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Clever styling: Get creative with your home purchases

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Photography by Brent Darby

It's often thought that restyling your space comes with a hefty price tag and unavoidable waste. But here award-winning interiors blogger Lisa Dawson, author of Resourceful Living, tells why it's important we get just a little bit more creative than that...

One of the reasons that I started writing my blog was because I was always being asked questions about my home decor on my Instagram account. These questions were (mostly) about interiors – what I did, how I did it and where I got it. Over the last few years, I’ve found that there are several interiors based questions that come up frequently. These can be narrowed down to the following: How do I plan a gallery wall? How do I plan a room? And finally, my favourite, should I *insert interior decorating activity*? Such activities include (but are not restricted to) go dark, go white or most frequently, paint my front door pink even though my partner hates the idea. To these questions, I answer the same – go with your heart, do as you wish, ignore trends and friends and don’t EVER ask your partner what they think about interior decorating plans if you think they might attempt to put you off.

My husband is a motor industry Brand Director. I don’t tell him how to write a balance sheet, submit a forecast or examine an under chassis (totally made-up word – I barely know what my own car is). Therefore, the idea of him having any input into the front door decor is, quite frankly, laughable. Partners, know your limits.

Having the confidence to start making decisions when you’re planning your home isn’t always easy.

We worry that we can’t do it. We worry that we will make the wrong decisions, that it won’t look as we expect it to, that we’re not capable of trying new DIY or styling endeavours. We seek opinions as we don’t trust our own and end up making choices that are more a reflection of others than ourselves. But guess what? You are a creative person, even if you think you are not. Because EVERYBODY has the ability to be creative; it’s just a case of working out what you love and pushing your boundaries. Confidence in yourself, trusting your own instincts, is the first step toward making your home a place that you love.

Adding to our homes, making them resourceful and calming places, can be a very therapeutic task. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than finding a piece of furniture that someone else no longer requires that is perfect for your home. There are several excellent benefits to this, the first and foremost being that you are perpetuating the recycling process. Did you know that the UK charity Emmaus saved over 4,000 tonnes (4,400 tons) from landfill in one year alone? If you have ever purchased a piece of secondhand furniture, then this is a very good reason to feel quietly smug.

Secondly, in a world where we are bombarded by trends, adding something to your home that is individual and unique will make you stand out from the crowd. If you are restricted by a budget, then purchasing secondhand is good for your bank balance, and might even encourage you to get your creative hat on with a bit of upcycling. Plus, of course, there’s an additional bonus should you be purchasing directly from a charity, in that you are donating at the same time. Everyone’s a winner.

But fear not. I’m not promoting the idea that our homes should be purely vintage. I’m not expecting your homes to be an homage to mid-century or 1970s kitsch. Not at all, in fact. Seeing your perfect item in a furniture store and bringing it home is just as exciting. The thrill of the new purchase is equal to the thrill of the thrifted find and shouldn’t be underrated when you’re planning your spaces. However, buying well-considered items, pieces that you are investing in rather than just dropping in the shopping cart, is an essential part of building a home that is fit for the future. Making sure that you truly love what you are buying – and not purchasing on impulse – means that you’re more likely to hold on to it and not get bored.

Making the most of what you have is a key factor in creating spaces that work for you. No matter what area of your home you are focused on, being resourceful when deciding how to decorate or furnish will create rooms that are satisfyingly your own. Mixing up your look by using new, repurposed, upcycled and vintage pieces not only gives your home the individuality we all crave, but also meets a need for keeping our decor sustainable and long lasting.

I’ve been obsessed with vintage for a very long time. I’ve always loved mixing old and new – a style that is the backbone of my house decor – and it never fails to make me happy. I’d restricted myself to thrift shop trawling until about nine years ago when I decided that we needed a new sofa but were pretty low on cash. All the ones in my price bracket were small, barely deep enough for the kids to sit on without falling off, and all were a contemporary style. I wanted something a bit different, so I took to eBay. My first yearning was for a low-backed little Danish number, but my husband Joe wasn’t having it – he’d been scarred for life by my sister’s Robin Day sofa, which he’d always compared to sitting on a park bench.

Then fate struck – a huge, red leather corner sofa popped up. It was about eight years old and a Natuzzi, a high-end brand, with a very low starting price. The seller had a small account and obviously no idea about how to use eBay, as the auction was finishing at 3pm – certain suicide for a listing. Anyway, I sat outside school at pick-up waiting patiently – there were no other bidders.

I sent Joe in a van to collect it from a third-floor apartment in the City of London where he met the owner, a very smart guy in his early twenties whose parents had given the sofa to him when he bought his first home. It was in perfect condition, feather filled and an absolute steal. I still have it now, although after three children, a dog and cats and plenty of sun bleaching it’s not in quite as mint condition as it was.

My addiction to pre-owned furniture was set in stone and, since then, I’ve been incapable of styling a room without a bit of vintage. For me, it adds that extra interest, that touch of individuality which, in a world of trends, is so important when designing your home. We are under much pressure to incorporate shiny, bright new interior ideas, and this has created often identikit social feeds, losing that touch of personality we all dream of when planning our spaces.

Thinking carefully about new purchases is an essential. Is it a good investment? How long are you going to love it for? I can tell you from experience, if it’s a trend-based purchase, then generally for about two minutes.

The way that we live today will impact on the way that we live in the future ( just ask Greta Thunberg). We can’t do everything; it’s not possible to be completely ‘worthy’ at all times. Much as we’d all love to be able to say that we buy underwear woven from recycled sacks, sewn by old women in the Outer Hebrides and flown to us by carrier pigeon, it’s not really feasible. But what we CAN do is make our own small changes. And a good place to start is in the home.

Investing in new, well-thought-out statement pieces not only makes us happy, but is also a key part of building a home that suits us. By teaming these purchases with vintage and repurposed buys, whether big or small, you’ll be making solid inroads into a resourceful and long-term way of living. And the side effect of this action? You’ll not only be reusing treasures and saving them from landfill, but your home will reflect what you love. And in an age where we are bombarded with ideas and inspiration via our social media channels, this is a welcome bonus.

Resourceful Living: Revamp Your Home with key pieces, vintage finds and creative repurposing by Lisa Dawson is published by Kyle Books.

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