It Costs What??? I Need A Living Room On A Budget


Dear Laurel,

My husband and I are finally purchasing our dream home.

I guess I need a living room budget or rather a living room on a budget.

I’ve been obsessed with this room ever since I saw it on your blog.

frank babb randolphs gorgeous living room

While our living room isn’t quite that grand, it’s really pretty.

I spoke with three interior designers in my town.

Each of them said pretty much the same thing. A living room like this would cost something like $250,000.00! Are they barking mad? I mean, sure, I realize that there are real antiques here and so forth, but we could almost buy another home for that kind of money!

One of them said that she could do something comparable except for the screens for about 100k. Well, we just don’t have that kind of money. And even if we did, it sounds like a lot to furnish only the living room.

We had budgeted between $30k-$40k for the living room. And even with that, my sister thinks I’m nuts. But we really want something nice that we’ll enjoy for many years to come.

The dimensions are about 25’x14′ and there are large windows and a fireplace with a gorgeous mantel. Our ceilings are nine feet.

Oh wait. Silly me. I have some pics from the real estate listing.

charleston historic living room budget

charleston historical home living room budget

We’re in Charleston and my husband and I were a bit at odds. I wanted old and he did not. But the second we walked into this place, I knew it was the one!

I guess what I want to know is; Is it possible to do a living room on a budget of  40k max in the manner of Frank Babb Randolph?

Thank you,

Susan Stikker-Shokt


Hi Susan,

Le me begin saying that I adore your new home! The high ceilings, gorgeous tall windows with transoms and French Doors; beautiful!

My favorite style of architecture is Greek Revival. But not the GR with the ginormous columns. But something that’s more of a hybrid of the Federal style which came just before GR.

house beautiful-new-orleans-greek-revival-photo - Paul Costellophoto: Paul Costello

Here’s an amazing example of what I’m talking about. It’s in New Orleans, so has taken on the unique flavor of that city. In the north, the railings would be painted wood. But, isn’t this divine? I love that it’s all ONE color– even the shutters. That’s something to keep in mind.

And I adore Frank Babb Randolph too. Did you know that my friend Loi Thai of the wonderful Tone on Tone Blog did a lot of the antiques for his home? And even though it looks 19th century, it was actually built in the 1950’s. Frank, obviously, did a real number on this place.

These guys positively reek of great taste!

Here are two other views of the FB Randolph living room

frank babb randolph living room with niches

frank babb randolph living room french bergere chairs living room budget
It’s one of my favorite rooms too!

I do concur with the other designers that the furnishings alone, in Mr. Randolph’s living room could easily be in the 150k-250k range. Those screens are very old and rare and utterly fabulous.

If the house were on fire, that would be the first thing I would grab!

But, everything in this room is super high-end.


For instance, the faux shagrin coffee table by David Iatesta easily retails for at least $6,000.00 and probably more.

8600-pair-of-19th-century-painted-italian-armchairs20160525-4629-1787plbA pair of these French antique chairs costs $8,600.00

And yes, you could do something wonderful for 100k. But I think we can keep the price close to the 40k number. There are always ways to make cuts here and there without sacrificing quality or the look, desired.

I had a little fun here and decided to see what we could do in your price range. Of course, the prices are estimates and we’ll need to add in for shipping, handling and tax.

elegant living room on a budget

I’m going to start at the upper left and work around.

Here are the items, quantity and price.


bungalow 5 lamp

Two lamps from Bungalow 5 – 2 @$450.00/ea = $900.00

phillips scott side table for a living room on a budgetTwo side tables from Phillips Scott –  2 @$750.00/ea = $1,500

1931-11-0910One sofa from Lee Industries with upgrade cushions = $3,500.00


One pillow from Bliss Studio = $350.00



Framed panels of fabric From F Schumacher About $600.00/ea  = $1,200.00

Here’s an example of some framed either fabric or wallpaper at Hickory Chair from the Spring High Point Market 2016

Suzanne Kassler Hickory Chair Highpoint Market Spring 2016 living room budget


900 coral Zentique-Inc.-Louis-Fabric-Arm-Chair-B008-E272-A008

2 French Fauteuils from Zentique with reupholstery in melon colored velvet 2 @ $900.00/ea = $1,800.00


Swedish Mirror large redford house

One Large Swedish Mirror from Redford House in Antique Cream = $890.00


350 aidan gray verne candle wall sconceTwo Candle sconces from Aidan Gray @ $350.00/ea = $700.00

tritter feefer consoleOne Console table from Tritter Feefer = $2,100.00

Canton-export-camphor-and-red-leather-trunk.-Painted-Chinoiserie-decorations-and-brass-ornaments.-c1800.-China-web-230x161Small Chinese chest = $400.00

