Furnishing for the first time
Our resident designer has some essential tips on how to kit out your new home
Published 10/06/2011 | 05:00
I've been a first-time buyer before, once in the UK, and then, if it's possible to re-use the term, once again in Ireland. I've negotiated the deposit, mortgage, estate agents, sellers, and the partner's taste.
After the exhaustion of all of that, and the elation at finally receiving the key, you experience that moment, when you walk in, look around and realise that you've got the house, and now you have to start living in it ...
The first time doing anything is always the toughest -- and this same theory applies to accumulating furniture for your first and future homes. I have learned to apply just one rule -- only buy it if you love it.
I bought my first Irish home in 2005, and from that house I still have beds, armchairs, dresser, couch, trunks and occasional tables. The rest, victims of regular purges, were things that I didn't truly love -- they were invariably 'of the moment,' and I grew tired of them eventually. What I did keep, I still love, and they have come with me to five homes since then, from a modern apartment to a country cottage to a period home and, finally, to a mid-century flat. They always fit in, simply because I love them. Kind of like my family.
That's the first piece of advice based on my experience, and the next is as simple as that: buy the big stuff first, like beds and couches, and then the 'fun stuff', like mirrors and vases and little dishes that you're not quite sure what to fill/do with.
My next tip is a cautionary one -- if you have a lump sum saved or borrowed to invest in furniture, don't aim to spend it all immediately. The most beautiful homes are filled with things accumulated over time. I'm not saying you have to wait a year to buy a table, but if you need one, and haven't found one you absolutely love, then buying cheaply or finding one for free is better than making an expensive mistake. There's no rush.
I've applied all of this to the collections featured here, broken down into four areas -- bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. Some of the items are expensive, some quite a bit less than that.The more expensive the item though, the more I have to love it -- or for it to be so perfectly neutral that it will come with me to at least 20 more homes or hang around in the one spot for 20 more years.
Bedrooms should be restful. Seems like simple enough advice but it's amazing how quickly they can become minefields of stuff and nonsense. Money should be spent mostly on a good bed and a lot of storage, although I have included a luxury piece too, in the shape of the stunning Fjord chair from Marks & Spencers (€839)
When planning your storage, calculate however much you think you'll need, triple it and add an eighth. I made that up -- but you get the idea. An inexpensive solution is soft grey Hemnes wardrobes from Ikea (€269). Bedside lamps are also an absolute necessity, unless you have some swanky clapping light system, or the less swanky but still quite rare light switches beside the bed. If you have neither, I particularly like the Urchin Lamp from Next. (€49)
In this imaginary home, a leaf rug from No Fixed Abode became the centrepiece for my living room. (€1,585.) I paid for it from my sofa budget, and then bought the inexpensive but perfectly cool Karlstad sofa from Ikea (€599); it goes without saying that I loved the rug. A lot. In reality, I bought a cheap sheepskin rug and an expensive couch from Habitat, but it really is down to buying what you love, making sacrifices and taking time with your decision.
I highly recommend the nest of four tables from Retrospect.ie. Two coffee tables and two side tables all in one, and in a mid-century style, this is a collection that will be around your home for quite some time, being helpful and never dating. (€350).
Allow a budget for the bathroom -- it's an often-overlooked space at home but yet it's the first place you'll inspect when staying at a hotel. Why? You're seeking comfort. Well, you can have that every day at home. Buy some expensive towels -- lots of them. Try TK Maxx for an expensive feel but a marked-down price. I love the rustic grey wooden boxes from eboutique.ie (€62 for four) Fill them with your fancy new towels, body lotions, shower caps and hotel slippers. Fool yourself into thinking you're on a mini-holiday, every morning.
Almost regardless of the type of home you've bought, it's pretty much a certainty that you'll find yourself short on counter space. This is a First World problem if ever there was one, but think about all the places you've lived in recently -- I'd wager most had counters crammed with paraphernalia, without much room to actually cut or create. The Fenchurch Butcher's block from Marks & Spencers is €759, and will come with you from home to home. However, that would need to be offset against the kitchen table, fantastic examples of which I've seen being offered for free on sites such as DublinWaste.ie. Again, it's a negotiation, and depends entirely on what you love. Speaking of which, I love the Rise and Shine print from Hunkydory home, and the kitchen is certainly a good home for it, as you prepare your morning tea. Irish store Garrendenny Lane.ie has very pretty tins for storing such a thing (€19.99 for a set of three), try leekes.co.uk for a blue teapot to match, and you can't beat a teacup with an owl on it, also in blue, and available from Cloudberry Living. (£15 plus p&p)