We all want our homes to look wonderful but tight budgets can put costly furnishings and luxury homeware out of reach.

However, there’s a treasure trove of bargains to be found if you’re prepared to explore car boot sales, market stalls, antique fairs and auctions and websites such as eBay.

Not only is second-hand chic one of the cheapest ways to transform your home, it’s currently all the rage.

"Flea market finds put the fun back into shopping, and you don't have to worry about getting a huge credit card bill at the end,” says stylist Liz Bauwens, co-author of Flea Market Chic, which reveals thrifty ways to create stylish interiors.

“It’s also about creating a sense of history and a home that reflects your life and personality. Forget about investment - simply go for things you love.

“Focus on just a few types of objects that you like so you can start a collection or follow a theme. Have a mental list of what you're looking for - this will stop you accumulating a jumble of objects which have no cohesion."

Here are some suggestions:

1. Collections of interesting items can become focal - and talking - points in rooms. It could be vintage china, colourful pottery, paintings or quirky displays of anything from old-fashioned utensils to antique hand mirrors. Charity shops and car boot sales are great sources. To find out about ones taking place in your area visit www.carbootjunction.co.uk or www.carbootsales.org Or check out the International Antique and Collectors fair held at various locations (www.iacf.co.uk)

2. Most furniture stores have a section where slightly damaged goods, or ex-display models, are sold at discounted prices. You can get creative and give items a facelift with a coat of paint to hide any defects. Look for pieces of furniture which can be broken up and remade - church pews can be re-cut into tables, dining tables cut down to make coffee tables or panelling re-used for kitchen counter tops. Check out sites which specialise in second-hand furniture such as www.preloved.co.uk or www.usedfurnitureforsale.co.uk

3. Beautiful, quality fabrics can be hugely expensive but ends of lines, odd rolls or samples offer a more affordable solution. Drapes, curtains, sheets and bedspreads can be found in flea markets. Though they will often be worn or marked, they could be used to upholster bedheads or make ornamental drapes for a bed. The Remnant Room specialises in vintage and discontinued designer fabric remnants and ends of rolls (www.theremnantroom.co.uk)

4. New homes can lack character and old properties may have had their original details stripped away. If you long to turn back the clock, or enjoy more period detailing, there’s plenty to inspire in salvage or reclamation yards. Masco Walcot, in Stroud, Gloucestershire, specialises in reclaimed architectural pieces, wood, traditional fireplaces and bathroom features. Call 01285 760 866 or visit www.walcot.com. Lassco offers a selection of architectural salvage, antiques and curiosities. Call 020 7394 2100 or visit www.lassco.co.uk