Decorating Advice For Folks Who Are Plumb Broke



Dear Laurel,

Throwing this out there in case you might be looking for inspiration for a blog post.


Decorating Advice For REALLY Broke Girls


As in really NO money.

It happens.

My situation is that my spouse of 16 years, came home from work one day. No warning whatsoever; and announced that he was leaving me and our two girls ages 12 and 9.

Yes. pig. No wait. Pigs are sweet creatures. This one is… well, never mind, I’m sure that you understand.

I’m 48 and have been a stay home mom since our eldest was born.

So, we sold the house but right now, without a job, I need to be super careful.

I’ve been in the process of furnishing a condo on next to nothing.

The living room which is nearly finished has cost me a whopping $755. Don’t ask, but a friend of a friend knows an older couple who were unloading their good quality Sherrill sofa and two chairs. It’s true, however; the fabric is not my taste at all.

The sofa is a pink-ish floral tapestry and the chairs are just plain pink. And it’s all pretty faded. It isn’t what I would have chosen, but I’m working with it because I have no other choice.

Plus, the walls are a pinkish taupe and the landlord had just painted them and won’t re-paint. Actually, it all sort of works in a dusty, but dated way.


I know exactly what you’re thinking Laurel.


You think that I should’ve had a plan, but can I just say that I’m not thinking too clearly these days?

But before I go any further and make a bunch of mistakes, what should those of us in this situation prioritize spending on?

Plus, are there any great resources that we might not know about?

Any other tips for getting an expensive look on shoestring budget.

Should it be boring curtains or a print of some kind?

If I get a print to pull paint color from (planning to paint one wall) which one…a chair, bed set, curtains, rug??? Can I even find multiple print type items that will work together? Do I need to stick with one print and then do everything else plain? Trying to keep it bright and cheerful, because I need all of the good cheer I can scrape up.




Oh Katie, (who is a real reader but the name is slightly different.)

I feel for you and can relate to all of it.

But, before I get into the furniture advice, if I may, I’d like to address the over-riding issue. And it’s an issue that I’ve had and so don’t think I’m sitting here all high and mighty.

What Katie’s husband did is frighteningly common, sadly. But first of all, know that it’s all about him and he’s chasing some elusive fantasy that doesn’t exist. So be it. He’ll find out, eventually. In the meantime, good riddance!

However, being in a marriage, hell life itself, is like driving a car.


Remember how in driver’s ed, the instructor’s mantra was “leave yourself an out?”


Well, I think that applies to just about everything we do, but I think that we often forget to leave an escape plan just in case we’re confronted with something horrible, we didn’t expect.

Did you leave yourself an out? A way to avoid tragedy?

I am not saying that it’s bad to be a stay-at-home Mom, but if you’re not wealthy to begin with, I think that it’s wise for all spouses who are the ones “staying at home” and raising the kids (which is the most difficult job in the world), to have a backup plan.

And this doesn’t just apply to marriages. It can apply to any catastrophe such as fire, flood, earthquake, etc.

End of sermon. And I fully realize that this isn’t going to help Katie with her predicament and I certainly don’t want to give her or anyone further cause for anguish or self-recrimination over something out of their control. And like I said. I’ve been there and it sucks the big petunia!

Getting decent home furnishings for nothing or next-to-nothing takes time.


But here is a terrific article that shares some great sources for free or nearly free furniture.


If you’re very lucky, it’ll be perfect, but you could get some wonderful upholstered pieces and then spend a wad on reupholstery or even custom slipcovers.

My favorite source for slipcovers is the Slipcover Maker. I’m sure that her prices are reasonable. I’m not sure if she can make a slipcover long-distance.

Custom slipcovers ComfortWorks Etsy - best decorating advice

ComfortWorks say that they can do it from photos and measurements, most of the time. They’re on Etsy and have great reviews, so I guess it’s worth a try.