ballard designs french bergereOne French chair from Ballard Designs = $1,000.00

800-aidan gray halmstad gold side table

One gold side table from Aidan Gray = $750.00


belgian table bliss studioOne Bliss Studio Way Cool Coffee table = $1,800.00

serena and lily slip covered club chair

Two linen slip covered chairs from Serena and Lily @ $2,100.00/each = $4,200.00

accents beyond round table E-1368One Center Hall round table (can become a demilune too) from Accents Beyond = $775.00


zentique bergereTwo French Bergere chairs from Zentique @950.00/ea = 1,900.00

blue-white-porcelain-garden-stools-10One blue and white garden stool = $350.00

1-800-rugs peshawar gray wool rug 2500

One gray Peshawar Rug from + a rug pad = $2,500.00

bungalow 5 parsons tableOne Bungalow 5 parsons coffee table = $950.00 (it’s white so it might need to be painted)


Okay, let’s add that up


But we still need accessories and window treatments. So let’s say that drapes for the big windows to close will be about $4,500.00

And then, we can budget about $2,000.00 for accessories

Now we’re at $34,065.00

But we’re not done yet. We have to figure in the shipping and handling and tax.

estimated Shipping and Handling = $3,000.00

subtotal $37,065.00

sales tax  $2,733.54

Grand Total = $39,798.54

Great! We did it!

By the way, I have read that Frank’s wall color is Farrow and Ball – Elephant Gray. If you’d like a Benjamin Moore Equivalent, we can go to the chart and see that it’s Sandlot Gray 2107-50.

I know that a lot of people are probably thinking that 40k is still ridiculous. Well… during my research, I saw chairs, yes CHAIRS at POTTERY BARN for– are you ready?



I’ll let you chew on that one for a bit…

Happy Sunday!


LaurelPS: If you’re interested in over 500 more sources like the ones in this post, perhaps consider purchasing Laurel’s Rolodex.

And if you need color help, The Laurel Home Essential Paint Color Collection will definitely give you a lot of guidance and inspiration for choosing the perfect color scheme for your home.









  • Tracie - June 11, 2016 - 3:09 PM

    Laurel, this is beautiful! I love your work.

    Do you do this type of design work … where a client sends you a picture of their room, any existing furnishings they want/need to keep, measurements of walls/etc., and you help them furnish and accessorize it within a designated budget?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 12, 2016 - 12:10 AM

      Hi Tracie,

      Thank you. Yes, all the time– in person, not long-distance.ReplyCancel

  • Robin Kahler - June 6, 2016 - 10:53 PM

    I wanted a “comfy/formal” look to my living room. I found twin down-filled French chairs, retail $750 each at Salvation Army in NEW condition for $50.
    Picked up a $3,500 sofa for $79.
    Bought cherry oval coffee table at estate sale $15
    Matching cherry end tables $12 pair
    A lady gave me a gorgeous Victorian hutch
    Found a Craftsman 1920’s sofa table for $49
    Three lamps at $6 each (with new shades
    Yellow paint ran $200
    Wish I could send you a photo. It looks wonderful.
    I used your page on gallery walls to create a really nice one that includes an 1830 sampler I framed.
    Total cost was under $500, including paint and pizza to my granddaughter who helped paint.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 7, 2016 - 12:40 AM

      How fab that sounds Robin. Yes, I would love to see what you’ve done. I bet it’s very charming!ReplyCancel

      • Robin Kahler - June 7, 2016 - 7:51 PM

        Well. now I’m embarrassed. Nothing I did compares to just one corner of what you have done in beauty.
        But it’s what I wanted, and I’m happy with it.
        I sent you some photos. Try not to cringe too much. 🙂

        • Laurel Bern - June 7, 2016 - 9:20 PM

          No need to be embarrassed whatsoever Robin. Your home is charming!

    • Robin Kahler - June 6, 2016 - 10:57 PM

      Oh a ps. I found the gorgeous 1830 sampler of a willow tree in a stack of framed art I bought at auction for $2 for the stack!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - June 6, 2016 - 7:02 PM

    Laurel, you are a treasure. I recently built a semi-custom home and I would have lost my mind without you. I did have a designer help me. In fact, I had two independent designers and two from the builder. But I discovered that a designer is only as good as you are able to communicate your personal style and vision. I was able to do that by scouring your blog. If I lived anywhere in the Northeast I would hire you in a second. I made a few mistakes, but none that I can’t live with, and few that will cost an arm or a leg to re-do. Thank you for guiding me with all your posts. I am really grateful.
    Michelle in the RockiesReplyCancel

  • Diane Johanson - June 6, 2016 - 11:52 AM

    $6000 for a coffee table? Gack!
    I do love that way cool one you presented much better! And at a much better cost!!

    Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - June 6, 2016 - 11:21 AM

    I had a question about the framed panels of fabric. I loved the F Schumacher fabric so I ordered it online yesterday. But, I didn’t think it through. Each panel is HUGE and I have no idea where or how to get them framed. Any suggestions? I’d be happy to pay for some design consultation if someone can help. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 7, 2016 - 12:28 AM

      Hi Sara,

      There are lots of routes you can take to make that happen. The easiest might be for you to take it to a framer, but you’ll need to know what size you want it to be. You can map that out with some blue tape on the wallReplyCancel

  • Rebecca Schildroth - June 6, 2016 - 9:42 AM


    As always a wonderful post! Not that it relates to me or my budget. I would have to drop off a zero. But I appreciate the thought and integrity of both decorating schemes.

    I do have a question. Our granddaughter is renting a small rental home. Her landlady is willing to buy the paint if we do the work. I am a very good wall painter and I am willing to tackle this project. We are thinking of using one of your best white paints. If we dot his on the walls is it OK to paint the ceiling the same color or is it better to use a ceiling paint??


    • Laurel Bern - June 6, 2016 - 10:01 AM

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks so much! I would have to drop off a zero too!

      As for the paint, there is no such thing as a ceiling paint although people might call it that. There is a white that is called “ceiling white.” But I believe that it is plain old white. The only time I ever use that is in bathrooms, on occasion.

      You definitely can use the same paint on the walls, that you do on the ceiling if you do either the matte formulation (recommended) or flat. The former is recommended because it’s easier to wash than flat. I usually do the same color on the trim as well, but in semi-gloss, (I recommend the Advance formulation) for a unified, sophisticated look.ReplyCancel

      • Rebecca Schildroth - June 6, 2016 - 4:57 PM

        Thanks for the reply. I like the answer, as that is what I am wanting to do. The trim on this rental is a nice older wood and that will not get painted. If she lives in it for more than two years I will be surprised. In the mean time with some new paint it should look much cleaner and updated.

        Sorry about the typo: dot his, should read, do this! Spell check could never get this!

        Again “Thank You” for all the great information you bring to me and your readers!!ReplyCancel

  • Karen - June 5, 2016 - 11:30 PM

    $1500 for your design work and intellectual property is a great value! I know as an experienced designer you not only help create the idea but you save your clients money in time and design mistakes. Do you also charge a mark up when the client purchases or do you offer another fixed rate fee for each design phase?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 6, 2016 - 12:15 AM

      Hi Karen,

      That’s a great question and one that I’ve written about on here before, but I don’t expect you to know that of course. It’s also one of the primary reasons I wrote Laurel’s Rolodex.

      My goal, the last 10 years or so, has been to buy anything I can at rock bottom wholesale. 20 years ago, that was almost nothing. But with the recession, especially, many vendors opened up their doors to interior designers. Or, they created a non-stocking dealer pricing. I know that you know all of that.

      I don’t use the term markup. I talk about the clients DISCOUNT. Their discount off the retail. Now, that number varies as does my discount. If I’m getting a deep, deep discount, then their discount off the retail (the true retail, not some grossly inflated number. I wrote about that one too! One of my favorite posts about the dangers of buying on the internet) is greater.

      Occasionally, I’ll order a mirror or something like that from a place like Wisteria and they are giving me a whopping 10% off. In that case, there’s no discount. It all averages out in the end.

      But the bottom line is that if the designer can get her products directly from the source, they can offer that product at a very competitive price and still make a good profit. Win/Win as they say.

      I love it when EVERYONE wins.

      Do you have Laurel’s Rolodex? It’s written in such a way that it’s appropriate for people whether they are in the trade or not. But it’s especially good for people in the trade, because there are over 150 “designer friendly” sources. I so wish I had a resource like this much sooner! I also have a list of about 36 sources that I can’t live without and those are ones that give consistently great service, have a wonderful product and are offering their products at a great price.ReplyCancel

      • Karen - June 6, 2016 - 11:19 AM

        Thank you for clearing that up! I get it and work the same way. My client’s love it because everyone wins! Love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Gaye - June 5, 2016 - 11:19 PM

    My experience has always been that architects and designers more than pay for themselves in the errors they preclude. My husband and I came to a southern college town as university teachers when we were only 26 years old. Housing was in short supply. We found a lovely rental for a year, but after that we faced lots of low ceilings, green shag carpet over concrete floors, high windows. By spring, we realized we were going to have to build. A friend recommended an architect in a nearby city, and he turned out to be our life-saver.

    We knew we wanted traditional architecture, wooden floors, and at least 9 ft ceilings. But I blush at how little we thought those would cost. That dear man took us in hand. He took us on a tour of houses he’d designed over the years, and by the end of that ramble, we realized it cost more to move a wall in a house than we’d thought an entire house would cost! Better to get it right the first time. Then he sent us to look more carefully at historic homes we’d admired. All of that gradually soaked in and sharpened our vision.

