Decorating on a Budget | Can You? | Yes!


I’m taking a break from mouldings because some of you may not be interested in that, but we’re all interested in ways to save money furnishing our home. Right? Decorating on a budget, even a really limited one is possible, but it requires even MORE planning than ever! Remember how I said that doing a living room nicely is at least 20k? That is with nice mid-high end furniture? But what if you want and need furniture and have only half that much or even a quarter that much or less, to spend?

Can I help you with that too? Yes, I could either do the entire thing for you for an agreed upon sum which you probably wouldn’t like because you wouldn’t have any say in the matter. OR I could give you a plan in which to work with and ideas of where to go for a fee of $750 per room.

For today, I am going to suppose that you have 10,000 dollars to spend on decorating and furnishing a living room. Please bear in mind, that even if the furniture is cheap, unless you own a truck and have some hefty dudes to help you, getting that big sofa, etc to its final resting spot is going to cost you. You might also be paying some sales tax in there. [depends on where you get stuff] So, let’s allow 1,000.00 for all of that. Now, you have only 9,000.00 to spend.

This is a room that I am going to pretend that someone sent me. And here is what they pretend said:

Hi Laurel,

Help! We just moved into a beautiful home built in the 1920’s. We painted it a pale neutral warm gray and stained the floors a deep walnut color. We’re happy with all of that, however, I have no idea how to go about furnishing this room. Since we’re a bit house poor, we only have 10k max to spend – total, for everything. We went to a couple of stores and found that 10k got us a sofa, two chairs and a rug and that was it. We want it stylish and not too traditional, but also not too modern. I’m contacting you because we love your style. I realize that for 10k, the furniture isn’t going to be top of the line, but what could we do for 10k that will tide us over for the next 5-7 years, until our student loans are paid off?!”  Here is a photo of the living room.



Dee & Dave



Hi Dee!

Wow! That is one gorgeous room and I love your choice of paint/stain colors. It’s funny Dee, but I’ve been doing a lot of posts about mouldings and I love the detailing in this lovely old home!

If you want to sign up for my 750.00 room redesign, I will send you a not-very-long questionnaire with instructions on how to give me precise measurements and then I need photos of all four walls. I also need to know if there’s anything you would like to incorporate in the room such as art. Also, if you can send me three living rooms you like from either my pinterest living room board or your board or someone’s board, that would be very helpful. The way it works is that I will then give you a room layout, based on your needs. I will select furnishings in your price range, color and style and then give you the sources and then you’re on your own. Please note that I cannot vouch for any of these products which is why you will be on your own. :]

My best,



Dee and Dave thought all of that sounded fair and two weeks later, I received their  payment of $750, the photos, questionnaire  and this is what else I learned.

Dee and Dave have been married for five years and both have a lot of work stress [they’re both trauma surgeons and met in medical school!] and want a room that feels soothing and calm, but not boring or stuffy. They love the idea of a mix of styles but have no idea how to do that. They aren’t big on a lot of crazy pattern and they are planning on putting up some cool art pieces and prints. They are casual, but sometimes have a few friends come by for drinks before going out. They don’t entertain a whole lot, but on occasion, need seating for at least 6 people, preferably more. They have one 2-year-old and are thinking about having another child in the next year or two. No pets. They would love some additional storage for things like table linens as their dining room is small. As for colors, they prefer quiet neutrals and love blue. Dave can’t tolerate anything with caning and Dee can’t stand anything orange or purple.

First, I started with a floor plan. I wasn’t sure exactly what the pieces would be and there were some options, but in the end, this is what I came up with.


Then… I had to figure out what could go in the room and do it all and stay within this meager budget. [or meagre if you speak the Queen’s English] This is for an entire living room! Most of this is not the usual stuff I sell to my clients who are expecting something of better quality. I’m not saying that if you buy stuff like this, it’ll fall apart. But there’s too much probability for me to risk it because you will be calling me up and demanding that I fix it. Or it will require a lot of difficult assembly, or the wood sap will bleed through the light colors. [you can expect this with cheap furniture because the wood is rarely cured properly] You know that cheap stuff— well, in fact almost everything is made in the far east, right? It’s damp and hot and so you get what you get. cheap = crap. [most of time]

However… sometimes the crap stays together and this is not going to be Dee’s and Dave’s forever room.

I started with a very neutral seagrass rug in a 9×12 for 445.00 A good rug pad adds another 100.00.


