This stunning show house shows small budgets shouldn’t stop you creating a fabulous home — it has been furnished using only fabulous pre-loved finds from British Heart Foundation charity shops.

Interior designer Alex Egan accepted the challenge from charitable housing provider Riverside, to show buyers what they can achieve on a £4,000 budget using second-hand furniture.

And the three-bed Rent To Buy property in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, now boasts a stylish interior and seriously sustainable credentials.

Alex says: ‘We wanted to prove that great design doesn’t have to cost the earth. We had fun hunting out the pieces in the BHF shops, then thought about how to upcycle them into something unique to suit the house.

‘Every item showcases the quality and affordable furniture and homewares that can easily be found in charity shops — and prevents them from going to landfill.’

Here, Alex gives us a tour…

Main bedroom

Upcycling a dated piece of quality furniture into something unique, eye-catching and a la mode is incredibly satisfying, says Alex.

‘Giving the old teak bedside cabinets a new look and creating the co-ordinating headboard was so effective and totally transformative. This is how we did it …’

Bedside cabinets:

  • First we primed them with Zinsser all-purpose primer and then painted them black with Zinsser all-coat paint.
  • We then purchased some cane webbing from the internet, cut it to size and glued it to the centre panel.
  • Then we replaced the old handles with gold hexagon ones.

The headboard

  • The headboard was an unloved shutter-style headboard, which we primed with the Zinsser primer.
  • We had some thick plyboard cut to size, to fit inside the slatted area of the headboard, and stuck it in place with no-nails glue.
  • Then we painted the whole headboard in the Zinsser black all-coat paint and glued cane webbing, cut to size, onto the ply panels
  • We finished it off with some shelf-thick wooden beading to tidy up the edges of the webbing.

What Alex spent:

  • Upcycled shutter headboard £95
  • Upcycled bedside cabinets £45 each
  • Black upcycled wardrobe £70
  • Double bedding £3


The kitchen/diner is the heart of the house. And these days a dining table needs to be so much more than where we eat.

‘We spent two months sourcing the items we wanted and found some with designer labels like a Jasper Conran lamp,’ says Alex.

‘This dining table is my favourite piece. It’s a highly sought-after and trendy item — and we found it hiding in the warehouse at the British Heart Foundation.’

What Alex spent:

  • Jasper Conran floor lamp £8.50
  • Dining table £50
  • Dining Chairs £28 each

Living room

Alex relished the challenge of furnishing the show home on a £4,000 budget. ‘Normally it would cost at least three times that when buying everything new,’ she says. ‘We were really surprised by how easy it was to find quality, and bang on-trend, pre-loved items at such affordable prices.

‘Try to think of the look you want to achieve before embarking on your project. A mood board will help you focus on what you want your interior to look like.

‘We opted for the mid-century look in the living room and found some amazingly affordable pieces. Keep an eye out for any original furniture with cane webbing as new items with this design are everywhere at the moment and you can get original designs at a fraction of the cost.’

What Alex spent:

  • Sideboard £40
  • Armchair £95
  • Sofas £150 for two
  • Nest of tables £40
  • Lamps with added shades £40
  • Coffee table £45
  • Cushions made from clothes £2

Kid’s mermaid bedroom

A pop of modern colour can stop a room full of second-hand furniture looking like your grandma’s parlour.

‘Adding bright, punchy colours by the way of cushions, throws and bedding can really lift the look of what we call “brown furniture” found in charity shops,’ says Alex.

‘Painting it funky colourways can also update and transform second-hand pieces. The little silver touch light in this room was an easy update with a lick of teal eggshell paint and a new shade.’

What Alex spent:

  • Teal-painted sideboard £30
  • White dripped-painted bedside cabinets £5
  • Teal-dyed curtains £3
  • White and teal-painted wardrobe £30

Guest/teenager’s bedroom

Charity shops are giving the high street a run for its money when it comes to new affordable homewares and accessories.

‘When we came up with this refurb concept we were a little concerned that all we would find in charity shops would be old-fashioned, dated items, but we were so pleasantly surprised at what people donate, some things still have labels on,’ says Alex.

‘They also sell cost-effective new items like cushions and kitchenware, allowing people to mix new and older pre-loved pieces.’

What Alex spent:

  • Chest of drawers £30
  • Open clothes rail £35

Interiors don’t have to cost the earth…

As shoppers wake up to the increasing need to buy consciously, the British Heart Foundation is leading the fight with its newly launched Reuse Revolution campaign to make the public aware of the treasures in its stores.

In one year, the charity has saved 71,000 tonnes of items from landfill. That included 180,000 sofas and 14,000 tons of clothing, all of which prevented 135,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions being released into the atmosphere.

Allison Swaine-Hughes, retail director at the BHF, says: ‘A beautifully furnished home doesn’t have to cost the earth. You can find amazing value and unique pre-loved pieces in our stores and online. Plus, you stop these items going to waste.

‘It’s clear there is a growing interest for shoppers looking for sustainable solutions. Not only will you save money and help the environment, you’ll also be helping the 7.6million people across the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases. And don’t forget the added thrill of finding a unique item that no one else has!’

Check out BHF’s Reuse Revolution campaign at Alex Egan is founder of interiors specialists

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