Another terrific decorating trick is that you can do are to take some cheap ready-made drapes and add trim to them. And in so doing, make them look custom and expensive.


via Ballard Design adding trim to drapes with Stitch Witchery - great decorating advice

Tutorial via Ballard Designs

STITCH-Witchery-TapeNo-Sew-Hem-Tape-BLACK-OR-WHITE - great decorating advice for no-sew creatinsYou can do this, even if you don’t sew with stitch witchery. It’s an iron-on adhesive. I’ve seen tutorials out there which explain how to create all sorts of things without sewing.

Unless you’re knowledgeable and talented, I wouldn’t attempt to do this because the tutorials for slipcovers are usually dreadful.

I mean, dreadful.

There’s also this darling idea where I woman took a plain roller shade and embellished it with iron-on tape to make a Greek Key design. I love this idea.


What The Vita


I would’ve made the corner key a little smaller, is all. But I love this idea. The tutorial is in the link above.

By the way, I’ve been working on the design for the shades in my bedroom. I just have to show you!

roman shade with center greek key - great decorating adviceThe design is with a ribbon trim.

And then…

roman shade diamond greek key border great decorating advice

The top is actually a little valance so that the shade can go down, or up! More about this later.

Anyway, I just ordered a whole mess of French grosgrain ribbon trims from Samuel and Sons in 5/8″ width.


Okay, where were we?


Oh yes, we just swerved to avoid a head on collision with our bank account.

And I KNOW because so many of you have told me again and again how much you ENJOY going to consignment shops, tag and estate sales and the like. And that’s fine. You can do that.

However, as painful as it might be to hear this, I think it would be a better use of time to figure out how one is going to support themselves and their dependents so that we’re not having to scrounge around. And not knowing any more of Katie’s story, I’m sure that she’s doing that too.

I’m really sorry honey. Life handed you a sh*t sandwich. But, I just know that you’re going to find a way to make banana cream pie from it!


At this point, let’s touch on some of Katie’s questions regarding decorating advice and my best tips.


Anyone who’s read my blog for more than a few weeks probably has figured out that an over-riding theme is the room itself. The architecture. The proverbial “bones.”


But, what if it’s a rental and we can’t change the bones?

And what if all we can afford is a plain boring box painted a color that looks very much like the time I upchucked my mom’s salmon croquettes?


Most of the time a yucky color is only in relation to itself.


In other words, if you have a color that you can’t stand, use other colors closely related to it; or ones that complement it.

However, if you really can’t stand the color and can’t make it work. Perhaps try asking again if you can paint the walls a lovely, soft white?




Remember over 40 years ago when I lived in Palo Alto and my Bay Window apartment story?


Well, if you go and check out the post in the link, you will see the first apartment I lived in and me practicing my beloved ballet!

There, you will see the regurgitated salmon-croquette-shade of barfy-pinky-beige walls. It was 1973 and my sister and I would sit in that little living room bemoaning the wall color on nearly a daily basis. But it wasn’t just the wall color. Oh no! The sofa was this scratchy thing from probably when the house was built– in the 30s.

It matched the walls perfectly.

And as you can see… So did the rug!

One day, I was out shopping, when I came across some gorgeous floral dark blue and white sheets. That gave me an idea!

So, I bought a couple and took them home and proceeded to make a rather crude slip-cover for the hideous sofa. Oh, it was always coming untucked, but I can’t tell you how much better the room looked!

So there it is.


The antidote to barfy pinky beige is dark blue and white!


You can use green too, but just know that green will make the color look even more pink as opposite colors do that. That might be good or not. But certainly some green accents will be fine.

As for the print for the curtains.

Please be careful.

Cheap drapes with a cheap print are not that easy to find. There are some nice designs on Overstock.


Here’s a beautiful curtain that Eileen Lonergan did about a year ago.


One of my favorite tricks to get a rich look is with the throw pillows. And we’ve talked a few times about great sources on Etsy to get designer fabric pillow covers for relatively little money.

That splurge is worth eating beans and rice for a while. I love my beautiful pillows. It’s what I SEE, not the 18 yards of fabric on the sofa. And they make me very happy.

And despite being able to get bargains with used furniture, these days there’s a lot of furniture that’s DIRT CHEAP and it’s not bad-looking. In fact, some of it is gorgeous!

