SITTING on her mattress, the only piece of furniture Maxine owned, she knew she’d have her work cut out trying to fill her new home.
The interior stylist had intentionally made herself homeless for six months to save enough to buy her two-bed Victorian terrace house.
When she finally bagged her dream property, she then had to take out a £9,000 loan to make the kitchen and bathroom livable.
So, when it came to furnishing her new Brighton-based property, there wasn’t a lot left in the budget.
In fact, Maxine admits that it came to a grand total of £0.
She said: “My logic was ‘if I can get this house, then I’ll work out the rest once I’ve moved in'.
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“So when I moved, I had a mattress, suitcases of clothes and the dog. That was it.”
Now, seven years on, the pro-thrifter shares how she furnished (nearly) her entire home for free – and her tips for other savvy shoppers.
DUMPSTER AND GUMTREE DIVING
The blogger and TV host had a passion for shopping secondhand since she was a child, often spending her pocket money in charity shops and at junk sales.
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So she was secretly thrilled that when selling her old flat, the buyer asked for the property and all its contents, leaving her the perfect opportunity to hunt for her next batch of pre-loved goodies.
So where did she start?
Maxine, aged 45, said: “I was quite easy breezy about what I picked up. It wasn’t like I had this idea that I must find X, Y and Z.
“So I was driving home near these big bins and I spotted this cane armchair, and I just quickly pulled over and shoved it in my boot.
“I painted that white and my sister made a cushion for me. Then I painted it another colour, and then I sold it.
“Then I bought a granny chair – I got that for free on Freecycle. Then I sold that.
“I just kept putting the money towards getting nicer things each time.
“But lots of it I’d find and then if I got bored, I’d have a look around and sell it.
"I didn’t cling onto one idea.”
Bins and skips were where most of Maxine’s greatest finds came from, with some metal shelves being the basis of her living room’s first design – and a hilarious pub story.
She added: “I was literally on the way to the pub to meet my friends and I spotted it by some bins.
“So I hid it in someone’s front garden and went to the pub.
“Then I came back at 11, got it out of the garden and carried it home.”
Back when Maxine was 22, she found a Victorian-style ceiling plaster rose in a skip which she salvaged and kept in her mum’s garage.
When moving into this home, she finally had the chance to put it up. She claims the 15-year wait was totally worth it.
Maxine also found other goodies rooting around in her mum’s loft, including a rug that once decorated her childhood bedroom, and now sits pride of place under her thrifted bed.
There were some things she did have to pay for – as a keen bargain hunter, she never spent more than £200 for any piece of furniture.
This included her sofa, which with a retail price of £850, was a total bargain on eBay for just £150.
She admits that the two-seater with wooden legs has now had four lives as she’s had it reupholstered in various vibrant shades.
Currently, it’s covered in bright yellow velvet.
It was a similar story when it came to thrifting her bed, which she managed to find on Gumtree for less than £100.
“It’s French Rococo style from the 1950s.
I was quite easy breezy about what I picked up. It wasn’t like I had this idea that I must find X, Y and Z.
“I found it on gumtree and I think I paid less than £100.
“So this bed had a pink satin headboard – I think it belonged to one of the producers from TOWIE. He lived in Brighton.
“And then when I peeled the pink satin off, which was a bit bright, underneath I found the original blue silk devoré, so I designed my room around that.”
Talking about her other thrifty finds, she added: “My old TV cabinet was being given away for nothing at a charity shop. I painted it grey and stuck on wallpaper fish.
“The nest of tables in my living room I found in the street.
“And my dining table was given to me by an old friend, and I painted the legs grey.
“Plus my friends and I held 'swap parties' where we would bring unwanted homeware items and take what we wanted. I got some great kitchen storage jars.”
DO YOUR RESEARCH
So when asking the keen thrifter where to find the best pre-loved pieces, she had various suggestions.
“It’s about doing quite a bit of research.
“Recycling charities, we’ve got one in Brighton called Shabitat, and they collect all your recycling and sort it.
“The tip was brilliant. It was also a nightmare as I’d go with stuff I was trying to get rid of and then I’d come back with more.
“What I used to do is that before people would try and put stuff in the tip I’d be like, ‘oh, are you getting rid of that?’
“Paint charities – paint is really hard to recycle as it’s highly toxic, so there are quite a lot of charities around the UK where you can go around and donate paint, or pick it up for free.
“And there are loads of places you can get offcuts.”
The tip was brilliant. It was also a nightmare as I’d go with stuff I was trying to get rid of and then I’d come back with more.
But Maxine’s the first to admit that shopping secondhand can be overwhelming, so there are a few key things to do before you start hunting for bargains.
“I always keep my house measurements on my phone.
"So I’ve had a few tricky alcoves, or how much space I had on either side of the sofa, so if I’m out and find something.
“I also used to keep a tape measure in my car.
“I keep a list of things I’m missing or I need on my phone.
“And I did mood boards. I had an idea of what style [I wanted], it’s changed now, but at the time it was quite Scandi, light wood, lots of metal.
“So I had those stored on my phone so when I was out and about, I had those as reference points.”
And what about her advice for those who may have found an item they love? What should they check before agreeing to the sale?
“I try and think of alternative uses for things. So I had a lot of vintage suitcases that I use for storage.
“And I got scaffolding boards that I made into shelving in my kitchen.
“If I’m looking to upcycle, I might assess how easy it is to undo.
“So, for example, my friend’s bought this Scandinavian armchair, but someone’s already tried to upcycle it, so it’s covered half in paint."
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And if you’re trying to sell on one of your previous purchases, her advice was simple: “If you put things on for a price, people will actually come and get it.
“If you put it on for free, people just don’t turn up.”
The home of an interior stylist – this is the end result of 6 years of renovations. All done on a tiny budget. Follow me here or on insta to discover more #homedecor #interiorstyling #interiorstylingideas #hometour
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