WHENEVER friends and family visit Hannah Isted’s home they marvel at how stylish it is.
Boasting a trendy roll top bath and black and white rug, it wouldn’t look out of place in an interior design mag.
But amazingly, social media manager Hannah has totally revamped it for next to nothing.
She scours the dump and roadsides for discarded items.
Another person’s rubbish is her treasure – and it's made her the envy of all her pals.
Now the 27-year-old social media manager from Barry, south Wales, shares her story:
No one can believe it when I tell them I’ve done up my house for next to nothing.
When friends come round they are always impressed by my second hand furniture, vintage finds and – best of all – a Victorian-style roll top bath I picked up for free at the side of the road.
My traditional Victorian terrace is just a couple of streets away from Gavin and Stacey’s fictional pad in the TV show.
I moved here because I couldn’t afford a house near where I was living with my parents in Bedfordshire.
I’d been saving up for a deposit for years but was still nowhere near being able to get a place there.
Instead, I started looking further afield. I knew Cardiff quite well and was attracted to Barry as it’s by the sea.
I bought the three-bed house for £120,000 in July 2018 – it had belonged to an old man and as soon as I walked in I knew it was right for me, even though I’ve had to completely redo it.
It reminded me of my grandfather’s house but there wasn’t even a kitchen to speak of, and I had to cook on a camping stove for six months.
As I had hardly any money left over after buying the house, I knew I’d have to keep my eye out for bargains – I was single at the time, and have been self-employed for four years so it’s the only way I could afford to do it up.
I’ve always loved buying vintage clothes and going to charity shops, so I’d picked up some great bargain-hunting tips along the way.
The bath is my most amazing find. My stepdad Keith, 59, spotted it on the street near their house.
It had been left out with a sign on it for £50, but no one had wanted it and so they let us have it for free. It was in really perfect condition and came complete with the taps and feet.
Because I was also clearing out the house, I had to make a lot of trips to the recycling centre.
One day, I saw a man taking loads of tables out of his boot, and I nipped over to ask him if I could have them. He was so pleased, as he’d tried to give them away and no one had wanted them, but as they belonged to his grandmother he was desperate for them not to end up in landfill.
I also got an ornamental mirror in the same way – a woman was just getting it out of her car – and the black and white rug in my sitting room was in a selection of good-quality items the guys at the centre leave out in case anyone wants them.
It’s always good to keep your eyes peeled for people leaving things on the street. My dining room table and chairs came about that way – a friend spotted them and put them in her convertible Mini.
With the help of my stepdad, I sanded them down and we did the same to my garden table which I found near a skip, and a cable reel which now acts as a coffee table.
It’s amazing how a bit of DIY or a coat of paint can transform an item.
Garage sales and house clearances can be good ways to get things for free, too. People are often giving things away, or want a charity donation.
Possibly the most random item I've found is a door I got on Facebook Marketplace.
I want to keep the original features in the house, but the old man who lived here had painted some of his doors over with a thick gloss and it’s a big job to strip them.
How to find home bargains
Here are Hannah’s top tips to find bargains on the cheap:
Always let friends and family know what you’re looking for.
If you need a bath, tell them so if they spot one on the street they can let you know or pick it up for you.
Search eBay for things that people are auctioning off at a really low price – my loo was on a 1p listing.
Familiarise yourself with upcycling websites like Ilovefreegle.org, freecycle.org, gumtree.com and Facebook Marketplace.
People who use those sites are keen to stop items going to landfill so you can find amazing furniture for free.
Keep an eye out for garage or garden sales in your local area – they’re keen to have a clear out so it’s a good place to pick up a bargain.
Be imaginative – pre-loved items have more character and often just need sanding or a coat of paint to bring them to life again.
Keep an eye on what other people are off-loading at the recycling centre, and don’t be afraid to ask them if you can have it.
Someone in a nearby house is getting rid of her old doors, so I ask her to take them off her hands instead.
My kitchen, too, was a complete bargain.
A woman I found on eBay was selling her old one, complete with appliances, for just £500. That’s been the only big amount of cash I’ve had to spend, but I think it’s worth it to have an entire kitchen for the same amount a new oven would have cost me. If you look hard enough on eBay you can still find real bargains – my loo cost me 6p.
The only other money I’ve had to shell out is for workmen to fit the kitchen and plumb the bathroom, and some new tiles.
I did the floors too, with my stepdad’s help again, using a sander.
We painted the upstairs boards white, and they were the perfect backdrop for my metal-framed bed which I got from Freegle when I was 21.
I’ve also found two other brilliant house additions while I’ve been here: my boyfriend Tom, 31, and my dog Bernie – who’s from a rescue centre, naturally. Together we all have a really happy, cosy family home.
I’ve saved thousands by looking for all these items for free, but anyone can do it by checking out sites like Freegle, Freecycle, Gumtree and Facebook.
Plus, it’s always worth telling friends what you are looking for in case they spot something or want to get rid of something – I’ve “inherited” a stove and several chests of drawers that way.
The most rewarding aspect of it for me, however, is the fact I’m preventing all these lovely items of furniture from cluttering up our landfill sites.
I’m saving my bank balance and the planet all at the same time.
See more about Hannah’s house renovation on @hannah.isted
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