Independent shopping guide: Homewares

  • The List
  • 24 March 2011
Independent shopping guide: where to buy your homewares

Some of the best physical and online retailers of sleek home furnishings

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a beer-stained two-seater, originally peach, now covered with a previously-cheerful ethnic throw, ceases to be a bold anti-materialistic statement and becomes an embarrassment. Ditto those beige tiles with the sheaves of corn.

When that moment comes, what is a person who can’t afford to zip across to trawl Copenhagen’s design shops to do?

For Caroline Key, an interior designer who specialises in upcycling and budget decorating, it’s all about the DIY. Literally. ‘Do as much as you can yourself. If you are not very practical then try and get friends and family involved. You can get expensive paint colours mixed up in cheaper paint which usually looks pretty much the same.’

And put down that Ikea catalogue: although the jolly blue giant has its uses, and does make a peerless book and CD storage system, it is far from the only option. In fact many of its products end up on Freecycle, which anyone decorating their home should sign up to with all urgency. Cheapcycle, Gumtree and craigslist are also worth a sniff around. Mark Zuckerberg gave away all his surplus stuff on Gumtree when he got a place with his girlfriend. Who knows what generous billionaire might be moving this weekend?

Failing that, and presuming the neighbours have failed to leave out a couple of mid-century bedside units for the bin man, Key recommends a bit of canny shopping. ‘You can find offers in magazines, or seasonal sales. A great website is, you can type in what you are looking for and it comes up with lots of different companies and prices.’

While the car boot sale is unlikely to yield a wardrobe or dining room table, it’s a good place to source small pieces at laughably low prices. Glaswegians should not forget the Barras, where there are warehouses of furniture of various vintages, from Victoriana to two-years-ago tat. A few second-hand furniture shops in the surrounding streets are also worth investigating. The grandly named Clydeside Antique Building, in Finnieston, is also full of cross-generational treasures, including a couple of stalls specialising in design-driven furniture.

East coasters will find the sprawling Sam Burns yard, in Prestongrange, a cross between the two, with a salty tang in the air. They have everything from proper antiques to shelves of dishes and pots to thousands of musty old books. Auctioneers Ramsay Cornish hold regular lane sales on Thursday mornings with great random bargains.

With the basics in place, it’s time to sprinkle on the stardust with some of the gorgeous little bits and pieces that make a room pop. The work of Scotland’s talented artists, crafters and upcyclers has never been more widely available, with Urban Igloo in Portobello, Edinburgh’s Concrete Wardrobe, and The Shop of Interest and Made in the Shade, both in Glasgow, selling original, funky textiles, ceramics and accessories. This is where you get to go wild and crazy with the cake stands, the owl tapestries and the ceramic pigeons. As Key says: ‘Finishing touches really make a room.’

A The Shop of Interest
1058 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8LY
An independent gallery / boutique selling art, prints and jewellery from local designers.
B Concrete Wardrobe
50a Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3SA
Concrete Wardrobe has a solid reputation for innovative collections and designs covering the worlds of fashion, textiles and furniture. It's an eclectic mix, including high quality knitted clothing, woven scarves, bags and purses from local designers. A…
C Ramsay Cornish Auctioneers
112 Jane Street, Edinburgh, EH6 5HG
Auctioneers and valuers holding auctions every Saturday, a cash-only 'Lane' sale auction every Wednesday, and bi-monthly specialist auctions.

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