Design students give family home eco-makeover for TV show

Product design students add a touch of retro chic to their makeover home for ITV's Tonight show

The master bedroom gets a fresh new look tooDesign students from the University of Sussex took their inspiration from objects normally found in a bin or skip to transform a Sussex family home into an environmentally friendly designer des-res.

The results of their efforts – and the reactions of the family to their home makeover – were revealed ITV1’s Tonight With Trevor McDonald (27 November edition).

The house was completely redecorated, at little or no cost, with old furnishings and throwaway items given a new lease of life, or “upcycled”.

The team of 13 mainly second-year students used old scaffolding boards to create chic wood pannelling, upholstered old furniture, added curtains and cushion covers in funky fabrics and even made an artistic feature of a chimney breast using wood off-cuts and remnants.

The students come from the School of Engineering and Design’s Product Design course, run by tutors Diane Simpson-Little, Mark Jenkins and Cathy Grundy. It took just over a week to help complete the project.

The team were inspired by celebrity interior designer Oliver Heath, who also popped in to join design sessions at the University. The challenge was part of a series of reports for the programme on greener lifestyles and “living for free”.

Student Thomas Bacon says: “It was a worthwhile opportunity and a great way to learn DIY skills and get some experience handling colours, textures and patterns. The aim was to see what materials we could use and how we could lengthen the lifespan of objects that might otherwise be thrown away. It meant being quite innovative.

Another student, Rosemary Kusel, says: “I did a bit of painting, made some lightshades and upholstered some furniture, but the hardest thing was to ignore the cameras. It was quite daunting but I’m proud of our achievement.”

But what did the family make of their new-look home: Student Jamie Allen says: “I think the family were really happy with what we did. It was a lot brighter having been painted throughout. My favourite room makeover was the master bedroom, where we created shelves using old drawers mounted on the wall. We made a pannelled wall using old scaffolding planks and created a 60s feel using retro-patterned fabrics.”

Tutor Mark Jenkins says: “Overall I’d say the experience was a positive one for our students and opened their eyes to the possibilities design can offer – not just to create new products, but to design with sustainability in mind.”

The students are on a four year course, with their third year spent working in the design industry. Design consultancies and companies are invited to contact the tutors if they would like to offer a placement to a product design student – just call Mark Jenkins on (01273) 876692 or Diane Simpson-Little on 01273 872629.

Notes for Editors


For more information about Product Design at the University of Sussex, see:

For photos, interviews etc, contact the University of Sussex Press office. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email


Last updated: Monday, 30 November 2009