom furniture look around you, see what you have or what someone may be throwing out, a lick of paint can make a big difference.



Painting 4 and a half rooms in a month.

We moved to the house in September and were really busy with settling in and working and everyday stuff. We had little time to do anything about the blancmange yellow satin paint in every room. We did manage to do the living room and hallways, which needed painting the most. (New look staircase for under £20) It wasn’t until January that we were able to start painting the upstairs. As we both work freelance January and February are traditionally quite months for us, so its the perfect time to do some DIY around the house.

I find when you have the upheaval of painting one room, you may as well paint 2 or even 3 at the same time, it doesn’t make it much worse. Everything is upside down already, all your painting stuff is out and accessible, paint takes time to dry, the actual painting part is fairly quick, so really is it much worse to paint 2 rooms at the same time instead of one?

The loo- before

The loo- before

I did a warm up room, the upstairs loo, which looked a bit unloved, nothing really wrong with it, but pretty blah. I painted the walls in the pale beige paint that was leftover from the living room. The back wall (the one facing when you walk in) I wallpapered it with wrapping paper. This was more fiddly than I thought, as wrapping paper isn’t designed to be used as wallpaper, so it didn’t have a logical match to it. It was handprinted so some of the pattern was deeper than other bits. Using a ruler and scissors I more or less matched up the pattern and cut the pattern to the right shape. Unfortunately in the tight little space above my loo, there was no such thing as a right angle. Hence the black boarders to neaten off the edges.

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So the first main room we started on was our bedroom. It had the standard yellow walls which pretty much every room in the house had, it also had a couple of stains on it, of origin unknown. The walls surface was a bit patchy and the satin paint highlighted each imperfection, I hated it and it didn’t feel like home. None of the furniture matched either.

As it was. Satin paint


On scouting out a DIY place in january I picked up a tin of paint worth about £40 for £1.50 in a sale. I also got some free paint from scrapstore (mentioned in this blog:here ) We moved our bedroom stuff into the guest room and started painting. In the end the paint almost ran out, so one wall and corner were painted in a slightly darker shade of grey than the rest.


The painting chaos starts!

50 Simon's of grey?

50 Simon’s of grey?

I then painted some furniture to go in the bedroom and left in the shed to dry. Practically free bedroom furniture

We then made the mistake of going shopping and spotting some lovely wallpaper, we picked out 2 we liked and ordered it in. Simon’s choice was grey, so could go in the bedroom, so mine would go in the guest room. We’d never wallpapered before, except the loo, which wasn’t even wallpaper. So to buy semi designer wallpaper and use that as first time ever wallpapering was kind of a big thing.

The office before

The office before

When we waited for the wallpaper we moved everything from the office into anywhere else that had more than an inch of space and painted in there. The wallpaper came for the bedroom, we watched various videos tutorials. This was paste the wall rather than paste the paper.

I wont write about the wallpapering in detail (may do another blog about that) but some sort of black magic happened and it went on pretty much perfectly. The wallpaper was delivered about 2pm and we got on straight away and managed to sleep in our own room that night.

Wallpapering done.

Wallpapering done.


So then we wallpapered the office too, in some retro wallpaper I picked up in a sale for £2.50 a roll. This again was paste the wall, and went on like a dream.

Office wallpaper

Office wallpaper

But then I looked at the colour of the wall and the colour of the paint and it just didn’t work. So I rushed out and bought some more paint and we repainted the walls. I ripped down the masking tape down and of course I’d put it over the wallpaper. Hence huge tear marks in the wallpaper. Luckily I had some left and managed to botch over the damage. You wouldn’t notice it now.

Guest room- before

Guest room- before

So still in the decorating mode, we tackled the guest room, the previous people had known it as “the sunshine room” and the walls were painted in a much brighter shade of yellow. It was slightly more liveable, but I wanted to tone it down. Plus of the 2 choices of wallpaper we made, my choice was to go in the guest room. So we painted the walls off white and then wallpapered. We were pretty confident wallpaperers by now, but this one turned out to be paste the paper, not paste the wall. This one was much trickier and the paper did tear once or twice, likely from putting too much paste on it, it letting it go soggy. But again we made a pretty good job of it.

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Wallpaper almost done.

So still firmly in decorating mode I did the cupboard under the stairs, you can read about : here.

