Sarah Akwisombe's ways to bag a bargain

Sarah Akwisombe (credits Megan Taylor)

Interior stylist, designer and entrepreneur Sarah Akwisombe offers her expert tips on how to give your home a refresh by shopping at our stores.

Sarah Akwisombe photo (right) courtesy of Megan Taylor

Find your local BHF Furniture & Electrical store

Contemporary interior stylist, Sarah Akwisombe gets behind our Makeover Challenge and shares her expert tips on hunting out the ultimate homeware bargain to showcase your personal interiors style, while helping the BHF raise vital funds for life saving research.

BHF sideboard

Sideboard sourced from a BHF Home store

How did you get into interior styling?

‘My love for interior design has always been strong, I just didn’t really realise it. When I was about five I remember laying out my room in a different way after seeing a great interior look in a kid’s book. At twelve, I drew out what I wanted my new bedroom to look like and then ‘pitched’ it to my parents (luckily they went for it!).

When we me and my husband bought our first flat a few years ago my passion for interiors reached dizzy new heights and I became obsessed. We started renovating and people kept telling me that I had a knack for interior design and an eye for finding antique and vintage objects. People were even asking me to buy furniture for them, which is when I realised that there was potential to pursue my passion! So I left my boring office job and decided to follow my gut, take the plunge and try and get into interiors. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to assist some of the best stylists in the industry and work for some of the UK’s biggest homeward brands.’

Living room furnished with BHF items

Dining room table sourced from a BHF Home store

What tips would you give shoppers on getting the most out of charity shop shopping?

‘The best place I’ve ever found absolute bargain stuff is at the big charity furniture shops that haven’t necessarily been in the trendy areas. I would recommend heading to the suburbs, as people are often downsizing or upgrading and getting rid of furniture which is exactly what you want. Take a van if you can!

Don’t be daunted by the scale of the shops and the wealth of furniture - take your time and be patience when wandering through the store. Even if you find something that isn’t to your exact taste or in the ideal condition, just remember that you have the potential to transform it into something amazing with some simple upcycling tricks.’

What is the best piece of furniture you have found in a charity shop?

‘I found a fantastic vintage Nathan sideboard in a BHF home store, for an absolute steal of £30 – it really was retro perfection. It had a few small scratches but I knew it would be nothing a bit of walnut wouldn’t fix. My top tip for any scratches on wood is to grab a walnut, and crack it in half then rub it along the scratch - the natural oils will almost magically erase the scratches. It’s not a permanent solution but it will work for a few months at least before it needs doing again.’

Unique BHF furniture in stylish living space

Sideboard sourced from a BHF Home store

Why should people shop for furniture in charity shops?

‘I’m on a personal mission to empower interiors enthusiasts to feel confident in showing their personality through their home décor. BHF furniture charity shops are a great place for picking up unique piece of homewares that are both cool and stylish! Most areas have a local shop - there are several near me in Croydon, and I’ve found some wicked stuff – mid-century teak in abundance, especially around here at least. Coffee tables, sideboards, bookshelves, wardrobes, you name it. You can grab yourself an absolute bargain. Plus not only does the money raised from the stores go towards funding life saving research, you’ll be making an environmental impact – giving pre-loved pieces of furniture a second life and avoiding them ending up in landfill.'

Why are you supporting the BHF Home Stores Makeover Challenge?

‘The BHF home stores are one of the best kept secrets on the high-street - I really want to encourage those with a flair and passion for interior styling to add their own personal stamp to their home décor without breaking the bank. So put time aside this autumn to explore your nearest BHF home store and source yourself a bargain one off piece to take part in the BHF Makeover Challenge - all while helping raise money for research that could one day save a member of your family - or a friend.’

Get involved and head into one of our Furniture & Electrical stores across England, Scotland and Wales to bag a bargain, and give your home a seasonal update. Don't forget to share your new BHF home additions on social media with the #BoughtatBHF hashtag.

Find your local store