I'm a bonafide, lifelong, committed bargain hunter, and proud to be so. Some would (and do) think me a cheapskate, and I'm OK with that…just! I freely admit that I'm much happier pottering around car boots and charity shops than I am browsing the high end offerings in department stores, and I love it when I find a bargain or a quirky item for our home. I rarely go into double figures when making a purchase, and the thought of going into triple figures sends me into a cold sweat.
I can't help it. If I see an item in a shop, I always try and make sure I can't get it cheaper online before I buy it. And if I'm considering buying a decorative item for our home, I always think about whether I could make something similar myself for less money. It's not just about the money, although it is a big consideration - we're not the richest people in the world and each saved penny counts. But I also know that if I make it myself, I get more from it personally; it becomes an experience rather than a purchase, and it will be unique because I've made it.
All that said, if you're trying to reproduce a mass-produced item at home, the costs can spiral pretty quickly once you've included tools and materials. I've discovered, however, a couple of ways to keep the costs down, primarily by using materials and items that you can get for little to no cost. And one of the cheapest (read 'often free') ways of doing this is by using giveaway samples. Here are a couple of examples that you could consider using in your own home.
Wall and Floor Tiles:
Most tile companies, online or in store, provide a sample service. This is so that you can try out a single tile at home before buying in bulk. Some companies charge a small amount per tile, however a number of them (primarily online ones) offer a free sample service where you can order up to a maximum of around three tiles absolutely free. Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that you should consider doing up your bathroom with free sample tiles! However, you can find plenty of uses for them if you think creatively. For example, we use a free sample grey metro-style wall tile as a rest for the salt and pepper on our dining table.
|Grey metro tile housing salt and pepper - loving the grey and orange together|
The grey of the tile works really well against the spotty orange PVC material from Ikea that we use as a tablecloth (I love orange and grey together). The tile sits well on the table as it doesn't slip about, and it's really easy to wipe clean with a dishcloth.
|Can't remember where the S & P pots come from, but the PVC material is from Ikea|
It's a really good size too, as our dining table isn't the biggest in the world. It doesn't take up too much room, but has enough space for the ubiquitous ketchup which makes an appearance at more mealtimes than I care to think about.
Before we had our kitchen gutted and redone, it was decked out in tiles that had seen better days and really weren't to our taste at all. In fact the whole kitchen was dark, cold and dreary, and I set about looking for cheap and creative ways to bring some colour and cheer into the room while we saved up for the renovations. One of the ways in which I injected a bit of fun and colour into the room was to line the windowsill with free sample metro tiles. The tiles just sat on top of the old ones, and amazingly five of them fitted almost exactly across the width of the sill. I chosen five different, bright colours that complemented each other.
|A selection of my collection of free wall tiles|
It was a small change really, but helped to make a big difference to the kitchen, along with the other crafty and creative touches we added. Our kitchen sink is right next to the windowsill and so as you can imagine I spent a lot of time looking at it! It cheered me up no end seeing the mish-mash of colourful tiles each day.
I also use a beautiful turquoise metro-style tile, again a free sample, as a base on which to display a couple of items on our dining room windowsill.
The coffee pot was a charity shop buy - it never gets used (I drink coffee though never use a pot) but I love the shape and the pattern - I think my maternal grandparents had crockery with a similar design, and it certainly reminds me of them and my childhood.
|I love the shape of coffee pots and, while I never use them, I have numerous...|
The glass bowl is from Debenhams and - shock, horror! - I paid full price for it. I actually bought it with an incredibly generous gift voucher that my last place of employment presented me with as a leaving present.
|Glass bowl from Debenhams|
I love the way the daylight shines through the glass, and I love the shape and the colours. By sitting the coffee pot and the bowl together on the tile it makes a little 'mini display' of the items.
Tiles can be used as trivets, drinks mats, plant rests, as a background for wall art… there are all manner of uses for them. Go online and do a quick search and you can find free sample tiles in all colours, patterns, shapes and sizes.
There has never been such a variety of wallpaper available as there is today, and the internet provides the best possible selection which we can peruse without having to get out of our comfy chair. Wallpaper shops allow you to tear off a smallish amount as a free sample, to test against your existing fixtures and fittings, and online stores also offer a free sample service, usually limiting the number of samples you can request to around three or four. The online samples tend to be around A4 in size, which gives you ample scope to do something creative with them. I've collected so many samples over the years, and haven't paid for any of them.
|All of these samples were free|
As you can see, there are some really iconic ones here, including Orla Kiely, Scion and MissPrint. On occasion, I've actually framed the wallpaper sample and used it as wall art just as it is, but what I tend to do is use the samples as a background for other works of art. In the past I've cut up the samples and used them as bookmarks…
|Wallpaper sample as bookmark. This one is 'Cotton Tree' by MissPrint in Buttercup Yellow|
…I've laminated them and used them as table placemats, I've stuck them on the door to my craft room with sticky tack to brighten up the space a little…
…and I've used them in collage and decoupage projects.
Fabric samples tend to be a lot smaller than wallpaper samples - you don’t need a vast amount of the stuff to know whether it's the right material for you - and so you're more limited as to what you can do with them, but with a little creative thought you can find a number of uses for them.
|I've got all manner of fabric samples...and not a clue what to do with them at the moment!|
I confess that working with fabric is not my strongest point, and so I've found that I'm building up a stash of samples and have yet to do anything with them of note. In the past I've used them as drinks mats, and in collage and appliqué work. At the moment, I'm saving them up and I plan, if I can gather enough of them, to try and make a patchwork cushion (I'd love to do a quilt but in all honesty I think I'll run out of enthusiasm before I can collect enough!).
I have, however, framed three free samples of MissPrint's Little Trees fabric which, until recently were hanging above our bed.
|Framed fabric samples of 'Little Trees' by MissPrint|
I've had a change around and I need to find a new place for them now!
When I requested a couple of samples of the wonderful Mr Fox fabric by Scion, each came with a thick paper version too. Unfortunately the paper versions were folded in the post, but I straightened them out, and have framed them. I think they look fantastic together as a set and I've hung them in one of our attic rooms, which doubles up as a guest bedroom.
|'Mr Fox' design by Scion...|
|...in situe in our attic guest room|
You can do amazing things with samples, you just need to think a little creatively. Have a look online and see what fantastic freebies you can find!
Bye for now xxx