All of this was done in around a month. At points it was a bit chaotic, and mostly we didn’t cook that much, but it made a big difference to the way we feel about the house, it feels so much more like ours. Painting in January meant I was able to pick up paint in the sales and decide my colour scheme around that. I was unlikely to want to be outside at the time. Also when you do so many rooms at once, you get better and faster and can foresee problems before they happen, as you’re in the decorating mindset.

The people who bought my flat managed to paint most of the rooms in about 2 weeks, this was easier for them, as they hadn’t moved their stuff in, so was just a case of protecting the floors, rather than having to move everything around. I certainly think that moving things around, and the preparation is one of the biggest parts of decorating, so if you can combine painting 2 or 3 rooms at once, why not?

So what did I do with February?, well I put up my feet and did the kitchen of course: Cheap kitchen revamp

Moving tips. What to leave for your buyer?

When you’re moving house, its obviously a very stressful time and it can be hard to plan, especially if you don’t have a firm moving date. For myself it did seem a lot of my time was spent chasing solicitors, estate agents, buyers, sellers, banks etc. But selling my first house, I did want to make sure I left it in as good condition for my buyer as possible. So here are some pointers of how you may make things as nice as possible for your buyer.

  1. Collect up all the instruction leaflets for anything that you leave. If you have the instructions for any white goods, fireplaces, boilers, showers or anything else like that, collect them together and put in a file. You wont need them once you move, and if you put them in a file all together, they are less likely to get packed up by mistake.
  2. If you have any paint left from decorating, gather together and label which room the paint is for. It’s a good idea to label the paint as you use it, as you may end up using similar shades and forget which is which. Also any spare tiles, flooring or other decorating items may be useful for the new person to patch up any repairs. Put them all together in either an insulated shed or an inbuilt cupboard, so they are handy without looking messy.
  3. If you have unwanted items such as furniture, rugs or kitchen goods, begin to find new homes for them a month or so before moving date. It may be that the person buying would like them, so offer them first choice, if not try freecycle, ebay or a charity shop. Once you clear them, it frees up space for packing.
  4. Collect all your keys, those left with friends, relatives, estate agents and former flatmates. Also any gate keys, garage keys and window keys. Do label them. At the flat I was left with a bundle of keys that no one knew what they were for, as well as a similar bundle here.
  5. Make sure any inbuilt cupboards are thoroughly cleaned out and smelling fresh. (not too bleachy) the new person, likely wont have the energy to fully clean them, but will likely want to unpack.
  6. Leave them any spare light bulbs for fixed lighting as not worth packing and may not work in your new place.
  7. Leave them a way of forwarding your post to you, preferably leave them some printed labels which say “please forward to” and your new address printed on them.
  8. I also left them some written instructions and I did spend a bit of time on these, but I know my buyer found useful. These are the sorts of things I included:
  • Details of how to work the boiler and what times it will come on and off.
  • How to get hot water for the shower.
  • A list of buses and where they go to and details of nearest train and tube.
  • recommendation of local take aways and restaurants as they’ll be unlikely to want to cook for the first few days.
  • Details of what to do with rubbish and recycling, and if appropriate collection days.
  • Any relevant emergency numbers, such as the freeholder, plumber, gas engineer, local hospital.
  • And details of the house/flats quirks that may help the new person, such as problems with air bubbles in the water system, windows that open in an odd way etc.
  • Details of fuse box, water stop cocks, and anything else which may be useful
  • Details of what you have left and where it is.
  • Details of any phone, gas, water, electric supplies and where the meters are.
  • A contact number for yourself, in case they have an emergency.
  • A nice welcome to the house and a new home card!

If everyone does the same, it could help moving day be slightly less stressful. If the house/flat is ready to move into as soon as you arrive, it does make things so much nicer.



New look staircase for under £20.


Having just moved into our first house, the first challenge was to remove the smell of the pets from the previous owner. (she’d had several cats and dogs amongst other animals) so on the second day in my mum and I ripped up the carpet staircase. It was thread bear and held a lot of the smell, and was very much past it’s best. Believe me this picture makes it look good.


We were left with a tatty staircase, with lots of nails, sharp bits, discoloured paint and unloved wood.


My boyfriend then carefully helped us removed some of the nails and pins that had held the carpet down, we removed anything that might spike us when going up and down the stairs.


