Interiors on the cheap


There are plenty of ways to update your interiors which don’t cost a packet

DURING THE boom we were going house crazy and economist David McWilliams wryly noted that we were a nation obsessed with our decking. Our national pastime is no longer investing in wooden panels with which to carpet our yards and the closure of many furniture retailers is evidence that people are less likely to spend money on their homes.

But if a man’s home is still his castle, how then are we to satiate our need to redecorate without breaking the bank? If you are lucky enough to have a parent’s home to raid you might be surprised what interior delights, relegated to the attic, you might repurpose. A recent sojourn to my parents’ attic revealed some antique suitcases great for display and classic 1960s prints which are de rigueur.

Jackie Carton is an interior designer and says that de-cluttering is one of the best free ways to change your living space. “Be ruthless – if you haven’t used something in the last year you are unlikely to do so in the future. Throw out broken or damaged items, recycle others and donate to charities where possible.”

If you can’t get your unwanted items to the charity shop there are other ways to dispose of them. Websites like adverts.ieand gumtree.iehave free sections where you can offer items to give away or which you can scour yourself for interior goodies.

Moving items around and repurposing is another way to shake up your living space without spending. “Evaluate all your furnishings and consider moving furniture between rooms for a different look. Rehang mirrors, photos or artwork to change the appearance of the room,” says Carton. “New lampshades, cushions or a rug will update the space without blowing the budget. Be creative – perhaps that rug would look better as a wall hanging?”

There are several places to go for cheap and cheerful household additions, including Heatons and TK Maxx. The TK Maxx store in St Stephen’s Green Centre, Dublin, offers a decent supply of cushions, bed linen, vases and lighting, but other stores, such as those in Blanchardstown and Galway, also offer real choice in terms of furniture.

While Ikea goes without saying for cheap and cheerful furniture and homewares it’s important to measure the space you have to ensure that you are not left with a behemoth of a bookshelf better suited to a New York loft space than a terraced house in Stoneybatter.

With more of us shopping online it’s impossible to ignore the likes of,, Buyandsell.ieand Adverts.iefrom which you can source an enormous array of furniture and interiors items at really good prices.

Claire Rogister of Adverts.iesays that last month over 9,000 ads were placed in its home and garden category with 5,000 being marked as sold so there’s plenty of choice.

“Furniture is the most active section in our home and garden category,” says Rogister. “Sellers are usually moving home or redecorating and need their sofas, dining tables or whatever gone quickly so they sell them at a very affordable prices. Many users also sell brand new Ikea furniture because it doesn’t fit in their room and it would be too much hassle bringing it back.”

You can buy anything on Adverts.iefrom the sublime (four Edwardian chairs for €160 or an Art Deco satinwood display cabinet for €155) to the ridiculous (used Hoover accessories) and there’s plenty of bargaining to be done. If shopping online isn’t an option or you’d prefer to see the item in the flesh before you engage in negotiations you could check out furniture auctions such as the Herman Wilkinson Auction Rooms in Rathmines (

Costume designer Sinead Roberts is founder and director of The Costume Room. She lives with her partner Michael McKenna, a music producer and DJ on the top floor of a Georgian house in Dublin. “Because it’s an old house we like to buy things in keeping with the style of the house but give them a modern twist,” says Roberts, who is pretty handy with a sewing machine. “It would cost a fortune to decorate if we were to buy everything new, but also new items don’t really suit our aesthetic. As we are quite creative people we prefer to have items around us that reflect our personalities, and while we have things from the likes of Ikea we prefer to keep this to a minimum, picking up stuff in auctions and salvage yards instead.”

Favourite pieces of furniture that the couple have bid for at Herman Wilkinson include a leather Chesterfield wingback chair which they picked up for just €65 and a walnut dining table with Queen Anne legs for €40. “When we were doing up the house I saw a reproduction wardrobe in a shop for €2,000 – I loved it but there was no way we could afford it. Sometime later we got an almost identical original version for €50 at the auction and we love it.”

If retro is your thing Paul Byrne runs Retrorumage ( which stocks good value mid-century design. He and Geoff Kirk of Kirk Modern ( are often at the Brocante in Dublin’s Newmarket Square on the third Sunday of every month.

Karolina Schvartz-Poludniewska is a property agent and interior designer who buys and renovates properties for clients in Poland. She advises that wise spending is key when it comes to interiors. “Invest in things that you won’t change often such as flooring, doors and good quality bathroom fittings.” Schvartz-Poludniewska says that colour can be added without much expense in the form of items that are easily changed – curtains, cushions and cheaper items of furniture. When it comes to children’s rooms the designer says that splurging is a waste of money. “They are going to grow and change and you will probably change the room in five years anyway.”

There are now great stickers or “decals” available on the market ( Etsy.comis a good starting point) and coloured chalkboard paint can turn a plain wall into a blank canvas for your junior Sean Scully or Van Gogh.

Painting is perhaps one of the most cost-effective ways to update your space. Schvartz-Poludniewska also says a nifty tip is to paint a coloured strip at the bottom of the wall in your hallway in washable paint – a funky antidote to scuffs from bikes, shoes and school bags in your entrance way. Wooden and metal items can be sanded down and varnished or painted for a few quid and a bit of elbow grease.

When the job is too complex there are painting services which can tackle big jobs such as the kitchen cupboards and offer good value versus buying a new kitchen or even new doors. Jackie Carton recommends a company called First Choice Spraying Services which has many years experience and can respray virtually anything from office furniture to Mexican pine wardrobes at very affordable rates.

Both designers suggest adding a feature wall for a cheap burst of impact. “There’s a wealth of wallpaper colours, styles and finishes to choose from,” says Carton. “All DIY stores sell end-of-line wallpapers at a discount and it only takes two or three rolls for a feature wall.”

In the bedroom display your handbags on the wall or wall-mount a collection of random plates or mirrors in the kitchen or living room (charity shops are a great source here). Schvartz-Poludniewska says it may only take investing in one “masterpiece” to make a room great – be it a painting or one good quality original chair.

The cheapest way to update your decor is definitely to DIY it if you think you have the wherewithal. “If you can sew a straight line you can make a cushion cover,” says Carton.

Starting in the autumn there will be a multitude of courses countrywide from furniture restoration and basic DIY to interior design for beginners. Check out nightcourses.comfor details or learningireland.iewhose 2012 Guide to Nightcourses is published soon and provides a comprehensive guide to evening classes in many subjects for the coming academic year.

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