For many of us, owning a ‘dream home’ just seems like a distant idea – with our recent study 1 revealing that nearly a third of people in the UK believe they’ll never be able to afford one. But whatever ‘dream home’ means to you, it may be more within reach than you think…
We spoke with designers Greg and Emily, who’ve recently turned a bare shell into their dream dwelling on a tight budget. As a young couple with limited resources, they’ve given us inspiration and have shared their practical ideas on how they managed to make their new house feel like a home without overspending:
Do it yourself
We did everything by ourselves! Instead of hiring decorators or a handyman, we did as much as we could on our own, and roped in family and friends who could help us with different tasks. One day, we had seven people helping us, which felt like DIY SOS! We managed to get so much done this way, had a lot of fun, and thanked our loved ones with a lunch at our new local pub.
Collect what you can before moving day
We bought as much as we could in the year leading up to when we moved out, and stored it at home. We knew that once we’d moved out, our budgets would be a lot tighter with a mortgage to pay – so we decided to buy as much as we could store in advance. By the time we finally moved, we had our small appliances ready, such as a kettle and a toaster. We also had pans, plates, cups, glasses, lamps, cushions and bedding all stored in the loft. With all of this, we could quite quickly unpack and start to settle in.
We used Pinterest a lot! For about two years before we moved out we were creating boards for each room. It’s great for clever money-saving ideas and inspiration. For example, Greg turned an old Hendrick’s bottle into a soap dispenser… it sounds strange but looks great!
Give every surface a lick of paint
We painted EVERYTHING. Every surface needed a new lick of paint; this seems like a small thing but it made an unbelievable difference and brightened up every room. We were lucky to move in over the Easter weekend, so made the most of Easter discounts in DIY shops when buying all of our paint.
Recycle unwanted furniture
Our friends and family donated unwanted furniture and homeware. Emily’s uncle had also recently moved house and had saved us a box of serving bowls and kitchen utensils. He thought some of it was dated, but in our modern décor we think it looks quite cool and retro! We’re also really proud of our lovely armchair, which belonged to Emily’s great Grandma. It was dated and needed new fabric and stuffing, so we bought a modern grey fabric and took it to Emily’s uncle who is a carpenter and upholsterer. We’re so pleased with it, we wouldn’t have been able to afford such a lovely armchair from new, and to own a piece of furniture that has been in the family for years is quite special.
Find a place for your pictures
We put up prints and pictures on the walls and displayed our favorite things! These details make the place feel unique to us, and have really brightened up the property.
We made stuff! Luckily as we’re both designers, we’ve made a few things at a low cost. Greg and his dad made a dressing table in the bedroom, using two chests of drawers from IKEA and a cheap kitchen worktop. It cost about £100 to make, is fitted to the walls and is a really good use of the space. He also made lamp bases and candleholders using concrete and copper pipe. Emily created some prints for the walls, which make the place feel really personal to us.
Look around for a bargain
We didn’t want everything in our home to be bought from one place, and found that we could almost always find a cheaper option if we shopped around a bit. We explored charity shops and car boot sales, and spent a lot of time on sites like eBay and Gumtree, where we found our dining table and chairs. Greg loves 1960’s furniture, and our biggest steal was a wooden TV unit which we bought for £15 in a charity shop. We found the exact same one online for £300! It needed a good sand and a polish, and we added some hairpin legs to modernise it. It’s probably the cheapest piece of furniture in the property but gets the most compliments!
Bring the outdoors in
We bought at least one plant for every room; it came to less than £40 but makes a huge difference to the place and adds a bit of life and colour.
Get your measurements right
Before we moved in, we looked at the floor plan to get a really good idea of the size of each room, which enabled us to get an idea of what furniture we could buy. This prevented us from wasting money on things that wouldn’t fit, and also gave us a good idea of how much paint we would need for every room so there wasn’t too much excess.
Greg & Emily: Buy their first home together
From saving for a deposit through to moving day, we spoke to Greg and Emily to learn more about their journey getting onto the property ladder, and to see how they’ve been settling in.