Six tips for sourcing furniture on a budget

July 28, 2021

You have just had a meeting with the Dot Dot Dot team to welcome you to property guardianship, and you’ve been given the keys to your new space! What next?

Alongside cheaper living costs, a welcoming guardian community and an opportunity to give back to causes you care about, living with Dot Dot Dot also enables you to get creative redecorating your home. The prospect of filling an empty space can often feel daunting, so just follow our guide to sourcing furniture on a budget based on our recent experience of  furnishing  a studio flat in Queen’s Park, north west London.

1. Connect with friends who are giving stuff away

If you’ve got a friend who’s decided to Marie Kondo their life, now is the time to get in touch with them. Start contacting friends and family early to ask if anyone is having a clear out. You’ll find that people are more than happy to donate their unloved items. We were kindly given some cushions, a print for the wall and a chair!

2. Keep an eye on Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree

There is a wealth of furniture being given away or sold cheaply online if you’re willing to look for it. We found a 2-seater sofa worth £500, a coffee table and a bedside table that were going for free, so it’s worth signing up for email notifications and keeping an eye out for gems. You could try:

Stephanie O’Callaghan – Dot Dot Dot

3. Get creative

Decorating on a budget sometimes requires creativity to get the ambience you’re looking for. For the creatively challenged, there’s some easy options out there for you. Try putting dried lavender in an old glass bottle, or installing a lantern-style light shade for softer lighting. We found three light shades for £6 on Argos. 

4. Look for cheap soft furnishing options in charity shops

Charity shops are not just for clothing – you can also find some great homeware if you know where to look. We found a fluffy grey rug which is great for sectioning off the living space in a studio flat. There are also plenty of online guides to the best areas for charity shopping.

5. Get same day delivery on Argos

Argos offers same day delivery on most of its items, so it is a good resource if you are keen to get settled into your new space. It has everything from lamps, to bed frames, to kitchen appliances, so you can order everything in one go. They also have some great artificial flowers and plants if you have a tendency to kill the real thing.

Stephanie O’Callaghan – Dot Dot Dot

6. Hire a van with Zipcar

If you want to make the most of sites like Freecycle and need a van to pick up larger items, Zipcar is the place to go. They currently operate in London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge, and you can hire a large van from £10 an hour or £95 for the day. Pick up and drop off points are easy to come by, so it’s perfect if you need to transport furniture from A to B.

For more inspiration for decorating your space on a budget, check out our guide for re-styling your home. If you’re not yet a Dot Dot Dot guardian, apply now online.


Making Thamesmead Home – Chloe

May 4, 2017

As part of our blog series ‘Making a Space a Home’, one of our guardians in the Thamesmead/Abbey Wood area, Chloe, has written about the area and how she made her flat an amazing space. Read on for her musings on high rise living, prehistory, vinyl wallpaper and more.

What I love about Thamesmead

Thamesmead is a futuristic utopian vision of a city, seen through the eyes of the past (the Sixties, respectively). A testament to its sci-fi grandeur is that Clockwork Orange was filmed here, and to its romance, Likely Lads by The Libertines. There is a lot of raw concrete, but also a lot of greenery – fields of horses and ponies are woven through the estate and are really quite spectacular in the early morning mist, there are reservoirs home to swans, and Crossness Nature Reserve is nearby. It coexists with the ancient – a prehistoric forest that is a remainder of the once-great forest of Kent, and host to the ruins of Lesnes Abbey, which dates back to 1178. And if sewage works don’t excite you, I suggest taking a trip to the Crossness Pump Works to challenge that stigma. It’s really just a huge Victorian techni-colour jewlery box. Plus the Thamesmead residents are very friendly, and it is easy to recycle.

I live in a high rise so I have a sky view from my apartment – east on one side, west on the other, so I get to see the sun rise and set each day. I love walking through the maze of low-rise houses in the evenings. Lit up with warm coloured lights, cats slinking on the balconies, and puffs of steam pouring from laundry ventilation makes it feel like I’m somewhere else in the world, like somewhere in the far east. The maze-like arrangement means a couple of things, first that I’m still finding my way around after a couple of months, and second, that surprises are literally always around the corner. When you look up, new compositions of bridge-stairs-cat-steam-lights always to be found in a trusty concrete monochrome against whatever pretty colour the sky is that day.








What my apartment was like before

I was fairly lucky with the base furnishings of my apartment. The hall and lounge are imitation-pine laminate, the bathroom and kitchen are a non-invasive black linoleum. The bedroom had a decades old murky brown linoleum which I just painted white with what I had to hand – white wood undercoat paint. I also used this paint on the plastic kitchen cupboards and it holds well and is wipeable. One thing I’ve learned whilst doing this is it isn’t absolutely necessary to buy all the right paints and primers, especially if you’re on a budget, just try out what you have if you like the colour – you might be surprised.

The walls where a mix of pink, grey, turquoise, red, and vinyl wallpaper. Vinyl wallpaper can just be peeled off without a steamer or tools, just using your hands. I then painted all the walls and woodwork white, making the space feel more open, calm and fresh.








My furniture

Since I prefer space to stuff, I’ve only furnished my apartment with what I will thoroughly use, which as I write, realise is in the spirit of utopian architecture where function dictates form. I also paint which is why a lot of space is good for me, and do have the odd thing which inspires that.

I use black out blinds for night-time privacy and net curtains for daytime privacy. These were bought cheaply from IKEA. My home office consists of a plain wooden desk and chair I have had since childhood. I think the simplicity (and durability) of these items have contributed to their sustained use over time. My dining table and chairs is actually garden furniture, so I can move it to the balcony in warm weather.

