‘It actually pains me to buy things new’ - this home was completely transformed with secondhand buys

Eco-friendly home-made furnishings, second-hand fabrics and recycled furniture bring colour and character to this home

dining room with wooden table and leather chairs
(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘Moving out of London and getting a lot more space for our money, plus a sizeable garden, was the aim when we started looking for a new house six years ago,’ says this home owner. 

‘We’d identified Tunbridge Wells in Kent as a possibility and went looking around the residential roads at the weekends to nail down the right house. We didn’t want to be right out in the countryside, so a sizeable town with good transport links was important to us.’

The house exterior

exterior of semi detached Victorian house

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

After finding this four-storey Victorian semi on the edge of town that ticked all their boxes, the home owners moved quickly to snap it up.

‘It was a lot bigger than the three-bedroom terrace with a tiny garden we were leaving behind,’ she says, ‘and we wanted to make the move before our children got settled into schools and friendships in our old neighbourhood.’

‘The house itself was dated, and in need of renovation, but not in a bad state structurally. We couldn’t have taken on a complete wreck with the children being so young, but I could see we could do a lot to this house and make it our own quite quickly.’

The dining room

dining room with wooden dining table

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

After painting all the walls off-white initially, so that everything was clean and light, the home owners looked at what they had already and what they might need before getting started with the decor. 

‘I’d describe my style as contemporary heritage, and I’m a huge fan of buying secondhand furniture and recycling and reusing,’ says the home owner. ‘It actually pains me to buy things new. But on the other hand, I will occasionally invest in a few pieces that will last, like our big old sofa.’

Dining table

dining room with wooden table and leather chairs

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘We lived in Singapore for a while and we bought back all the furniture we purchased over there that we could reuse, which was mainly from charity shops anyway, so that was our base,’ says the home owner. 

‘We’ve all woken up to thinking about reducing waste, and planning what goes in our home. It’s actually pretty easy to buy secondhand or something more sustainable. I much prefer breathing new life into items I already have or find online, in charity shops or at antiques fairs. You can find some real bargains from top-end designers at a fraction of the price.'

‘For the dining room, we brought our old table made from scaffolding planks with us, which cost £200 on eBay, and our everlasting Rockett St George dining chairs.’

The kitchen

kitchen with freestanding units and island

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘After the house began to feel more like ours, I contacted Danecia Scheepers, @upliftyourhome, to help me with the bigger stuff and sourcing items. She’s local and we met on Instagram, and realised we shared the same ethos about reusing and recycling items.’

‘When it came to the kitchen, we’re thinking of extending at some point, and didn’t want to put in units that would need to be ripped out again in a few years’ time. Danecia suggested some simple changes which have brightened up the space and made it look more industrial, and I found some great shelves made out of scaffolding boards at £2 each on Facebook Marketplace.’

‘We’ve given the kitchen a new look by adding a dark grey woodgrain film from B&Q to the existing Ikea units, and Danecia sourced the lovely reclaimed French ceiling tiles from Room Seven Interiors for the island.’

The living room

living room with red alcove shelving

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘The living room took the longest to figure out, but it’s my favourite room. I absolutely love it now. It's the only room in the house that I wouldn't change a thing about. Every other room still has something I want to add or do to it.’

‘I'm not a fan of pendant lights in relaxing rooms, so I decided to take out the pendant and backlit the red shelves with LED lights instead, so they glow in the evening. It’s a warm cosy yellow light and along with the lamps behind the sofa it really sets the mood. Not ideal for reading a book but perfect for snuggling up on our sofa with the fire on!'

‘A carpenter created built-in shelving either side of the fireplace and I decided to be really bold and paint it Farrow & Ball’s Blazer Red estate eggshell. It ties in with the rug I found on Gumtree for £45 and the chair from a charity shop for £5.’ 

Sofa and artwork

living room with neutral sofa and wall art

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘I started to make the house feel more personal by creating some things myself, like the headboards, using my favourite fabrics. I’ve got a background and contacts in textiles, and my passion for sustainability led me to start my own business, @haines_collection, selling leftover designer fabric, which can be anything from end-of-print runs to off-cuts or material with slight faults, in batches from two to 70 metres.’ 

‘The important thing is that I’m saving stuff from going to landfill, and I’m giving people the chance to buy a high-quality fabric at a cheaper price.’ 

Master bedroom

bedroom with upholstered bed and green blanket

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘Adding splashes of vibrant red, blue and green throughout the rooms has warmed them up, and they tie in with my own soft furnishings and a smattering of personal pieces from small Instagram businesses, charity shops and recycling websites. The house really feels like it’s ours now.’

‘Headboards can be dull, but I’ve reupholstered the one in our bedroom with a gorgeous green and blue design from my collection that’s the star of the show, and then chosen everything around it, such as Farrow & Ball’s Strong White estate emulsion on the walls and cushions by Shiv Textiles.’ 

Colourful curtains

bedroom with green curtains and chest of drawers

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

'With the basics in place, I’ve also made most of the curtains and cushions in the house myself. I’ve always loved making things. I spent every summer with my grandmother in her big old house in Scotland, and she taught me to knit and sew, which has stayed with me.’

‘We had the mother of pearl chest of drawers shipped back from Singapore because we liked it so much, along with the chair, which was £40 in a charity shop over there.’

Through to en-suite

bedroom with blue en suite

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘The ottoman is incredibly useful, and I picked it up for free from a local mums’ Facebook group and painted it. All the cushions on top of it were made by me in some of my favourite fabrics to tie in with the blue en-suite.’ 

Bold blue en-suite

Blue bathroom with walk in shower

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘I wanted a Moroccan vibe to our en suite, as well as a huge walk-in shower that didn’t look as though it dominated. So I had a virtually frameless screen specially made by Roman Showers. 

‘We painted our bathroom in Little Greene’s Ultra Blue matt emulsion for a real splash and I’ve repeated the colour in the basin which I tracked down on Etsy. The Optiks Blue and Lampas Cloud White tiles are both from Topps Tiles.’

Twin bedroom

bedroom with twin upholstered beds

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

'I wanted my daughter to be able to have sleepovers, so I bought two bog standard beds online for her bedroom and then went to B&Q’s specialist cutting service for wood for the headboards and upholstered them myself in this chic palm pattern fabric.’

School desk

bedroom with wooden school desks

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘I just adore these old school desks with matching chairs that I nabbed from Facebook Marketplace for just £25. I’ve framed a series of animal prints and framed them in B&Q frames.’ 

Additonal words Stephanie Smith

bedroom with upholstered bed

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

How to upholster a headboard

Revamp a plain headboard with a cheery new fabric.

  • Check how wide your chosen fabric is and how big your headboard is before you start to see if you need extra fabric. 
  • If you do need extra, sew plain fabric either side of the patterned fabric first for the side panels and make sure the whole thing is slightly wider than the headboard. 
  • Iron and lay the fabric on the front of the headboard and staple gun it in place, before cutting off any excess fabric. 
  • Add piping in a contrast colour with a glue gun at the edges to cover up the staples. 

Get the look

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.