5 ways to source a Good Find with Naomi Smart

Read Shopping Director Naomi Smart's Guide to Good Finds, her favourite vintage trends and why retro coloured bathroom suites are back in fashion (if you love pastel shades that is).

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I’ve always bought second hand, it started with clothes when I was a teenager – they were an affordable way to buy into well designed pieces at thrifty prices. The same is true with furniture. I’d say 99.9% of my homeware buys since I moved into my first London flat have been second-hand from car boot sales, markets or Gumtree because you can source retro designs and styles that usually have buckets of personality. 

Gumtree has helped me find flats and bicycles over the years, but now it’s become a fruitful source to help furnish my recently renovated home. I’ve always been resourceful and have become somewhat addicted to the adrenaline rush of landing a “Good Find”, which to me is either something very specific that you’ve been searching for ages, or something completely random and unexpected, always at a bargain price of what you would have paid if it was new. But overarching both of those points is actually that Good Find Feeling which is knowing that you’re helping the pre-loved community’s commitment to a circular economy as well as helping pieces move onto another chapter to be cherished again by someone new. But how to start sourcing?

  • Firstly, download the Gumtree app, those who mean business won’t want to miss a trick. Good pieces fly fast and the quick-fire messaging service is as easy as texting – be sure to ask sellers all your queries in one go.
  • When searching, try and be specific with what you’re looking for, type something generic like “sofa” and the result will be listing after listing, better to add a colour or style you like.
  • Put time aside, hunting can be laborious to say the least, which is also why when you do finally find your piece the effort you went to will be all the more rewarding.
  • And a general decorating life hack – keep the measurements of the space you’re sourcing for on your phone notes so you always have them to hand whenever you have a moment for a quick browse.  

Here are my 5 favourite retro finds to search for now:

The coloured bathroom suite

Colour Bathroom Suites

Love them or hate them, the retro coloured bathroom suite is having a moment, brightening up our moods and social media feeds. Introduced in the 1930s by manufacturers in an attempt at boosting sales (and morale) after the Wall Street Crash (also maybe why we’re gravitating towards them now post lockdown), by the 1950s American suburbia was awash in a palette of pastel hues. And its influence spread across the pond too, right up to the 1970s when the avocado suite was all the rage. Luckily for us, there are homes up and down the country that still have original fixtures and fittings, and because a coloured bath, loo or basin may not be to everyone’s taste, suites are being ripped out in favour of new modern pieces – and listed on Gumtree! 

I think the best way to reinterpret it now is to go for one stand-out piece to make it more contemporary like a coloured sink. When searching the site, you need to be quite clever in your wording. Be generic at first and put “coloured bathroom suite”, then try getting a little more specific and search for a piece like bath or basin and in a specific colour, then try add vintage or retro to the mix to see what’s thrown up, there will be plenty of treasures to be found I assure you.

The rattan table

Rattan Tables and Furniture

When trying to find a new coffee table the possibilities are endless, type in “coffee table” into search and you will literally have thousands of listings and will feel overwhelmed by the choice. If you’re looking for something that will pretty much go with any decorating theme and can move with you throughout the years then the “rattan table” is a sure bet. A timeless classic, it sits equally as calm in a neutral room as it will stand out against bold colour and print. Gumtree will offer lots of options, my favourite eras are pieces from the 1930s and 1970s so look out for those as they usually have the best designs.

The enamel kitchen light

Industrial Pendant Lights

Kitchen lighting points are never usually at just one source, you have multiple areas to think about, from cooking to counter tops, it’s also the most social room of the house so you want to get the mood right. I always like the look of multiple lights above an island and colourful enamel industrial style lights in rows are a simple way to make a fun statement. You should always have vintage lights PAT tested by an electrician before use just in case, and while you’re at it could even change the flex colours to match.

The vintage sun lounger

Vintage Sun Loungers

Garden furniture can be a minefield: what do you have space for? Which pieces can be left outside? What material and style will suit the surroundings? As the garden is there for your enjoyment I think you should pick pieces that are fun and have character. Vintage deck chairs have been a popular search term for years, but it’s vintage sun loungers that I’ve been hunting for this summer. In bright 1970s bold retro floral prints or 1980s bold stripes, look for foldable ones to save on storage!

The chintz fabric 

Feeling uninspired about what I was finding in the shops when looking for fabric to reupholster a chair, I did a quick search on Gumtree and the findings were plentiful! I never thought to look for second hand fabric before on here, but often the prints are more unusual and unique. Chintz and country cottage prints are having a revival and it’s such a layered look that can be expensive to create, however you can find lots of vintage options that won’t break the bank on Gumtree. Also a plus is that often unused curtains and retro print pieces of fabric would have been stored and tucked away in cupboards for years, meaning sun damage will be minimal and they’ll still hold their quality. Type in floral fabric and see what pretty hits come up.