Skinted or minted

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Charlotta Poppius makes a case for treating your living room to a design feast. If your wallet can’t stretch to designer, Claire Strickett finds an alternative.

Spring cleaning should definitely be on your to-do list at this time of year, especially with revision to be distracted from. As you get ready to chuck out your battered toaster or replace the broken Matalan tumblers that you used to death, would you ever think of rewarding yourself with a piece of furniture that would perk up your humble student abode? A single quality design piece can transform the rest of a room and instantly add class.

A quality design is something that you would still display with pride in 10 years time when you’re a successful career minded 30-something living life in the fast lane, with a riverside penthouse thrown in.

The design scene in Glasgow is in its infancy, but design store/gallery Goodd on James Morrison Street is blazing a trail. This funky establishment already earned the major accolade of being the only UK store outside London to be featured in Wallpaper magazine’s Retail Directory of 2008. Goodd touts itself as a design destination rather than just a retail outlet, with an ‘art over business’ influence. The space itself is intimate, with a well-edited selection of products on display, and you also have the option to purchase their ‘goodds’ online at www.good-d.com.

Although their Capellini-furniture might be a bit out of range for the student budget (£3,800 for a chair, anyone?), there are student-friendlier options available such as the versatile monochrome ‘Sticky Lamps’ (£15) by cult-favourite DROOG, and the über-cute snowman salt and pepper shakers (£8 for a set) by Japanese design duo Shin and Tomoko Azumi. While you are at it, why not invest in a multifunctional piece of furniture, à la Established and Sons? The British brand’s ‘The Crate’ (£95) can be used as a storage unit, bedside table, side table or stool; how’s that for stretching your pennies?

Another design hotspot in Glasgow is Dallas + Dallas on Montrose Street. They stock the hottest classic design pieces from the likes of Moooi, Kartell and B&B Italia, the latter providing the furniture for the sets of the latest Bond movie. Fancy owning a museum piece? While their spring sale is well under way you could bag yourself a ‘Myto chair’ for under £100.
Your final stop for gleaming, classic design is The Lighthouse on Mitchell Lane. It takes pride in housing a showroom of Vitra, the manufacturer of famous designs by the likes of Charles and Ray Eames and Philippe Starck.

The showroom makes interesting design spotting, but if you can’t quite afford a Vitra piece just yet, the design shop also stocks goods from Finnish design houses Marimekko and Alvar Aalto. Get a piece of Scandinavian chic at just £15 for Marimekko’s retro towels emblazoned with bright colours, perfect for summer picnics or beach holidays.

So, whether you choose to adorn your student digs with some Hollywood movie set pieces or decorate your bathroom with gorgeously patterned towels, a well selected piece or two will inject the grubbiest of student flats with some serious style.

Student budgets plus cheapskate landlords don’t exactly add up to the greatest interior design combination. But when you feel that your flat is looking a bit bare, or you’ve run out of places to stash your stuff, where’s the cheapest place to get hold of some decent-quality furniture? Ikea? No, cheaper than that. Charity shops? Better, but still no. Believe it or not, the answer can sometimes lie right outside your front door – quite literally. You’ll have to beat the dustmen to it, though.

You’d be amazed at what you can find discarded as rubbish and sitting on the pavement. This sort of recycling is a long established, unnofficial practice; what might surprise you is how great your finds can be made to look. To prove the point, every item of furniture in this photo was salvaged off the street – so why bother spending, when you can get so much for free from right outside your front door?

This time of year is perfect for furniture-hunting, with (slightly) drier weather and a lot of spring-cleaning-out going on. A few things to bear in mind before you dash outside: make a note of the day of the week that the council has set aside in your area for the collection of large items of rubbish.

This will tell you when it is that people will be putting out their unwanted furniture for collection, so you can keep an extra keen eye out around this point in the week. Steer clear of soft furnishings and heavily upholstered items: they soak up damp too easily and are difficult to clean thoroughly. All electrical goods, similarly, should be given a wide berth – they could have been discarded because of a potentially dangerous fault. The best picks are items such as desks, hat stands, chests of drawers, chairs… all things that can be easily cleaned.

If you do decide to adopt some abandoned furniture, once you’ve carried it home (possibly with the aid of some useful flatmates), you need to clean it thoroughly, using a cloth dipped in warm water mixed with a few drops of bleach. After that, you’d be amazed the difference that a session with a duster and furniture polish can have on scruffy wooden surfaces. And, if you want to get a bit fancier with your DIY skills you have options such as sanding, painting and transfers. You can do so with the knowledge that even if things go disastrously wrong, you’re really none the worse for it.

There’s no point aiming for perfection, though – embrace a ramshackle, shabby-chic aesthetic, and be creative: old crates can become bedside tables; the frame from a broken mirror can turn a cheap poster into a classy-looking print, and so on. Think outside the box, and take a look outside your front door – just make sure you leave something behind for the rest of us!