    I remember being miffed when he asked me whether we planned to have children. I’d heard that question too often. He said, “I’m your architect, and I need to design a house to fit your needs. And I can tell you this: when children are babies, they sound like rats all night long, snuffling and squirming about in their beds. Then they fight with one another, threatening death and worse. In time, they get sound systems, and try to blast the walls down. So if you plan to have children, I suggest we put them off in a wing of their own.” After children arrived, I often thought what a genius our architect had been and that really, we ought to pay him a bonus.

    We got a house that fit our needs and budget, one in which we could combine inherited pieces with purchased. When the carpenters did a patchwork of left-over sheetrock on a back stairwall, he simply had them take it down. He taught us to use the specks to keep an eye on things in between his visits—and those specs covered everything. We got a house that has lasted through children and after, that was solid, that has pleasing proportions, and that has given the pleasures of beauty. And what surprised me was that he did that on a reasonable budget. (A colleague built a ranch-style house with few amenities and paid only slight less than we paid for a larger, better home.)

    That expereince taught me a lesson that I applied to interior design as well. Professionals spend their days doing one thing, and they know sources and where to cut corners and where to go high-end. They know questons their clients don’t even realize they want answered. And most designers will work with clients on an hourly or per-meeting basis. An hour with a good interior designer can prevent a huge mistakes that will eventually require correcting.

    Many consider design help an “extra.” It’s not. Even the smallest home can give more pleasure and work more effectively if the owners have sought the services of a designer first, even if it’s just on paint colors. That brilliant blog you did recently in which you showed your readers how to select paint colors—that alone is worth the price of a good sofa and lamp! This week’s blog demonstrates there are many ways to get the same effect. You just have to know them! You do good work, Laurel.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 6, 2016 - 12:04 AM

      Wonderful, thoughtful comment Gaye! I love that there is a wonderful mix of professionals as well as design enthusiasts. Or people wanting to learn more about decorating their homes. So, I love it when colleagues join in to help elevate our profession by explaining how it works.

      I think there’s often this mystique and/or erroneous idea that as you said, design help is an extra.

      I always say…

      “Would you deliver your own breech twins?”


  • Susan - June 5, 2016 - 5:26 PM

    Where can I reread you post on Benjamin Moore/farrow & ball paint color match ups?

  • Mel - June 5, 2016 - 5:09 PM

    Great article – thank you. In a small voice … what is wrong with PB chairs? PB (usually) makes style affordable to the small voices, like me! Love that Schumacher fabric panel idea – that to me would be worth splashing out on but that Twitter Feefer console looks nothing special at a high price (perhaps its the photo) and I do wonder about ‘fashionable names’ influencing the price of a pretty average design. Sorry, had to say it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:58 PM


      Pottery Barn furniture is made in the far east. It is not of good quality–especially the upholstery and 2k for one over-sized ugly cheaply made club chair is just plain gross.

      [tell us how you really feel, laurel] ;]

      Some of it looks alright and I’ve bought a few pieces here and there– like the two pine beds for my boys and one split in two as the truck was backing out of the driveway. Long story, but at least PB made good on it.ReplyCancel

  • Vita Sims - June 5, 2016 - 4:50 PM

    I love, love, love Frank’s Room. But I also love, love, love how you created the same look for a lot less!!! A beautiful room can be created by making critical choices that evoke the same design sensibility. Thanks for educating folks that there is still some expense involved. I don’t think most people could pull off a room like you just put together without some professional help. It has taken me and I suspect you as well, years to hone our taste and design ability. Your expertise is what created a similar beautiful interior like Frank’s.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:54 PM

      Thanks so much Vita. And yes, I agree. It’s everything from what size rug to get. Where to go to get it. What size sofa? What style sofa? How many pillows? What size should they be? What’s the fill? The fill in the seat cushions? How deep should the seat be for the way we live?

      And a thousand other details that people not in the profession don’t know because why should they? It’s not their business! But you don’t know what you don’t know and that is the danger.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Ann - June 5, 2016 - 4:45 PM

    Laurel, That was brilliant! Not only did you show how similar pieces can be found, but you also taught those without a design background that successful results can be achieved when you have inspiration. Susan has a magnificent living room and Mr. Randolph’s design is very fitting for her space (every living room in Charleston should be so glamorous!). I think the value of a designer is sometimes not given its due respect. There are hundreds of details in this room. Paint colors and sheen. Layers of lighting. Not just the shade and pattern of fabrics, but their weight and durability for their application. Scale of furnishings. You can go a long way on your own with good inspiration, but a good designer will most often bring about a room that is beyond your expectations, thrills you each time you enter, and be enjoyed for a long time because of the quality products he/she brought to the room. I love your blog! I am glad you had such a fun experience in Italy.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:51 PM