So then we were left with a tatty staircase with lots of marks left in it from the underlay and the nails and also old paint on it as well as lots of scuffs. The banisters however were like new. The easiest solution would be to recover the stairs with carpet but I didn’t fancy that aside from looking a bit old fashioned and hard to change its expensive to lay carpet on stairs and you’ll likely be stuck with what you choose for at least a decade or so. And most stair carpets tend to be beige and bland.

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So I came up with the idea of using wrapping paper, I found some online that I liked and ordered it. It was important to get something that wouldn’t fall apart as soon as it was covered in wallpaper paste, but also to find something that wasn’t too stiff so I could put it neatly into position and possibly go round corners. Also with wrapping paper and perhaps wallpaper you can be pick something a bit more unique to you, it won’t break the bank and you can get creative with it. I decided to keep the white painted boarder that the staircase already had, but to freshen it up with a coat of paint- which had to match the paint on the banisters. I was to put the wrapping paper on the vertical and leave the horizontal as wood, as obviously the horizontal is where you walk, so it suffers the most wear and tear.

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Before embarking on doing the staircase I decided to paint the hallway, as I didn’t want to drip paint on them later. The previous owner had used satin paint, like she had everywhere else in the house. Satin paint has its uses, but is best used on a nicer flat modern wall. On an imperfect wall satin tends to shine and show up any blemished and imperfections. Matt paint is much more forgiving. Also she’d chosen a pale lemon yellow and terracotta which just isn’t my taste at all. Hallways are hard to paint as they are so high- its impossible to reach to the top without a proper ladder and platform. So I used an extra long handled roller to reach up to the high points. Using white paint to match the ceiling meant we didn’t have to worry too much about getting the edges neat at the top, as the colour matched you couldn’t tell. I also strapped a brush to a stick to get a few corners that the roller couldn’t reach into. You should have someone else to help you do a hallway as it can be a bit dangerous.

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We then painted the bottom half of the wall in a dark olive green colour. Having this contrast of colours helps make the ceiling feel higher. The dark green also gave it a nice antiquey feel.

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The actual staircase took a lot of preparation. Firstly I used pliers to remove any of the nails and pins that we had missed the first time round, believe me there was a lot more on closer inspection. I then used a sander to remove the scuffs etc. For this step it’s important to wear a mask, I breathed in a lot of dust doing this even with a mask, so do make sure you protect yourself and anything around that might get covered too. Old paint can contain lead, which can be deadly, so do be careful. Make sure to always use the sander in the direction of the grain of the wood and pay particular attention to any areas you intend to leave as wood. Oh and have a hoover handy to catch all that dust, because there will be a lot of dust!


Once the sanding is done, you need to fill any holes, I used a basic wood filler and my finger to fill in the holes and imperfections, but I didn’t use anything on the bit that is to remain wooden. Once the filler had dried I lightly sanded it by hand and then wiped over the full staircase with a damp cloth to remove any dust. I also used a cloth with a bit of bleach, just in case there was any stains or dirt.

Yuck- messy!

Yuck- messy!

I then put a protective layer of varnish on the wooden area. I used nice light brush strokes. This layer is to make it easier to clean if any paint or dirt gets onto it. As only the middle of each step had varnish it was still possible to walk up and down the stairs- which is obviously important!


The next day I used white gloss to paint the sides of the stairs. Each step I prepared by using masking tape on any bit that needed a neat edge and again I did a quick wipe with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dirt that was still lurking. I made sure to blend the paint into the other paint  on the banisters, luckily its very similar so I don’t need to repaint those. I worked my way from the top to the bottom, so I wouldn’t smudge the bits I just painted. And I made sure to not stand on the painted bits of the stairs until it was fully dried, the paint I used was luckily quick drying and was touch dry within 2 hours and recoatable within 4. Keeping the masking tape in place I did the second coat. And left it for another 4 hours.

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This brings me to the wraping paper, I found this paper online. You could use wallpaper, wrapping paper, decoupaged flowers, old maps, anything you want. You could also paint them, stencil them or make your own design. Make sure you have plenty to cover the stairs. If the paper is thin, it will make it tricky, luckily mine was nice and thick as wrapping paper goes. I then measured up the stairs to decide on the area I wanted to use the paper on. I had a wooden stick, but not a long ruler. So I wrote the measurements I wanted onto the wooden stick, which had a nice straight edge. I drew out and cut the first piece and put in place to see if it worked. Luckily it did, but if not you can adjust it as required. I cut out one for each step and a few spare.