My favorite sources for cheap-but-great-looking besides Overstock are:


Wayfair – Although Wayfair also carries expensive furniture.

One Kings Lane – I guess we all know that by now. And yes, some things on OKL are very pricey, but they also have a lot of affordable furniture. They have great prices on some of their accent tables.

World Market – Has an interesting selection of some interesting imported pieces

Gilt – Sometimes has some great deals.

Bed Bath and Beyond

AND a company that has really taken off in the last few years in the home furnishings realm is

my beloved Tarzhay aka: Target

Pottery Barn has some great sales too!


Coming up, is a widget of some cool furnishings from all of those sources except for BBB.


I worked for hours on this today and believe me… I could do this for another eight hours but, hopefully, it will give y’all some ideas and direction. Except for one sofa, everything is under $400 and most things are under $200 and less! Some of the items are on sale right now.

Oh my, there are a ton of Memorial Day Sales. In fact, I should be doing Friday’s Hot Sales early this week.

But right now, there are incredible sales going on at the sources linked to above

AND there’s and early bird sale at Serena and Lily. Use this code to get 20% off SITEWIDE!!!


No worries. The sale isn’t ending. It’ll be on through the weekend. I’ve had to keep that one a secret for a few months now!

Here’s the widget with the CHEAP-BUT-DOESN’T-LOOK-IT-FURNITURE.  (hopefully!)



I love the idea of taking those plain white curtains and using the Stitch Witchery and some wonderful trim to make it special.

Oh, you can find some terrific trim on Etsy if you’re not in the trade, or even if you are.




PS: As always most of these links are affiliate links meaning if you click on them and make a purchase, I will most likely make a little commission at no extra charge to you.

For more information on all of my policies including my updated privacy policy, please click the link.


5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Ahaan - June 14, 2018 - 8:11 AM

    A very informative advice & useful for everyone who are plumb broke.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - May 28, 2018 - 9:37 PM

    Hi Laurel, I just found your blog over the last week and have been reading it in every spare second. I have been very focused on paint color, but your comment on a room having “good bones” makes great sense. Along those lines, we are purchasing a house that has white (maybe Calacatta gold) marble floors in the entry and living room. I have been searching the internet for images of living rooms,with marble floors and i have yet to find an image that I like because they seem so “cold”. I like your style of decorating and I have yet to see any of your rooms with marble floors. I love your idea of white on white, but with a white floor is that too much? know marble is a classic and coveted by many so I wonder if your readers might enjoy a column about decorating with marble, since it’s having a moment right now. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2018 - 12:23 AM

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I think it depends on the style of the house and the location. Marble has a more formal feeling than other stone and wood, usually.ReplyCancel

  • Diego Lopes - May 28, 2018 - 1:10 PM

    These are indeed really great tips for broke people, thanks for sharing them!


  • Jenny R. Johnson - May 25, 2018 - 8:51 AM

    SIX DOLLARS A YARD I have used this on my living room slip covers and it is fabulous looking, and washes nicely( should wash before sewing). I would get my friends to come over some weekend and have a slipcover making party. you place the fabric on wrong side out, pin, and cut, then sew. forego piping, watch youtube, it will go ok. GOOD LUCKReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 25, 2018 - 9:52 AM

      Oh wow! That sounds like fun and that’s a great source for inexpensive cotton duck fabric.ReplyCancel

  • (Different) Katie - May 24, 2018 - 11:00 AM

    One idea I’ve used for smaller pieces of wall decor is to search for digital downloads on Etsy to print and frame. Most images sell for only a few dollars. You do need access to a color printer that can print whatever size you’re looking for, and it turns out best if you use quality paper. But, you can find vintage images, original art (graphic design, watercolors, etc.), botanical prints—there are lots of options for all kinds of tastes. Pair with a cheap IKEA or Target frame (or snag frames from yard sales and Goodwill) and you can end up spending very little.ReplyCancel

