I often get asked by friends or followers on Instagram were I get things from. The truth is, more often that not, that I have probably made, painted or just done it myself. It’s not that I want to be one of those nauseating people who makes their own everything and lives the “good life”, it’s simply that most of the time I am so set on an idea or a vision that I just can’t bloody well find what I am looking for in the shops, or their online equivalents.
This has always been a problem for me; whether I am trying to find an outfit for an occasion, or whether I am looking for something that I think will complete a room in the house. It’s a frustrating way to live if I’m honest, and generally results in me spending hours trawling eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Pinterest; or my latest habit of scouring antique markets and Brocante fairs. I first “re-vamped”a piece of furniture about 6 years ago, when my husband and I were first living together. Essentially, I moved into his flat and took over (Thank you Nico for just letting me do that). I knew I wanted a farmhouse table and four fiddle-back chairs, so I began my search and eventually found them on Gumtree for £100 to collect from a house not far from us. This was my first bargain (of many!) and those chairs still live with us now (I think they have been re-painted maybe three times since then?). The table had to go eventually as my husband made us a bigger one (pictured below); which of course I painted! I was so pleased when I found the first table and chairs as all of the new or already re-furbished ones I had found were £600 or more. A lot of sanding and stripping, and can of Farrow & Ball “Clunch” later and it was complete. Easy really?
The point I am trying to make is; if you want something and you want it to look a certain way to create your “vision” don’t give up just because you can’t find it on the Next home site! Keep on looking, and if it doesn’t exist? Make it! I am by no means a DIY or sewing expert; I’m almost entirely self-taught (Mum, I completely owe you one for everything you ever taught me about sewing, even when I said I didn’t want to learn), so I truly do believe that anyone can learn. Trust me, I have stabbed myself with a needle enough times, or accidentally pinned myself to the thing I am trying to make, to know that it just takes practise. I still completely mess things up; I just start again! (In that respect, sewing is a lot like life)
My quest for the perfect “thing” sometimes takes months, I bore myself with it, let alone everyone who has to listen to my sh*t chat. Places I have recently discovered that have become firm favourites (and I hope you’ll love them too!) are:-
The Country Brocante fairs. These fabulous events run by Lucy and her team are generally in the West Sussex/ Surrey area. They do a couple of big ones at Cowdray Estate (Summer and Christmas) and then lots of smaller events. I always come home with beautiful finds to add to the house; the flowers in the summer are also just divine. They have recently launched events in the Cotswolds too, with hopefully more to come. They have the most beautiful shop in the idyllic town of Midhurst, well worth a visit if you’re keen to find something a little different. Give them a follow on Instagram or Facebook for event info.
My other favourite place to rummage for one-off pieces (big and small) is Sunbury Antique Market. Not one for the faint hearted as it’s a bloody early start; but if like me an early start just adds to the thrill of the chase then you’ll be bang up for it! It opens from 6.30am and is one of the biggest antique trading markets in the U.K. Held at Kempton Park Race Course it is well worth a visit on the second and last Tuesday of each month. (You can thank me later for this one, you’re welcome)
After Teddy died, I really got stuck in to taking myself to these kind of things. It gave me “an event”, something to look forward to, somewhere I could just be anonymous and lose myself in just looking at all of the beautiful things there. I didn’t have to worry about awkward conversations or talking to people who didn’t know how to communicate with me because my son had died and then assumed this meant I had had a personality transplant and could no longer laugh, joke or be myself. (Note to anyone reading this who knows someone who’s suffered a loss and doesn’t know what to say; just be normal, but mindful. Chances are they’ll love a chance to have a laugh. God knows, it was one of the things that got me through.)
Going to these events was a form of escapism, I was seeking anonymity, to just disappear and to lose myself. I dragged my Mum, my sister-in-laws and well-meaning friends around with me (luckily they all enjoyed it as much as I did). I even braved a very cold October morning at Sunbury Antiques on my own; I think that was one of the turning points when I realised I could do “normality” on my own again.
I love the fact that so many of the pieces in our home have a story, real character, and personality. Many of them came to me looking completely different and have been stripped, sanded, painted, waxed; you name it and I’ve probably tried to do it to make a piece of furniture fit my vision. I’m convinced that many older pieces of furniture are far better made too, they must be….they’ve lasted this bloody long? I doubt someone will be buying my Ikea bedside tables at an antiques fair a hundred years from now?! It also gives me such a huge amount of satisfaction telling people (when they often ask) that “I did it.“or “I made it.” Again, I don’t want to come across like one of those smug “Look at all this sh*t I can make” kind of people. Getting a bargain, one off piece, probably means you’ll spend way less than you would on an ‘off the peg’ item (See, I’m saving you money now too!)
In summary; all I’m saying is, if you’ve never done it, if you’re scared, or if you think you’ll mess it up; just try it. You might just surprise yourself……