It’s the easiest thing in the world: furnishing and decorating a home on an unlimited budget. But when funds are a little tight it’s a different and more challenging story. That’s where How to find amazing interior pieces in charity shops can help. Here we show you how to find what you’re looking for at super bargain prices.
At DU we like to think we’re expert scrimpers and savers – while also being quite original. We thrive on not being able or willing to pull a look together in a single day or week even. No matchy-matchy here… And nothing thrills us more than spotting a fabulous piece through the shop window – costing absolute ‘peanuts’! That happens regularly and below we tell the stories of how we saved a small fortune by popping into charity shops.
Among my most recent finds are: chunky tasseled curtain tiebacks for £16 / $22 (retail price £180 / $240), a side chair, gorgeous elaborate mirror frame now used as a picture frame, two paintings and milk pot, among other treasures. All were chance finds, but things I needed and either couldn’t find in the shops or online at a reasonable price – or at all.
It isn’t terribly difficult to find good things in charity shops. No need to roam or spend hours digging amongst the piles of donations stacked on shelves or racks or simply lying in boxes on the floor.
Top tip: the best items will be displayed in the shop window or prominently on the shop floor or shelves in eye-height. All we have to do is to look through windows as we walk past and the piece we’re dreaming about might just be sitting there waiting for us to pounce…
What I look for: Scandi style furniture and accessories
All DU finds are much in the Scandi spirit. That doesn’t mean minimal pieces…rather pieces that are either minimal or fit into, and complement, a Nordic style home. Such as rich tassel tiebacks to dress up white curtains or a simple chair with ornate upholstery. When furnishing a home I follow the same principle as in make-up: either mascara or lipstick – never both.
Although I rarely scour charity shops for anything specific, I always check the shop windows and pop in when passing wherever I am. For over a year I was looking for glitzy tieback for the sitting room curtains, but found nothing in the shops or online – except at the Chelsea Design Centre, an Aladdin’s cave for professional interior designers.
There you see the best of the best, where tiebacks are an art form, created by designers to Buckingham Palace and others who have as much money as they have good taste. Starting price is around £180 / $240, though. I saw and dreamt about the pair in green, white and cream – perfect for the flat with its white curtains and green plants in the window! But handing over nearly £200 / $270 takes a long time.
Lo and behold…not long ago, rushing past FARA’s shop in Fulham Road and glancing in the window what did I see? A pair of tiebacks exactly like the ones at the Design Centre, at just £16 – less than a tenth of retail price. It was a small miracle, and here are the tiebacks:
When you’re not looking: how to find amazing interior pieces in charity shops – like the Side Chair
The last think on my mind, heading to the tennis club one day this autumn, was the dining chair I still hadn’t found. With just three chairs to round the solid IKEA extendable table, there wasn’t enough seating for a game of bridge. However, nothing suitable or affordable popped up online and stores’ delivery times have taken a hit from lockdown.
But on my way to tennis, in the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Church Road, Barnes, South West London, there it was. It was the perfect side chair, upholstered in green silky cotton with Prince of Wales style feathers and carved brown wood. A lick of white paint turn it into a true Scandi beauty – and it cost only tenner / $14.
The chair was light and in tip top condition, easy to carry home on the train – no time and money spent waiting for the delivery van. On a separate note, the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Barnes is one of London’s most beautiful charity shops. Shiny, tidy and stocked with high end interiors.
Two more items – and that’s just my interior finds, not counting ponchos, the tennis racket and other bits and pieces – include the painting and the mini jug. The painting is an impressionist style oil on board by Charles Jacques, “Early Morning Sun in the Forest” (pictured below). It was the simple white frame that caught my eye and the £25 price tag. Jacques sells for 100 times that when not donating his ‘other pieces’ to charity. This painting is incredible in its detail, a stunning addition to my gallery wall. And a super investment.
Many Artists donate unsold Paintings and Sculptures to Charity Shops
Those hoping to create a gallery wall in their sitting or living room could do worse than scour charity boutiques for donated paintings. Local artists often give paintings or sculptures they don’t think will sell, or are outside what they are known for, to charity. Or they donate because they are having a clear out of their studio. And charity shops are the ideal place to get rid…that’s how to find amazing interior pieces in charity shops.
This painting was bought at the Vision Foundation, a charity for the blind and partially sighted – it has an army of regular supporters, including the painter Charles Jacques who donate regularly. So much so good pieces disappear as soon as they arrive because some buyers have cottoned on to what days and times their favourites deliver. Charles Jacques’ paintings fly out of the shop within hours.
One last mention is the black glazed mini jug, bought simply to hold sweeteners and sit on the black India Jane drinks tray. Matchy-matchy in colour but not in style and both looking shiny on the dining table. I bought it ‘en passant’ at Oxfam, a stone’s throw from the Vision Foundation store in west London’s Kensington High Street. Just £2.50 / $3.50 (pictured below).
Luxury Bargains on Tap as the Middle Classes clear out
Luxury bargains are on tap up and down the high street. People are clearing out and charity shops are – to put it bluntly – ideal dumping grounds for spring cleaners and those without a skip. And luckily so, search out the best stores for super finds. It is unbelievable what people throw away – although no doubt many take positive action by ensuring charities benefit from our throw-away culture. It is a noble, and charitable act.
But when you see people discarding collector’s items and interior pieces, let alone fashion designer pieces, worth hundreds of pounds take a deep breath. When you pick up that bargain you’ll know you’ve helped people in need and got your hands on that special item. And you’ve saved buckets of money in the process. Now you know how to find amazing interior pieces in charity shops.