      Hi Ruth Ann,

      Thank you so much. You know there is no real “Susan.” I made her up and I spent a good two hours looking for the perfect living room from real estate listings. I really wanted to find an empty room and that wasn’t easy to do. Of course, I agree completely with all of your other points. lolReplyCancel

  • Jo - June 5, 2016 - 4:17 PM

    One of your best posts ever! I laughed out loud reading it this morning bc just had this cost conversation with my husband last night. Our Circa 1999 furniture in our newly renovated house looks a little sad! Hubby about went into cardiac arrest when I told him our family room would be about 25K (I left out the word “minimum” lol)! Luckily we are in NC and have some good shopping avenues. Love the honesty in your posts!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:47 PM

      Hi Jo,

      I think that hubs hears a number which sounds big, but how much did his ONE car cost? And how many pieces of furniture are you going to need for the family room? When you break it down individually, it doesn’t sound as bad.

      I do that with clients. Instead of asking for a definitive number, sometimes, I’ll say that most sofas run between 2,500 – 4,000 depending on frame and fabric. I’ll go down the line this way. And then, I’ll get a read from them whether that is what they are expecting.ReplyCancel

  • Terri - June 5, 2016 - 1:52 PM

    You’ve done a great service for your readers with this post. I’m a big fan of “get the look for less” and appreciate your generosity for sharing alternatives to beautiful & very expensive furnishings. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:43 PM

      Thanks so much Terri. I think a lot of people who could afford to spend 100k or more don’t want to do it just out of principle or they are tight with their spending all the way around.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle Oke - June 5, 2016 - 1:18 PM

    Laurel–I have learned so much from your blog! You are the best, most skilled and informative interior design blogger I’ve come across. Your posts are pithy, opinionated AND spot on! And so many gorgeous images!

    I appreciate this post particularly because you backed up the designers’ original quote. So many people have no idea the cost of furnishings, accessories and draperies. They’ve also no idea if they are looking at an antique or not. So when they see a gorgeous magazine spread, they faint when they find out the cost! What you did is what so many of us decorators and designers try to do for our clients.

    It is also interesting to think about the look being re-created. Because darling Frank is doing a fabulous job of RE-creating the look of a pedigreed and time-collected European home. We north Americans are compelled to buy our time and histories. So few of us have generations preceding us with attics full of loot to pillage!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:41 PM

      Hi Danielle,

      Do you want to do PR for me? Just kidding. What a lovely comment. When I started this blog, that is pretty much what I set out to accomplish.

      As I’m reading your comment again, it has dawned on me that my entire career, I’ve basically done some version of this post. My clients have some money to spend, of course, and some more than others, but it is very rare to have a super high-end client. The vast majority are in the 25k-40k – tops for a living room.ReplyCancel

  • Betsy OShea - June 5, 2016 - 12:18 PM

    Fabulous job sourcing ‘lower cost’ alternatives to the higher end LR…..your furniture looks just as stylish and french as the absurdly expensive one. i too love Bungalow 5 (I want their grass cloth parsons coffee table!) and Zentique….love your characterization of PB furniture. POS. HAHA. One tiny correction: when I took history of furniture at Parsons French armchairs were either Fauteuils or bergeres. The former has open sides and you have several pictured above.
    Just another quality post. Well done!! BetsyReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 11:36 PM

      Hi Betsy O,

      You are so right. I forgot about the word, fauteuil. Maybeeeeee it was mentioned once in historical styles, in design school, but I was actually exposed to it a lot when I was creating my historical styles scrapbook. I used to go to Sotheby’s and get old auction catelogs to cut out the antiques for the scrapbook. There were lots of fauteuils there!ReplyCancel

  • Christine - June 5, 2016 - 11:50 AM

    Laurel, I do so enjoy your posts and the Pottery Barn POS caused me to choke on my cinnamon iced tea in a very unladylike yet deeply enjoyable manner!

    I’m glad you’re fully recovered from your post trip illness and in lovely sharp-whited mode. How do you feel about RH?

    Your point about how you charge versus how others may charge made me wonder if there is any value/interest in writing about finding a designer? I always feel a twinge of sadness for posters who ask individual questions even though you do a delightful job of letting them know you don’t consult online. I have met with three so far and I apparently don’t have the right initial criteria. One suggested only stark modern decor – clearly not my style, another wanted to move walls – uhhh it’s a brand new house (the only wall I’m moving is to get rid of the disastrous counter depth fridge everyone said I would love – liars), the other, well, I’ve written enough but it wasn’t a win either. I’m either the client from hell or I don’t know how to select this oh so important professional.

