On the face of it, my friend N isn’t a poster girl for frugal living. She lives in Chelsea, works in fashion and plans to celebrate her next birthday in Versailles.
Scratch beneath the surface, however, and there is more to this friend of mine than meets the eye. She bought her lovely, airy Chelsea flat just before house prices went crazy in the late 1990s. Admittedly it was a mess when she bought it, but she snapped it up for a teeny tiny fraction of what it is worth now.
Last time I went down to London I stayed with her – and when I woke up in the morning, I looked around and realised that… damn it, the place is looking gorgeous all of a sudden! What’s more, she has kitted it out almost entirely with items from eBay, second-hand shops, charity shops and other bargain basements. Even the Victorian rolltop bathtub (which she didn’t let me photograph, because it needs enamelling) came from a scrapyard. [EDIT: N has asked me to point out that it didn’t come from a scrapyard, but from an “antiques salvage yard”.]
Being an arty sort she has a great eye, of course. However it also turns out that N is one of the savviest shoppers I know. These are just a few pictures that I snapped on my phone after breakfast, but take a look…
This 1930s chaise longue was from eBay. It now has pride of place in N’s big bay window, looking out onto the quiet leafy street.
The newest acquisitions: two decent old oil paintings in rather grand frames. Charity shop buys. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that floor was another bargain buy: those are second-hand parquet wooden tiles, taken up, resanded and relaid.
A 1950s/1960s kitsch magazine rack.
These were bought a couple of years ago, when N and I jumped in the Thriftymobile and motored down to Fowey in Cornwall, on a Daphne du Maurier pilgrimage. We ended up in a
junk shop antiques emporium and found these two black resin heads. They were about £20, which was far more than I would have paid, but N snapped them up. In retrospect I can see why: cleaned up and hung on the blue wall, they are eye-catching, aren’t they?
Vintage Heal’s chairs from the 1970s, baking in the morning sun. Another eBay find. Currently sitting in a row against the wall, doctor’s waiting room style, while she finds a table to go with them.
Vintage shoes on the stairs. I’ve never seen N wear these – let’s face it, they are fairly delicate and wouldn’t last long on the grimy city streets – so I think they may be stair ornaments. N has a fabulous collection of vintage shoes; unlike me, she has dainty little feet so the older shoes are easier to come by. Not that I’m jealous or anything…
Art deco mirror in N’s bedroom.
Some of the trinkets and knick-knacks on N’s dressing table, along with an art deco, green enamel hand mirror. From a market in Paris.
This 1950s orange bowl, from a market in Normandy, always has pride of place. And see that cabinet in the background?
Yes, here it is in close-up. When N came up to visit me in Yorkshire for the first time, we went on a charity shop trawl. In Oxfam in Ripon, she made a beeline for that brown tea set. It was £10. I thought it was the ugliest bloomin’ tea set I’d ever clapped eyes on (and still do), but will concede that tucked away in this cabinet, alongside colourful handkerchief art glass bowls, it is marginally easier on the eye.
1920s gentlemen’s wardrobe in the sitting room, courtesy of eBay, to accommodate the vintage overflow. And finally, in case you are wondering, that’s my tartan coat and scuffed-up cowboy boots next to it, lowering the retro tone!