    • Lorri - May 25, 2018 - 1:59 PM

      My Etsy “Wish List” is chock-a-block full of botanical prints available via download. Also, there are several Etsy shops selling old botanical prints for next to nothing and they are gorgeous.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 25, 2018 - 9:19 PM

        Hi Lorri,

        I love combing through Etsy looking for treasures! ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 25, 2018 - 9:50 AM

      Hi Katie,
      That’s a wonderful idea! I have linked to some of those sources in the past, but thank you for the reminder.ReplyCancel

  • Clark - May 24, 2018 - 10:47 AM

    While this doesn’t address the budget issue specifically, it seemed so fitting as far as timing for Katie and so many of us. From Mark Hampton: “We all know that interior decoration is seen by many as a frivolous career full of ruffles and flourishes and preposterous fashion sstatements. Yet to transform the bleak and the barren into welcoming places where one can live seems to me an important and worthwhile goal in life. Sometimes this transformation can stun the eye, sometimes gladden it, but these are not frivolous pursuits.

    In an era when there is increasing despair over the inhumanity of the world around us, the concerns of decorating rather than seeming vain and irrelevant provide for me a wonderful refuge. This work has to do with people and beauty and the timeless activities of domestic life. At least our private worlds can reward us with peace and pleasure.”

    And a big hug and thanks for your wonderful blog for doing just that – always a joy on so many different levels.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 25, 2018 - 9:49 AM

      Thanks so much for your incredibly lovely and thoughtful note, Clark!ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn - May 24, 2018 - 7:41 AM

    I know this is very DIY, but this worked exceptionally well for me.
    I made drapes from painters drop cloths. I would challenge anyone coming into my home to differentiate between linen and the drop cloths. I went to a big box home improvement store and found a 9’x12’ one piece drop cloth. I just could not afford to buy drapes and I needed something for a very large door. The drop cloths look wonderful and I doubt when I can afford drapes that I will change them. I guess the real key to decorating on NO budget is thinking outside the proverbial box.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 24, 2018 - 10:02 AM

      HI Carolyn,

      Well, fabric is fabric and I think that’s an excellent idea! I’ve also seen drapes made from moving blankets and they were sensational. Plus, they also provided some good insulation. ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - May 24, 2018 - 5:08 AM

    Thanks for this terrific post which many of us can relate to and benefit from. In the midst of “ugly” and “sad” which Katie and many of us find ourselves in at some point the need for beauty in the home is absolutely critical. She needs that beauty however small at first to survive the horror. So a good slipcover or whatever and a good lawyer are both essential.
    The last two posts have been particularly excellent as they illustrate our challenges and show ways to achieve a beautiful space despite limitations. Thanks for all the hard work that went into the posts, Laurel, and for sharing the story of Katie and that of your bedroom “in progress”. Gratefully-ReplyCancel

  • Maria - May 24, 2018 - 1:05 AM

    Hi Laurel. I love your blog. Learn so much here, to me they are decorating lessons. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge, a lot of us want our homes to look great but can not afford a professional designer. Today’s post is the best yet, more than decorating ideas, you shared kindness.
    I’ve been blindsided in my marriage too and would like to share with Katie, if you allow me, the best blog, a saving grace really. CHUMPLADY.COM
    Read the archives too, Katie.
    Best wishes for you and your girls.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 24, 2018 - 2:42 AM

      That’s very kind of you to say Maria. And Chumplady is AWESOME! In fact, she comments here every now and then. I used to read her blog every day, but after a while, it too can become a trap of sorts. At least it was for me. But that and other blogs were very helpful to me in the years ’09-’12. And I’m sorry for your pain too, Maria.

      PS: I was JUST watching some clips from the Sound of Music on Youtube! Funny coincidence!ReplyCancel

  • Mary K Parker - May 23, 2018 - 10:42 PM

    Threads magazine had a fantastic tutorial on how to make a sofa wrap:

    I did this for a ’90’s blue and mauve sofa. I probably spent around $200 on the fabric and trims, but it did make me a lot happier to sit on it.ReplyCancel

  • Gaye Goff - May 23, 2018 - 4:32 PM

    What about getting the daughters to paint some really large canvases for the room? Might be fun….Here is a website I found by googling:

    No art experience needed for some of the ideas, also inexpensive and contemporary looking.