    Celeste – I enjoyed every minute of raising my two children – although they had their own Christmas tree upon which to hang their hand made ornaments. Our living room had what was “good” furniture for us at the time and they learned to treat it well. The rest was moderately priced and livable. Embrace it, enjoy it. The time goes much too quickly even when you consciously absorb moments every day with them. Soak it up – it’s precious and finite. Then again my only mishap was copious amounts of butter on a wood floor and someone carving their initials into a bathroom vanity top when he got a Boy Scout pocket knife (who didn’t see that coming!) so boarding school could work too depending on their level of curious it’s 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 6:19 PM

      Hi Christine,

      Thanks so much but actually, I am not fully recovered from my virus as it invited some of its slimy bacteria friends to take up residence in my sinus cavities. But I figured that folks are tired of hearing me complain. Oh well… I’m on an antibiotic, so hopefully it’ll all be gone soon.

      As for RH? Stands for: Ripoff Heist. ;]

      There isn’t a designer alive who likes them for a multitude of reasons. But greedy bastards works. Plus the quality of their waaaaaay overpriced furniture is not up to snuff.

      Re: finding your perfect designer; I’ve written a couple of posts on here. One is the client from hell which you clearly aren’t.

      But I also wrote two other posts “the decorator from hell” and “My interior designer might be ripping me off.”

      Take a look at the prospective designer’s website and portfolio to see what their style is. Are they on pinterest and/or houzz? Then you can see even further what their over-all taste is.

      And some just aren’t going to be a good fit. If you don’t feel absolutely comfortable when meeting them, it won’t work.

      BTW, if you see this. What is wrong with the counter-depth fridge.?ReplyCancel

  • Sara Neelon - June 5, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    I just read the post by Susan Stikker-Shokt. I also live in Charleston and have a similar living room–minus the french doors and with smaller windows. But, it’s a lovely room that is currently empty.

    We just finished painting the room BM white dove (walls, ceiling, and trim!). I thought it would be helpful to start with a blank slate. Other than that, I don’t have much confidence in my ability to design the room, pick a layout, or select paint colors.

    I like Randolph’s living room and I already have some antiques I could incorporate in the room. My husband and I are saving up for a designer and furnishings but 40k is beyond our budget. I’m struggling to find a designer in the area who can work with a lower budget. We have talked with one person but I don’t want to move forward with others if our budget just won’t work here.

    My question is: is it possible to do a living room on a budget of 20k max in the manner of Frank Babb Randolph?

    By the way, Craigslist and local auctions are great sources for lower-priced antiques in Charleston!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 6:03 PM

      Hi Sara,

      I did a post where I did a LR for about 20k. Here’s the link.

      It’s a smaller room with less furniture and it was three years ago. But, yes… there are ways to get the look for even less.

      For instance, Mr. Randolph didn’t originally have any rug in his room. Then, I saw a version with a photo that I had a sisal rug. (I don’t recommend them even though they look nice. If you go that route, you should do seagrass. That will cut things back.

      I think I should elaborate on this one in a follow-up post.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Davis - June 5, 2016 - 10:00 AM

    I love how you do everything so reasonably and so beautifully!
    You always capture the mood of the room and design accorndingly. Does that make sense?
    How do I find the Benjamin Moore/Farrow & Ball paint color blog you put together?

  • Monique - June 5, 2016 - 9:59 AM

    Does POS from Pottery Barn mean piece of sh_t? Dying here!!!! That made my day.ReplyCancel

  • Rose - June 5, 2016 - 9:48 AM

    Laurel, you did a fabulous job pulling together the look! It would be so cool if someone took all of your items and did a room. It would be gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Robertson - June 5, 2016 - 9:48 AM

    Great sleuthing, Laurel, your knock off room looks gorgeous!

    I think if you’re a determined, online bargain hunter, it’s possible to shave a budget even further — down to about $4,000, especially if you can paint or sew. For example, International Concepts’ Half Moon Console Table is a reasonable substitute for the $2,100 Tritter console table but it costs just $149 on homedepot. Granted the budget table isn’t as nice as yours, but it’s made of solid, unfinished wood.

    I recently bought a beveled mirror, similar to Redford House’s $900 Swedish Mirror for just over $100, a customer return on wayfair clearance. And pillows, seat cushions, window treatments and slipcovers can all be knocked off for little more than the cost of a discontinued, designer fabric from fabricguru. My other favorite sites for discount home decorating include amazon’s warehouse deals and ebay.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 5:46 PM

      Hi Nancy,

      I appreciate your input a lot but think that $4,000.00 for the average person is going to be very difficult to get a high-end look like Mr. Randolph’s incredible room. And yes, I’m sure I could whittle off some more if I had wanted to spend another 12 hours lol Also, I was putting in full-retail prices if you saw an earlier comment.

