Finding your dream home without breaking the bank is hard enough for millennials. Once you’ve got it, you’re then faced with the challenge of furnishing the place with whatever you’ve got left after putting down the deposit and committing to your monthly mortgage or rent payments.
In Germany, people tend to stay in rented accommodation for much longer than they do in the UK. Tenants are also responsible for much of the decoration and repairs, meaning rented properties often become much homelier than they might elsewhere in Europe.
Brit in Berlin Instagram influencer Nadine Ahya moved from the UK to Germany five years ago, and became quickly enamoured with the city’s bohemian lifestyle. A few years into her new life, she found herself living in a stunning, high-ceilinged period apartment in the alternative Friedrichshain district, but without any furniture.
So alongside her partner Marinella, also an Instagram influencer, the pair set about restoring the flat’s charm. Dispelling the myth that influencers are showered with freebies – Nadine and Marinella’s audiences are mainly interested in landscape and architecture – they were determined to do it on the tightest possible budget while making the most of features like the wall-to-wall windows.
“So many people leave stuff outside their doors on the street, or in courtyards. It’s called ‘Zu verschenken’ meaning gifted,” Nadine says.
“I’ve managed to get so much from there. I had a small blue sofa, which looked beautiful but wasn’t very comfy so I didn’t keep it. I got a lamp, a big palm plant, a set of vintage candle holders. Then I add pieces I find in charity shops or online, so it definitely doesn’t look like it was furnished from the street.”
Unusually for Berlin, her apartment came with a kitchen pre-installed, meaning she didn’t have to salvage the units and appliances many have to bring with them into their news homes. Meanwhile, she got her TV and washing machine using vouchers she won in photo competitions.
“The round mirror is vintage,” she tells Euronews Living. “Someone found it in their grandma's garage and sold it to us on eBay. The full length mirror came free, as did the rug and my dog Iris’ bed.”
When looking for a specific item, she often keeps an eye out on websites like Freecycle, Freegle and eBay for people giving away items that the new owner will just have to pick up and transport, or cover the cost of a courier.
“The furniture is all gifted or second hand from the 1960s or 70s, some stuff came from flea markets,” Nadine adds.
“There’s a Humana charity shop near me that often has some really cool stuff, so once you find a charity shop you like, make sure you visit often. Once Marinella saw an amazing one-off glass vase in a shop’s window display, so she convinced him to sell it to her for a couple of euros.”
How can you furnish a flat for nearly nothing?
These top ten tips by Olde Good Things are a great starting point for those looking to furnish a home on a budget. Rather than going for mass-produced or flat-packed furniture, it recommends:
- Visit an architectural salvage shop
- Frequent your local weekend flea market or swap meet for local finds
- Check out the antique stores
- Go beachcombing. You never know what gadgets or jewellery you might find at the end of the day. But be mindful of local laws regarding lost property
- Go dumpster diving or patrol the sidewalks on trash day. You can find nice old sofas, valuable lamps, even floor tiles or kitchen cabinets
- Search you own home or that of your relatives. Tucked up in that attic crawlspace could be an old chest whose contents contain old posters, a baseball card collection or valuable paintings
- Explore a thrift or charity store such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army for old picture frames, books and kitchen utensils
- Join a modern-day treasure hunt such as the Fenn Treasure, a $2 million stash of gold coins and jewellery hidden somewhere in New Mexico by a wealthy eccentric
- Invest in an unclaimed storage unit that comes up for sale
- Head to prospect yard sales. Looking for valuable finds at yard sales has all the hallmarks of a true treasure hunt
Most importantly, Nadine says: “Don’t feel like you have to furnish somewhere overnight, adding pieces gradually takes time but it’s super satisfying to see a room take shape.”