    Although….dusty pink walls and pink florals and faded chairs made me think of Ben Pentreath and some of those lovely English interiors with ancient comfortable furniture. Maybe that is a direction for inspiration if slipcovers or reupholstering is too expensive right now.

    Also, I live in Houston and seems to be used by all the estate companies. Best thing is they post photos of what will be in the sale so you get an idea if there is anything you would like.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 5:21 PM

      Thanks so much for all of that Gaye. Some great suggestions!ReplyCancel

  • Mary Andrews - May 23, 2018 - 3:59 PM

    Laurel, I love your blog and read it faithfully. I have learned so much, and feel much more informed ( thanks to your fantastic links) before I purchase items for my home.

    I think this is my favorite of all your posts. Your compassionate attitude, multitude of suggestions and useful sources would lift anyone’s spirits as they are empowering and practical.

    You really are one-of-a-kind -meant in the very best way!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 5:19 PM

      Oh, that is so, so sweet of you to say all of that and very appreciated, Mary! The support means everything to me! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Ramona - May 23, 2018 - 3:12 PM

    Dear Katie and Laurel,

    Katie, you are going through an enormously stressful time. Having a next that nurtures you right now is extremely important.

    After decades of suffering with landlord paint, I would now just do the paint and take my licking later.

    But first you have to deal with the quality furniture which just doesn’t help with your mood.

    I’ve seen some great suggestions here: painting I sounds good; however, painting over a print might yield some very mixed results.

    I’ve been told that learning to reupholster is not all that hard. I’ve never had a good piece I wanted to try on. I finally have my forever couch till I die so I don’t need to confront that.

    Finding upholstery fabric is easy enough, but not all that cheap.

    How about experimenting with cheap throw on slipcovers? Use that fabric in a totally neutral color, e.g. cream/white and try to redo a chair first.

    It might be a disaster; it might be a great success. Partly, it depends on the complexity of the original furniture. It might be a great outlet for your justifiable anger and frustration. There are books and on line tutorials for that sort of thing.

    The very worst result would be having to have the chair redone or a slipcover made.

    You deserve a cheerful home!!

    When I was flat broke and a graduate student, I took to cheap experiments. Even after I had my first full time job, I still had no money. I made curtains out of sheets. It worked.

    Without pictures, it is hard to give specific instructions, but I would troll the on line fabric stores for sale fabrics in tone on tone/neutral shades (way easier to work with than a pattern).

    You will need courage for the rest of your life. Summon up a litter more to make your space healing.

    And partnerships, meh, I couldn’t make them work for me, but I had a horrible example in my family.

    I’m 70, retired and still looking for ways to inexpensively furnish my home.

    I just found a poster I had in my late 20s which was ruined in a move. I was looking for something to finish off my study and lo and behold there was the classic Vogue cover for sale on Conde Nast. I ordered it and a friend said to go bigger. I got the first order cancelled and had to wait for it to cycle. When I went back on there was a 33% off sale, so I got the bigger poster for just a little more than the smaller size and I got a mat. Then they made a mistake and sent both my poster and one meant for Brooklyn to Michigan. I get to keep the Coco Channel black on white framed poster. Anyone want it?

    This beautiful day has improved my mood and health for the moment.ReplyCancel

  • Jenn - May 23, 2018 - 2:09 PM

    A cheap tip for hiding hideous couch that I recently discovered (in my case its a dirty couch due to dogs): did you know the width of a twin sized quilt is about the same size as the length of a standard couch? just a few inches less, so on my couch it lays beautifully in between the arms. Covered with a few coordinated throw pillows it looks great! So off to Home Goods, where you can buy a pretty quilt for $30–I’m thinking the blue and white scheme would be terrific! And check out the throw pillows while you’re there!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 2:12 PM

      Great idea Jenn! And yes, I got some cool Greek key throw pillows with feather inserts, no less for about $14/ea a couple of years ago! I recently gifted them to my son and he is appreciative.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - May 23, 2018 - 1:12 PM

