I go skip-diving to decorate my house – everything I have is second-hand

Lynne Lambourne, 47, a sustainable interior designer and upcycler, lives with her daughters Grace, 16, and Kate, 13, in Henley-on-Thames.

“As I drove my daughters home from school, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the most beautiful wooden chair sticking out of a skip.


I pulled over and, in broad daylight, launched myself into the skip to dig it out, as my daughters cringed in the car.

They find my habit embarrassing, but I’ve filled our home with pieces from skips and charity shops – which is good for the environment and my bank balance.

Living sustainably was ingrained in me from a young age, thanks to my grandma Nelly.

She was so thrifty and sewed all her clothes and got me to help grow veg in the garden.

I loved art at school, but did a ‘sensible’ degree in hospitality management at Bournemouth University in 1993, before spending 12 years behind a desk as a commercial manager for a sales company.

When I had my daughter Grace in April 2005 with my now ex-husband, I decided to decorate her nursery with pieces from charity shops.

I painted the walls with little bugs, and brought old chairs and shelves back to life.

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On maternity leave after having Kate in April 2008, I set myself the challenge of redecorating my house in the most sustainable way I could, using second-hand furniture, discarded fabrics and foraged pieces.

I found a double bed for 99p on eBay and transformed the simple pine frame using chalk paint.

I also began sticking bits of old magazines and maps on to anything from a clock to a lampshade, before painting over with gloss. Once dried, it looks like fabric.

Later that year, I started skip-diving, after spotting a gorgeous vintage chair on someone’s drive.

As soon as I saw it, I had to have it, and the owner was more than happy to give it to me (I always ask permission first!), so I took it home and gave it a little tidy up, before getting it re-upholstered.

Next, I found some wooden pallets, giving them a lick of paint before adding casters to make a movable coffee table, as well as upcycling apple crates into bookshelves. 

Most of my inspiration came from magazines, Pinterest and design programmes on TV.

I soon realised you can easily fit out a room for next to nothing

On my mission to upcycle my whole house, I visited Sue Ryder and British Heart Foundation charity shops, as well as scouring eBay.

I soon realised you can easily fit out a room for next to nothing.

My passion for sustainability grew, and in 2010 I quit my job to start an online shop called Love Nelly, named after my grandma.

I stocked hand-made girls’ dresses made from old pillowcases or curtains using sewing techniques my grandma had taught me as a child.

I sold them at markets and fairs, and word spread pretty fast.

It was also a great way to talk to people about upcycling and I even got a few commissions to paint furniture. 

The next thing I knew, I was turning my garage into a workshop and taking orders. 

My home is now a showcase for my upcycling and I post pics on Instagram.

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One of my favourite finds is a set of chairs that cost £5 each on eBay. They’re mismatching, but that’s their charm.

I’ve also made Kate a desk by screwing together old fruit crates and glueing an IKEA desktop on top.

I love salvaging anything I can.

Recently, I passed my Sustainability for Business qualification from Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and I’ll soon be giving businesses guidance on how to be green.

We can all do something to live more sustainably.

It doesn’t mean you have to jump into skips – but you can give your old furniture to charity shops, and look on Facebook Marketplace or eBay for used gems.

You can live in a home that you love and doesn’t cost the earth – literally.”


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