DP and I are looking at renting a flat together, and we've realised that if we go for unfurnished, it widens our options considerably. The downside is that we will have to buy all the furniture - which is a big chunk of money upfront.
Would it be wise for us to just pick the cheapest stuff IKEA sell, or is there a sweet spot when it comes to balancing cost and quality there?
We know of charity furniture stores in the area (moving to a different part of London from the one I'm in now) and Free cycle, but as neither of us drive we are working on the principle that we will have to buy everything new in order to work out costs.
Gumtree. You can get ikea and other stuff on there for a fraction of the cost and then it doesn't matter if you want better later on you can regumtree it. I have got shelves, beds, tables and chairs from there.
Try Tesco or asda direct for sofas. I have bought 2 from Tesco and my friend bought from asda. Great value and they are lovely quality, lasted very well. You have to take a small risk as you can't view them before, but Tesco collected and replaced sofas that arrived and I didn't like for free. I paid £600 for both a 3 seater and a 2 seater, very pleased (ikea cheap sofa bought some years ago broke soon after I bought it, so I won't buy sofas from ikea now!).
Agree with pps who say ikea furniture can be great, you just have to chose carefully.
I'd get the best bed, mattress & sofa you can afford from new & from eg John Lewis. Avoid DFS at all costs for sofa.
For the rest either ikea or charity/auctions. My place was kitted out with ikea table, chairs, chest of drawers, bedside tables all from ikea & still going strong. I've since got a few more bits of furniture from eBay & collected (have estate car). Maybe you could hire a van for a day?