For my bed frame, and for a multipurpose sofa/relaxation/spare bed, I use construction palettes. A friend of mine gave me these but you can find them cheaply online, even discarded out and about, or call up your local construction service se if they have any there were going to throw away or if now, that they’re willing to sell. Around my bed I use IKEA LED lantern lights, which are cheap to buy and run. Also cheap from IKEA I have a net around my bed. Whilst I put it for a cosy den atmosphere I learned of its benefits the first time I used it, because when I woke up I found a vampiric insect perched on it’s outer gauze. So long as you don’t get bitten, bugs cannot survive. It’s the best deterrent, and free of toxins.








Lessons and Special Recommendations

Palettes are great – you can stick a cheap cut of upholstery foam on top and have yourself a bed or sitting area. Don’t’ underestimate their uses – I’ve seen them as lampshades, tables, and bookshelves too!

Plants make the best decoration, and they cleanse the air by feeding off Co2 and creating new oxygen. Personally I
love looking after plants, feeding them and watching them grow and change with the seasons. I plan to grow tomatoes, strawberries and a rosebush on my balcony – all available from the Woolwich Market florist nearby, or Columbia Road in central-east where I got the ivy hung from my living room ceiling for a lovely Sunday morning out.

A single hob stove for a single person. It’s all you need, trust me. It easily portable, light, takes up minimal space, is cheap to buy, and if you get induction like me, cheap to run and more eco-friendly. I got it using my Nectar points.

Wifi-alternatives are useful if you want to save money. I found a sim only phone contract with unlimited data for £15 a month, so I use that and tether if I want to use my laptop. It was the best option of all when I was looking, better than dongles too, so I suggest shopping around as new deals come up and generally improve with time.

Warm coloured LED candles since guardians cannot use flame candles, these are a great alternative for atmospheric lighting. Some even mimic the flicker.

Thanks to Chloe for writing this blog, and congratulations for making her home so beautiful. If you’re interested in living in her area or becoming a Dot Dot Dot guardian, apply now.

Making a Space a Home in Thamesmead

October 19, 2016

This is the latest in our series of blogs entitled ‘Making a Space a Home’. In this series we look at how guardians have transformed empty spaces into homely homes! This week we talk to Martin and Carmen. They moved into a Dot Dot Dot property in Thamesmead in July, and have transformed their flat into a lovely home. We interviewed them about that process.

Please introduce yourselves!

We are Martin, a senior electrician from the Lake District, and Carmen, a sustainability graduate from Transylvania. Having met in London over 4 years ago, we moved away for a while and went traveling as well and now we are back in the ‘big smoke’ (maybe smog actually).

Tell us about the area you live in.

Now we live in Thamesmead. Yes, we didn’t really know where that was either but, after viewing the area, we were excited to actually live in one of many ‘cities of the future’ built in the 60s. They don’t necessarily have the best reputation in the UK but we are quite taken with the available green space, the Thames Path, the Lesnes Abbey and the forest around it, not to mention probably the fanciest sewage works around – Crossness Pumping Station.

What was the flat like when you took it on?

We were really quite lucky as the flat had recently been renovated. But the floors weren’t the best; a combination of bad lino and a ‘furry’ floor in the living room. Which was basically the remains of the lino being taken up following, what we found out later from our neighbours, a fire in the flat. However, we had some rescued carpet tiles from an office that no longer needed them which cover most of the flat.

For the rest of the furniture, we had a rummage through the family barn and rescued an armchair (below), a table and a sofa. A bit of elbow grease, sanding paper and paint (rescued from the barn as well) had given them a new lease of life and, we think, they fit in quite well with the age of the building. Our bed (see below) was made by Martin from pallets and our cooker came from one of our fellow guardians.

Home | Guardian | ThamesmeadSpace | Home | Guardian | Thamesmead

How did you find your furniture?

We have a side project – Cycletricity – where we use pedal power to make electricity to run cinemas, sound system and other contraptions aimed at education people around energy issue. But that also means that we have a fair bit of stuff so we tried to integrate it into the house. So speakers became a coffee table and the ‘lightbulb challenge’ becomes a lamp.

We still needed some white goods as we have ours away when we went traveling so we went on good old Gumtree and got ourselves a washing machine and a fridge for under £100. But you could pick them up for free as well on sites like Freecycle or freelywheely or, obviously, from your neighbours. Also, there are loads of charity shops that sell furniture and white goods and some of them deliver as well.

Space | Home | Guardian | ThamesmeadSpace | Home | Guardian | ThamesmeadSpace | Home | Guardian | Thamesmead


What’s been the most difficult part of making it a home?

Moving time and time again can get quite tiring… in more ways than one. All the packing and supporting and all the decisions can get too much and somehow you still end up with unopened boxes 3 months down the line after moving. However, we still love making a place home, regardless if it is an office, old people’s home or school so having an actual flat is not, well, that challenging.

As a guardian you do have to get used to thinking outside the box and making the best of the space you have and there’s always that balance to strike between how much time and money you put into a place that you might not get to call home for too long. Hence even more the reason to reuse, recycle and upcycle as much as possible!

What are you looking forward to in your future as a Dot Dot Dot guardian?

We look forward to discovering the area even more and maybe starting a project around food growing and/or food waste. By the way, you probably saw the volunteering opportunities newsletter: FareShare really need some volunteers right now, especially people able to drive a van during the day.

So thanks to Carmen and Martin! Has this inspired you to become a property guardian? Take our guardian quiz to become a property guardian in Thamesmead today!

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