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Eco Chic Interiors: Decorating Your Home on a Budget

When Preloved asked me to write a piece for their blog, I was of course delighted to accept, but I did spend some time pondering about my choice of subject for the article. I could have put together something about the benefits of decorating using eco chic interior design principles, such as why we should use environmentally friendly decorating products, flooring and lighting, and the benefits of upcycling. But what I really wanted to do was demonstrate how buying items from the Preloved website can be doubly eco, i.e. both eco (logical) as well as eco (nomical), and a great way to produce unique interiors of great individuality.

Vintage Tea Set

Vintage Coffee Set £25

I spent a few hours looking through the pages of the Preloved website (including the Freeloved section) and actually found it quite difficult not to get distracted and reach for my own debit card along the way; there are so many great items for sale!  To me Preloved is not about buying ‘second hand’, but more about acquiring a unique snippet of interior design heritage, and possessing items that can be valued as a part of the history of the home.  The idea then came to me of what the blog would be about – an eco-chic upcycled room design. It would be just as I would prepare for clients, but instead for an imaginary family using a room from their imaginary house and working to an imaginary budget, but with real items that have appeared on the Preloved website.

My imaginary client has a small family and a 1970s home where they wish to continue living, but want to introduce more character.  The style they love is that of the Art Deco period, but their budget is limited and their current home has no period features.  I decided to create a design for their Lounge/Diner with an imaginary budget of around £500-600, including the cost of materials for upcycling.

Vintage Fabric

Vintage Fabric £30

It is much more challenging giving a room in a modern home character than it is working on a Period property.  Colour, texture and pattern can be used rather than going to the expense of introducing features such as fireplaces and cornices, which can often just end-up looking completely out of place.  Being a little bold in your choice of colour and design helps deliver the impact so often lacking in contemporary properties.

When I prepare a design I normally start by looking at what cannot be changed, and in this case it was the patio doors and parquet flooring.  Both in natural woods, the patio doors were somewhat overpowering as they were made from Cherry or Red Oak and had a dark red-ish hue. To lessen their influence, I chose a colour of equal intensity but from the blue side of the colour spectrum for the walls; this was going to be a design strong on colour and graphic shapes, with vintage pieces to add the required essence of Art Deco my imaginary clients sought.

Black is a big favourite of mine to use in a contemporary scheme that requires a little drama and a particularly practical colour for seating – especially with children in the home.  I decided upon an eclectic mix of seating styles with my first choice being a modern navy blue sofa on the Freeloved section of Preloved’s website. It was advertised as ‘in good condition with just a few scuffs’. Adding to that, a statement chesterfield-style armchair (almost a budget buster, it did however include a footstool which isn’t shown in the design) in ox-blood colour leather.

Didn’t I just say that black was the choice of colour for the seating?  Well this is where chalk paint works wonders, you can use it to paint fabric or leather.  I won’t go into detail here, but if you visit the Eco Chic Interiors Pinterest page and locate the Décor & Design Basics board, there are lots of tutorials to get you started.

Chesterfield Chair

Chesterfield Chair £160

To add texture to the design, I found a fantastic wicker floor standing lamp and four chairs (which were amazingly only £10 in total!). I completed the dining set with a small wooden dining table.  The table was then ‘painted’ in a honey-coloured eggshell paint, similar to the colour of the chairs. An Art-Deco style graphic pattern was added for colour cohesion, as well as to continue the style theme.  If you paint a tabletop and don’t cover with safety glass, pop a couple of layers of Polyvine varnish over the painted surface to protect it.

Wicker Chairs

Wicker Chairs £10

Pianos are such wonderful statement pieces to give a vintage feel to a room.  Even if you are not one of those clever people who can completely repurpose them into drinks cabinets or desks, when repainted they instantly become ‘art furniture’ and a fantastic place to showcase gorgeous china or photographs.  The one in this design was a Freeloved freebie, and was revamped in black. It makes a wonderful area to display the stunning green glass 1940s dessert set, and with the addition of a stool, can even be used as somewhere for children to sit and use their laptops!

Free Piano found on Preloved!

Piano FREE

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched ‘Fill Your House for Free’ on Channel 4, but towards the end of each programme, they tot-up what it might have cost to put together a similar scheme if the items had been purchased brand new. I thought doing something similar would help demonstrate just how economical eco chic upcycling can be.  For ease, I chose to take comparison pieces from one place, in this case a very well-known Swedish mega store.  The cost of creating a similar scheme from new would be well over twice that of buying the items that were sourced from Preloved and, bearing in mind, several products could not be included because there were no equivalents at the store, the actual difference would be much higher.  Of course you can ask me to help you design your upcycled room which, even with the fee I charge for this service, would still be cheaper than buying these products from new.

Pool Table Light

Pool Table Light £30

A word of advice before you begin: if you are going to upcycle your home’s interiors, never take on more than you can manage. If you want cushion covers made, or something repainted and you are not confident doing yourself, ask a friend who is skilled in these areas and negotiate a task or skill swap.  Also check with local artisans; they are often surprisingly affordable. There are a whole host of YouTube tutorial videos on all areas of upcycling and of course, as I mentioned before, Eco Chic Interiors Pinterest site offers tutorials on many different skills. When our #UpcycledHour website launches just before Christmas, we will also be including video tutorials there too!

Lounge/Diner Shopping List comparison:

Preloved/Freeloved Superstore
Leather armchair £160 Equivalent £350
Sofa FREE Equivalent £250
Dining Table £25 Equivalent £130
Four Chairs £10 Equivalent £200
Piano FREE No Equivalent
Floor Standing Lamp £25 Equivalent £40
Large Coffee Table FREE Equivalent £100
Pool Table Lights £30 Equivalent £40
Fabric for Cushions £30 (5mtrs) Equivalent £35
Wall Plates £20 No Equivalent
Two Pictures £12 Equivalent £30
Art Deco Dessert Set £20 No Equivalent
Vintage Coffee Set £25 No Equivalent
Rug £50 Equivalent £100
Money Plant and Pot £5 Equivalent £15
Paint, varnish and wax £120
Total £532 Total £1,290


Eco Chic Upcycled Lounge

Eco Chic Upcycled Lounge/Diner

So there you have it; lots of colour, Art Deco influences and hopefully the character my imaginary clients were hoping for!  Good luck with creating your own upcycled home with sustainable style (if you want any further advice drop me an email at Eco Chic Interiors: and happy Preloved shopping!

Eco Chic Interiors Pinterest site can be found at

Chris Billinghurst

Chris Billinghurst

Community User

Chris Billinghurst is the founder of Eco Chic Interiors – the Upcycled Home with Sustainable Style. She is a designer of eco chic upcycled interiors and furniture, advisor in the use of sustainable products for the home, workshop provider, writer, social media influencer and host of Twitter’s #UpcycledHour.