      Yes, they would need to do all of their own sewing and upholstering and then spend many months waiting for just the right pieces to come along–in the right sizes; it’s not easy. I guess some folks enjoy that, but most people just want to get it done.

      I did do a post a while back where I did a room on the cheap for 10k and it was exceedingly difficult. I mean, this was all cheap crap! lol ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - June 5, 2016 - 9:24 AM

    When I just moved to CA and started living with my husband, we had a totally empty house (that looked nice. still does. just in a more new, a bit wannabe way). I bought -on a whim-a floor model bed in Greenwich CT where I flew every 10 days or so-my kids were still finishing their school year in CT, and I didn’t want to move them across the country until summer started. So I bought floor model of a bed, in store that was called Baker Furniture, I think it was the first time in my life I even saw upholstered bed lol. It was crazy time in my life, so I purchased the bed(it would be 6000 new, but I grabbed it for 2200, and payed another 800 for it to be delivered across the country. So we were waiting on bed but we didn’t have other things too. My things obviously stayed in my
    ex’s house where my kids were. My husband’s things never existed-he never needed much.
    So we had somehow to fill this new house. To make it livable and lovely and ready for kids when they finally move with us.
    And I didn’t like any store he took me to. He obviously had no idea of nice stores as well, ’cause these earthy things never bothered him.
    Then we drew somewhere in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa and saw a big sign “Roche Bobois”
    One hour fast forward, I was sitting on the curb crying that I’d really want that furniture..And my husband tried to talk sense into me. But at some point as he couldn’t see me crying anymore he told me “We’ll bay anything you want. Roche Bobois? we’ll buy it. please don’t cry..”
    And then I wiped my tears, thought a little, got back into my adult mode. We bought new sofas(very far cry from Roche Bobois but I liked the colors)). We custom ordered amazing bookshelves. And the rest I hunted on the Craigslist, for days, weeks, sometimes months. And it looks pretty cool, beautiful but not precious, and every thing has a story.
    Including our Baker Furniture bed that eventually came:)

    So I’d do this very, very pretty room for 4000 dollars, including accents(and the accents would be mostly very nice since I love amazing pillows, velvet, embroidered, you name it..and I like cashmere throws, and I love hand made ceramics and pottery). It will all be there eventually. Just not at the same time, lol. It will need to wait. Maybe not as long because I have a feeling they must have pretty amazing vintage shops and Craigslist in Charleston.
    And then I’d put another thousand dollars aside for an amazing art that I find irresistible.
    Because each time I moved(I moved a lot)-I took with me my favorite books and my art.
    Which tells me that they make a house a home more than anything else.
    Now Laurel, I’ve no idea why posts of yours prompt the whole unnecessary essays from me, that completely clutter the space. But between other things-I think it might be because you’re one amazing inspirational lady. I swear to you, I’m not always like this..))ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 5:38 PM

      Hi Jenny,

      That’s a wonderful story and write as much as you like. I love reading interesting stories and am flattered that you feel inspired to share yours!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Rideout - June 5, 2016 - 8:51 AM

    Whenever I open my email and find a post from you I do a little happy dance. I love this post! I adore the room and love how you recreated the look. I was LMAO over the Pottery Barn chair comment which brings me to a question: the Ballard Design chair, love it but when you start looking at the price compared to the Lee sofa it doesn’t seem like such a bargain. I have never purchased furniture except for a parsons chair from Ballard so I am curious about the quality and comfort. Have a great Sunday!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 10:42 AM

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much!

      I think the chair is in line. It’s actually custom upholstery. The only thing is, I think it looks like it needs a coat of paint! But the lines are pretty.

      Actually, it surprises some people, but a fully upholstered club chair is often not all that much less than a full sofa. I usually say half, but some manufacturers or stores will have a sofa for 3,500 and the same style chair will be 2,500!

      I’ve only done a few chairs at Ballard. They had and maybe still do a pretty swivel desk chair which I’ve done a couple times. So far, so good. ReplyCancel

  • Ellen @ColorCalling - June 5, 2016 - 8:22 AM

    Laurel, I just love your blog! This is seriously I think one of the best posts I have ever seen on a blog, period. I am going back to re-read it and let it percolate in my head. There is so much valuable information that I can’t take it all in at once. I laughed our loud when I was about halfway through the post and thought to myself, “sticker shock.” Stikker-Shokt. You’re good. Curious if you found a source for the pair of fabulous chinoiserie cockpen accent chairs? I have seen them (vintage) occasionally at Circa Who in W. Palm Beach, but usually either a singlet, or in large sets of six or eight. Anyway, thank you for the wonderful read this morning!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 10:34 AM

      Hi Ellen,

      Thank you so much!