    The ikea Aina curtain is a cheap linen curtain that looks great. I still have them in my bedrooms upstairs.ReplyCancel

  • Marilynn - May 23, 2018 - 12:27 PM

    Awesome post Laurel.
    I have read that some do it yourselfer’s have used fabric spray paint to change a sofa color. Mind you I’ve never tried it but worth a shot.
    Also, don’t knock IKEA. Their curtains are cheap and so are the curtain rods adding some tape trim would look fab. Same with some of their cushion covers. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 1:52 PM

      Hi Marilynn,

      Who’s knocking Ikea? Not me! If a great source isn’t listed it doesn’t mean that it’s no good. It most likely means that Laurel is tired. lol

      And YES! You can absolutely spray paint furniture and actually, I think there’s a paint that’s not a spray paint. And I used just plain old paint, but I diluted it with a LOT of water because I really only wanted to stain a portion of the fabric and it worked– beautifully!

      But, there are tutorials on pinterest that show and tell how people have done it where it’s completely opaque and the furniture looks so much better! I wish that I had thought of that, but thank you for the reminder!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa in MT - May 23, 2018 - 12:11 PM

    YES!! Fabulous post Laurel!

    Another source for quality furniture at low cost is Club Furniture. (Obviously feel free to delete if you need to!) I have a great apartment sized, down surround cushions, sofa that I ordered from them years ago that is holding up very nicely.

    This was an excellent post about working around yucky paint colors in a rental. Thank you thank you thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 1:48 PM

      Thank you Lisa! I’m not familiar with Club Furniture, but it’s fine to recommend sources that you like.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - May 23, 2018 - 11:27 AM

    well it depends who one divorces with.and for how long. attorneys charge 400$ an hour(and every e-mail and phone call will be in the bill too-5 min spent, 10 min spent…)-in several months one could already go and furnish that condo in Roche Bobois, will get cheaper.
    sometimes there’s no choice of course. or one needs public defendant(won’t be 400 per hour but can drag forever). I do sincerely hope that’s not the case here. Slipcovers etc don’t even come price..both monetary and metaphorical..
    Sorry for that OT..
    I do love flea markets, vintage stores, and estate sales-one needs to have energy and time for that though. No question. Which I hope Katie has-or will find within herself one day.

    I’ve always loved eBay and especially Etsy, in my experience sellers often provide stellar service and are great with communication. One can narrow down by many factors as well.
    Besides Gilt and OKL, similar sites like RueLaLa and HauteLook might have great deals. Ruelala is good with everything bedding, Hautelook-throws and pillows..due to competition the return policy has improved allover everywhere.
    Anthropologie has good deals from time to time(now they have 20% off I think), and some items are very reasonably priced(since they carry different brands)

    And-of course art and plants-they have this amazing power to transform and uplift. Because they are most alive of all. And they can be also the cheapest.

    Thank you Laurel for you know..just being:) And Katie, I wish you to overcome whatever bad happens, and many good things for you to welcome soon in your life. You, and your girls.

    PS I’m not sure whether I double posted..sorry if yes.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:54 AM

      Yes, but no matter and there is some other information here. Thank you for your kindness Jenny!!!ReplyCancel

  • Alice - May 23, 2018 - 11:18 AM

    I know I’ve asked this before…but I will ask it again. To ANYONE out there who is more savvy than I, WHY don’t the links in Laurel’s widgets work for me? I love the blog…when it comes to matters decorating, she/you are the only one I read anymore. BUT, every once in a while I’d like to be able to access the links/sales on items you mention in your widget. Why do I just get a blank screen? Is it a browser setting I must go in and change? It only happens with your links Laurel. Thanks much.ReplyCancel

    • George - May 23, 2018 - 1:02 PM

      What browser? What operating system (Mac/Win?

      If you are using windows, can you right click on the widget and select “copy link address”? If so, can you paste the url address into a new browser window’s url (webpage) field… and does the page open?

