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'I furnished my one bedroom flat for under £1k' - here's exactly how I did it

Latest research suggests it could cost up to £3,486 to furnish a home with basic essentials

furnishing on budget
Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
Updated: January 29, 2024
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Like many this year, I fell victim to the horrifying London rental market when the sudden end of a two-year tenancy left me and my partner desperately searching for our first home together.

After months of viewing miserable mould-ridden flats hundreds of pounds outside our budget, outbidding wars with students paying 12 months upfront, and a brief moment where we considered leaving the city altogether, our offer was accepted on a humble one-bedroom flat in Greenwich. The catch? It's totally unfurnished.

The thought of furnishing a shell of an apartment didn't phase me, but our extremely tight budget with which to do so definitely did. Latest research suggests it could cost up to £3,486 to furnish a home with basic essentials. With the cost of living crisis having a major impact across homes in the UK, it was clear I'd need to get creative with my furniture shopping.

It's easy to turn to IKEA for your everyday essentials. With the Swedish homeware store stocking everything from bed frames to rattan wicker baskets at an affordable price, it's tempting to get everything in one go. If this is your jam, roll with it. If you're like me, however, you'll prefer to add a *little bit of spice* to your interior design.

If you're preparing for a move and are worried about the endless costs of furniture, I managed to furnish my one-bedroom flat for under £1000 using these handy tips and tricks…

Thrift furniture on Facebook Marketplace

Even if you no longer use your Facebook account, it's worth delving into the world of Facebook Marketplace if you're looking to find affordable second-hand furniture. Sales and exchanges happen remarkably quickly on Marketplace, the social media app's platform that helps users sell locally.

vintage furniture
Vintage furniture is aplenty on Facebook Marketplace

If you're weeks away from your new lease and concerned about your furnishing budget, Facebook Marketplace is a haven for cheap pieces. Given the fast-paced nature of the app, you'll often find that several pieces of furniture are going away for free for those willing to collect within the day.

For items that do have a price, try your hand at haggling. Offering a reasonable price to a seller keen to shift their pre-loved homeware is often more successful than not (in our experience).

LOOK: Best vintage furniture shops in London for one-off pieces

Hunt charity shops for home bargains

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Furniture shopping in charity shops requires an open mind, patience, and an excellent eye for spotting potential. When you've nailed these traits, the opportunities for sourcing unique, vintage furniture may not make your home worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest, but it will promise a homely space full of retro, mid-century and antique treasures you simply cannot find in IKEA.

Even if you find something that doesn't match your exact taste, the possibilities are endless for upcycling. It's worth noting that even after buying materials to paint, upholster or embellish your thrifted furniture, it's still normally a cheaper process overall than buying new.

We'd recommend visiting your local charity shops regularly ahead of your big move to ensure you've nabbed the best finds. An uninspiring and empty charity shop could be full of donated treasures the next.

READ MORE: 20 easiest ways to save money at home each month when you're on a tight budget

Upcycle second-hand furniture

You don't necessarily need to have a creative streak to produce a Pinterest-worthy upcycle project. Apps like Instagram and TikTok are great sources of inspiration when it comes to flipping your old or thrifted furniture.

furniture flip
This £20 footstool cost just £15 to flip with spray paint and an old blind

Adding colour to natural wood is a guaranteed way to introduce individualism into your home. Particularly if you're renting, furnishing your home with things that suit your taste creates a homely and warm environment without needing to breach your tenancy agreement.

Work with what you have

If you're conscious about the environment, you may have heard the saying: "the most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own." Well, the same goes for your furniture.

Wherever possible, look to what you already have to see if you can avoid re-purchasing. If you're working with larger pieces of furniture, things like sofas can always be upholstered with affordable slip covers, while soft furnishing like duvets typically lasts for up to five years, so your old duvet may not need to be repurchased just for the sake of moving home.

Buy a refurbished mattress

If the thought of sleeping on a second-hand bed makes you recoil, you'll likely reconsider when you learn that most refurbished mattresses have been returned as part of a 30-day trial. They are meticulously inspected to ensure their quality, deep-cleaned, and are treated with bacteria-killing UV, particularly if you purchase them from a reputable brand like Simba or Emma.

HELLO!'s Senior Homes Writer Rachel Avery is a fan of her refurbished mattress after being swayed by its affordable price point. Writing about her experience, she said: "You know that feeling when you sink into a dreamy hotel bed and already know you'll get the best night's sleep ever? Yeah, that."

MORE: 'I sleep on a refurbished mattress – and here's why you should too'

For hotel-worthy mattresses at a fraction of the cost, refurbished mattresses are definitely your go-to.

A lick of paint goes a long way

The beauty of an unfurnished home is that you can be as creative as you like when it comes to choosing your furniture. Unlike a furnished property, the furniture is yours, so you can paint, upholster, embroider or embellish in any way you fancy without the worry of landlords slicing your deposit.

frenchic table
I transformed a kitchen trolley with a lick of paint

Frenchic's Al Fresco paint was a miracle worker when I wanted to transform the tired, 25-year-old kitchen trolley that I rescued from my friend's garage. I hoped for an ultra-luxe bar cart style finish in a rich emerald hue, and Frenchic's 'Constance Moss' was the exact jewel-like finish I was after. This water-based, eco-friendly chalk and mineral furniture paint was incredibly seamless - even for the clumsiest painter. 

The beauty is it's self-priming, self-sealing and suitable for wood, laminate, and many other materials, saving you £££ on all the extras other paint brands require you to purchase for the same effect. 

frenchic constance moss

Constance Moss Al Fresco Paint, from £9.95, Frenchic


Don't miss out on supermarket deals

You may not initially think of your local supermarket as a hub for homeware, but the likes of Sainsbury's, ASDA, and Tesco have impressive homeware sections. In an unfurnished property, you'll likely need to source your own kitchen must-haves like cutlery, dinnerware, mugs, utensils and cookware. Most supermarkets offer an 'essentials' range at far more affordable prices than specialist stores.

RELATED: Calling all uni students! This £25 kitchen starter set has everything you need - and it has 20,000 five-star ratings

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