Laura Harley has some frugal suggestions for ways to make your new home more homely
Today I’m thinking of those who have more recently moved to France and may currently be sitting in very unfamiliar homes in a country still new to them – where every day can be both thrilling and anxiety-inducing in equal measure. I can talk about this experience with some authority because it was mine too, and I know the stress of the rush to meet residency requirements with little time or complex guidance.
But beyond the newness of the French language and way of life, there is the need for the familiar; for the evolution of the integration process and to build a sense of home. One of the ways which I did that upon my own arrival in France back in 2018 was to decorate and develop our new home and garden into something which more closely resembled the hopes and plans which I had for a new life in France.
With a frugal eye, a fledgling business and a moderate renovation budget, my husband Graham and I enjoyed the hunt for furniture and homewares to replace the items which we inherited when we moved into our somewhat neglected French home.
This challenge meant that we didn’t use some of the more obvious online or in-person furniture outlets for our items but instead became expert bargain hunters. We used our beginners’ French to negotiate with locals and brocante sellers to source vintage armchairs and enquire about the price of well-loved dining tables which we planned to upcycle for the garden.
We also looked for charities like Emmaüs and local commune ressourceries where we could support good causes and build our home simultaneously. If you too are living in a maison which doesn’t yet feel much like chez vous, then this could be a money-saving way to do so.
The other route to building a homely environment is, of course, decorating the new spaces that we have. I distinctly remember the sense of comfort which came from peeling back layers of yellow textured wallpaper that were older than me, and painting on a coat of reassuring clean white paint.
The only problem in doing so frugally can be the price of decorating and renovation materials in France. Bricolage is notoriously expensive here and so finding materials online in local Facebook groups and marketplace listings can help to keep costs low, along with using national secondhand websites like leboncoin.fr and ebay.fr.
There is also a selection of shops which feature very heavy discounts on constantly changing stock, making their quirkiness a real treasure-hunting experience. Those who follow me on Instagram will know very well just how loyal a patron I am of the European déstockage specialist Noz and the constant friend of the DIY shop Action.
So if you’re newly French- resident with a to-do list as long as your arm, you could do worse than to give these money-saving methods a chance. And if you’re anything like me and my online community, you too will be a #nozaddict before you can say un, deux, trois.
This column was first published in French Property News. Subscribe to the magazine for more real life stories about living and buying a property in France.