      At about 11:00 PM last night after spending more time than I care to say, I remembered those chairs. I didn’t have the energy, nor space on my board, so I left them off. I did not know the word “cockpen.” I always just called them Chinese Chippendale.

      Sarreid makes a terrific repro called the Lady Zetland chair.

      AAMOF, I own two of them!

      They list the price as $885.00. They do come in pairs, but that is the price for one. My price is $644.00 They do usually need to be reupholstered however.

      They used to also come in black and antique cream, but seem to have discontinued that. They did have trouble keeping them in stock.ReplyCancel

      • Ellen @ColorCalling - June 5, 2016 - 2:40 PM

        Thank you again, Laurel.

        And Dolores, too, for the eBay recommendation.


      • Dolores - June 5, 2016 - 1:33 PM

        If you are very patient,and you have time to browse on Ebay you will find very good Chinese Chippendale chairs there, just don’t buy the first one you see as the prices vary so much. I have six of them( actually 8, as I bought two for my son), found in excellent condition and haven’t yet paid more than $ 300-$350 per chair,plus shipping if the chairs aren’t local. Greyhound Express is very reasonable, IF the seller is willing to ship through them..ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - June 6, 2016 - 12:28 AM

          Hi Dolores,

          That’s a very good price for that kind of chair! Ebay can be a good source, but requires some patience that a lot of people don’thave. Of course, some do.

  • Amy - June 5, 2016 - 2:36 AM


    All looks wonderful! Thanks for the post.

    Curious to know, how many hours did you have to spend researching these products before you found one within the budget?
    And wouldn’t your add the cost of your design services to that number? If yes, what should one expect designer would charge to create this room?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 10:23 AM

      Hi Amy,

      Well… you bring up a very interesting point.

      First of all, I don’t know if it was obvious or not, but I wrote this post with a person who’s creating a room on their own, not with a designer.

      However, to answer your question.

      While many designers do, I do not charge an hourly fee for clients who are having me do their room(s).

      And, most of this stuff would be even less money. I didn’t want to make anyone angry, and put full retail prices or close to it, for these items.

      In fact; this room (along with the accessories, etc.) would be about $35,000.00 or maybe even less for one of my clients.

      I do charge an upfront design fee of $1,500 per room, to do the room-layout, preliminary work and cover time spent consulting.

      However, this is me. Other designers may have a different way of charging. For instance, some might charge a more nominal mark-up but then charge an hourly.

      What I’ve discovered is, in the end, it’s pretty much apples and apples. But apples in New York are more expensive than apples in other parts.

      Of course, there are designers who are charging a design fee, a retainer, full retail AND an hourly. God bless them; I feel that’s double-dipping. But, maybe they are worth it!

      The other situation are designers who are only doing super-duper high end. Like chairs that are $6,000.00+ each. Those designers love to say that they are “transparent” (that word makes me cringe, actually.) And they say that they charge 30% across the board. Sure, I could be “transparent” too if I was making $1,800.00 for one chair! Plus an hourly! But that is an apple wrapped in gold-leaf with embedded diamonds instead of seeds! :]ReplyCancel

      • Cathlin - June 6, 2016 - 5:08 PM

        $1500 is way less than I thought it would be. Ok I didn’t have an actual number in my head, just figured it was an “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” situation. 😄ReplyCancel

      • Karen - June 5, 2016 - 11:21 AM

        What a brilliant post. I love Mr. Randolph and Loi Tai’s designs. The room to s so peaceful. The screens are fabulous. You did an outstanding job, pulling it altogether.

  • Cathlin - June 5, 2016 - 12:38 AM

    I love this post. I’ve been feeling so defeated by our lack of $ after building, and this is so much more than “get this room” post. This is encouragement to find/pin together a room I love and then piece by piece find the elements in my budget. Sure it won’t happen all at once, but I feel like you just gave me a treasure map.ReplyCancel

  • Celeste F - June 5, 2016 - 12:26 AM

    Ugh. Timely and beautiful. I am despair of ever finding furniture my three children cannot destroy our of pure joie de vie. RIP Henredon. Gah. Sofas, tables, dining sets. Sometimes I think about sitting on rocks.i can’t decide if we should buy super cheap horrible furniture every two years or search for Mystical Unicorn Furniture.ReplyCancel

    • marci - June 5, 2016 - 10:23 AM

      Hi Celeste,
      With kids, it’s called get your stuff at auctions. I bet I could do that room for under $10,000, but you have to wait for what you want, not all at once. Auctions are great places to pick up furniture when you have kids.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 5, 2016 - 10:04 AM

      Hi Celeste,

      I recommend boarding school if you can swing it. But if not, tying their feet together, helps a little. Good luck! You will get through it and one day, like me, may wonder what happened to that time?ReplyCancel