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By now it was the next day and the paint was fully dry and I removed the masking tape. I mixed up some wallpaper paste to a fairly thick paste. I found a bit of old cardboard to use as a pasting table. I pasted the back of the wrapping paper and offered it up to the back of the stair. Once it was on, I pushed it around gently, til it was in the right place. I then with a sponge, pushed from the center to the edges to remove any air bubbles.

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Once I was happy with the first, it was easy to apply the rest and then I left them to dry. It didn’t take more than about 30 mins to apply them all.

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My mum came up with the suggestion of adding a black boarder, which I liked. This proved to be a bit tricky, as I first tried with black marker pens, but they kept running out of ink and drying up- even new ones didn’t seem happy. I tried with paint, couldn’t make it straight enough. Finally I remembered I hard some dark grey sticky stuff, so I cut this up into thin slices and put it on. And would you believe it- it wasn’t that sticky and barely stuck. So I used glue in the end. I carefully glued the trim to each step and cut it down to size. I then neatened any mistakes or knocks and drips up and varnished the wrapping paper and the top of the stairs. I did about 4 coats in total, as obviously its an area that gets used a lot.

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I’m very happy with the result and obviously its a lot cheaper than a new carpet and looks so much more individual. It was all fairly basic to do and easy enough to change if you got bored of it. The white does tend to show the dust a little, but all it takes is a quick once over with a dustpan and brush and the occasional clean with moist sponge. It’s a very easy project to do, but will take a few days, due to the paint and varnish drying times. All in all, I’m really happy with the result.  The wrapping paper was £5, the white gloss £10, the varnish and other bits I had already.I’ll leave you with the before and after.

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Something for nothing

I’ve been  brought up to be frugal with my money and to hunt down bargains. And with so much talk about the environment these days, its good to make use of things that would otherwise go to waste if you can, and if these things happen to be free, all the better!

I’m sure most people are aware of freecycle and freegle and other such websites. But sometimes the best place to get free stuff is less technological. Freecycle and freegle can mean you have to do a lot of travelling to get to the free stuff, and sometimes that isn’t practical. But at times you can get some amazing stuff off them. And also to pass on your unwanted items to a new home.

One of my best finds was a greenhouse, free in my local area, it was so local, we were able to carry it home, through 2 alleways and over a busy road, but much easier and cheaper than hiring a van. It was advertised in the local newsagents window.

I’ve also got free things by asking, by letting people know what I’m looking for. By my mum chasing recycling lorries down the street. (for 4 boxes of brand new tiles) Often things are left by bins, as people leave them out in case someone wants them, I’ve had a bookshelf and a bedside table this way, as well as some paintings. In some areas there is often furniture left on the street, for people to take. One friend got a working dishwasher like this. There’s no shame in taking it, but its a big shame if it goes to waste!

Recently we got some free wood chip, because we asked the tree surgeons who were working next door. We’ve also got some cardboard boxes from shops, as we asked a shop assitant to save them for us.

If the item are on someone’s property or not obviously dumped, it’s best to ask permission first. My mum was once dangling precariously in a skip, when a voice shouted “Oy what do you think you’re doing” She nearly jumped into the skip with fright, turns out it was the Dad of one of my friends. So obviously he didn’t mind, but its polite to ask, and saves any embarrassment- if they hadn’t actually intended it to be taken.

I once got some gardening tools, which were left outside someones house, with a note “please help yourself”, don’t mind if I do I thought.

One other great place I know is scrapstore, my mum volunteers in one near where she lives and there is also one fairly local to me. They aren’t actually connected, but have a similar principle and there is various similar places around. They are basically a charity that takes waste materials that can be used by schools and craft people, to save it from going to landfill.  Scrapstore collects them from various places and puts them in a shop. They are either given away free to members or sold cheaply. There is all sorts of stuff in it, some useful and some bizarre, but always worth a look. And I’ve got various tins of paint and scaps of fabric free, so great for doing up your house cheaply. And any left over paint/ wallpaper other bits will be gratefully received.

And charity shops often have second hand furniture for very good prices. Some places have other stuff in the back if you ask them, or they may be able to let you know if something you’re after turns up.

And don’t forget the things you have, maybe they can be refashioned, repainted, redesigned into something new. And getting things in this way, means your house wont look identical to everyone else’s house, you’ll have something much more unique and much more you!