I found two small tufted sofas in a neutral linen for 1,399.00 each. This was my one splurge item, but these are both classic and young at the same time.


                   To give a fresh, contemporary twist, I added four of these 22″ pillows, @75.00/ea for the corners of the sofa.

                                                         breezylinen                                         breezylinen

And then two of these lamps @ 219.00 for the pair

                            Product_SVF51788_Image_1                                                Product_SVF51788_Image_1

Sitting on top of two of these end tables @199.00/each! I know. That’s really amazing and they’re awfully nice looking aren’t they!


This coffee table for only 299.00 ! Very sleek and classic. Will look wonderful all staged with books and pretty flowers. Here are tons of great ideas for coffee table styling.


Three of these slipper chairs with lumbar pillows @450.00/ea  Yes, we could do a different chair by the wall, but this is also a valid solution.

Product_SVF21367_Image_1                       img64c                                                                                               Product_SVF21367_Image_2

One of these floor lamps @229.00


Our lighting is going to be great! The room has a chandelier which, yes, is a bit ornate. We could consider spray painting it antique white for a softer look. We can keep the four sconces in the corners. Then, with the two table lamps and one floor lamp, we’ll have an even, warm, relaxing lighting which can be controlled with dimmer switches

This accent table for 360.00


Two of these Octagonal mirrors  for the back wall @299.00/each



with these two chests for 499.00/each

Alright, how’s the budget doing? We’ve spent roughly 7,900.00  and so that means that we have 1,100 left. We still need drapes, accessories and art.

We can do these simple drapes in the 96″ size. That with the hardware will run about 250.00 a window for the ready-mades. I do recommend using them with rings instead of the rod pocket. It just looks more professional. And speaking of professional. PLEASE spend the money, about 75.00 a window of this size for a professional installer. You will only have to spend twice as much at the chiropractor and physical therapist and you won’t have [as many] holes in your walls. Hanging drapes IS brain surgery.


This size is perfect since her windows are 96″ above the floor, but what if your windows are lower, but you want to maximize the height of the room as much as possible and you don’t want your drapes to puddle? [more about that later] however, please look at this post for great window treatment inspiration.

Alright. We are up to 8,400 which leaves a tidy 600.00 for art and accessories. But you know what? We have a lot of wall space, so either cough up an extra 1,000.00. Or you could put up the 2-yr-olds finger paintings. That would work. ;]

I am going to save that for the next post!



8 Responses

  1. Thank you so much, I will check out the links. And if you do get a tiny affiliate sale, I would be more than happy about that! I just found your blog and have been perusing, reading and studying it non-stop for days…I have learned so much, it’s ridiculus. I’m just closing on my very first own house tomorrow. It’s a nice and spacious 90’s cape cod-ish looking thing that has a great floor plan, but i think it is dated looking on the inside. Having lived in Europe, in a big city apartment for the last few decades, I am not too schooled in American houses, so it is harder to see the features that an American, who has lived in the USA all along, would call dated… and what isn’t. So I need lots of guidance. Thank again for your great blog!

  2. Love it! Wish you had links for all of these things:)hehe
    I’d get all of them for my new house which has almost the exact same living room!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Well, that was written a while back, but most of it came from One King’s Lane. I don’t know if they still have those things, but they have a lot of stuff for sale that’s cheap. Now, I can’t vouch for the quality, but you know the old adage. If something is really horrible, they are good about taking it back.

      There are a few links on the sidebar. Some of them are unmarked. They are affiliate links which means that I’ll get a little (and I mean little) commission if you buy anything. It won’t cost you any more. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Carla, no. never. haha! however, I think that there are a lot of people in this category who would be grateful for the advice. I do get calls from people who I know don’t have 20k to spend on a room but want something nice. I wasn’t sure when I started the post if I could do it, either! So, it was a exercise!

Comments are closed.

Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

New Edition, November 2021! Get The Indispensable Guide For 100s of Home Furnishings And Interior Design Sources That Everyone Is Raving About

8th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2021 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

laurel home archives


Do You Need Help With Your Paint Colors? Get The Mega Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collections. To Find Out More – Click The Image Below

Amazon ad

please click below to check out my favorite decorating & design books

Laurel Bern's Favorite Interior Design and Decorating Books
Subscribe To The Laurel Home Blog And You Will Receive A FREE Guide Where I Share How To Get Your Paint Colors Right, The First Time.