      Also, try a different browser. If it works in another browser it is most likely a browser setting (which is what I think it is anyway).ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 1:56 PM

        Hi George,

        Thanks so much for the tech advice! It sounds like Alice can’t see anything but white, so there’s nothing to right click. But yes, trying a different browser is a great idea. And I agree, it’s most likely a browser setting.ReplyCancel

        • George - May 23, 2018 - 2:54 PM

          You are welcome and got it!
          I thought she meant she clicked on the picture on got a white image.

          The widget needs JavaScript enabled so if your browser has JavaScript turned off that could be it. But most of the time there is a message indicating this like “JavaScript is needed to view…”ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:27 AM

      Hi Alice,

      I’m so sorry that you’re having a problem. Technology can be wonderful until it doesn’t work as expected!

      Yes. It’s probably a browser setting. It might be an ad blocker that’s been ticked on. There have been over 3,200 clicks on the links. And no. I don’t make a penny for clicks. Only, if someone purchases something, which is absolutely fine if one never does that. It’s also a much easier way to make a mood board of sorts and write a little blurb underneath the image. ReplyCancel

  • George - May 23, 2018 - 10:49 AM

    I also think a lot can be done with inexpensive frames and art in magazines or screen grabs and then print them. Sometimes kids even paint something that looks good framed.

    I also take free apps and filter photos so they match a room better.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:46 AM

      That’s a great idea George! As I was writing and gathering, a voice inside my head kept nagging at me. “What about the walls and accessories, Laurel?”

      I told the voice to bugger off! haha! But, I really did spend HOURS putting the pieces together. Partly, because some of the websites are a little slow. You have to put a condition in and wait for the page to reload and then repeat that maybe a dozen times or you’ll get 15,000 options! It just takes a while.

      But, every year, I get this book in the mail– an incredible volume of rugs, exquisitely photographed from Doris Leslie Blau. And every year, I think, “Oh, I could frame these images and it would be incredible!” ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - May 23, 2018 - 10:16 AM

    Well, on the plus side, Sherrill makes a quality sofa, so it’s actually worth slip-covering.

    Laurel, great selections! I love that white scalloped side table.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:38 AM

      Hi Lorri,

      Yes, indeed. You do get what you pay for, but some cheap furniture actually holds up pretty durn well.ReplyCancel

  • Karyn - May 23, 2018 - 9:43 AM

    Thank you for this post, Laurel! Wonderful ideas for those of us needing budget-friendly decor, for whatever reason. And thank you for those great links and widgets! Like another commenter, I also love Ikea curtains. 98” long and easy to hem (wash first!) for your specific needs. Also, they have heading tape so you can create pleats and use pin hooks. I used Ritva in our living room and Lejongap in the dining room and pinned and hemmed them while they were hanging on the rod. As for furniture, yeah, that one can be tough. Thank you for scouring the internet. That linen sofa at Target is beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:32 AM

      Hi Karyn,

      I wish that I could link to Ikea in my widget, but that brand is one of the few not available for linking. But yes, it’s a fabulous source. Great tip about washing before hemming as cotton DOES shrink! I guess everyone knows that. lol. But good for the reminder.

      And if going in the dryer, I would just use fluff, unless one really wants them to shrink! ReplyCancel

  • Barbara Kemp - May 23, 2018 - 9:13 AM

    Katie, I wish I lived close to lend you a hand but then again you probably have a kindred spirit who will do so.

    Years ago a neighbor moved in across the street. My first step into her home was a surprise. She had beautiful high end furniture. I asked her where she purchased the furniture. She said from estate and yard sales. So began my journey into the world of estate and yard sales. Most of my furniture is from estate and yard sales and I love every story of where the furniture was purchased and from whom.

    There was also a point when this neighbor needed a part-time job. I don’t remember how she started but for 22 years she has been cleaning homes. Homes where the residents are generous financially and often with their high end furniture. The job provided a great source of income, flexibility, children at home, and working alone which she liked. Her customers are like her family now and generous beyond belief.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:28 AM

      That is a beautiful story Barbara and I’m sure that your neighbor is grateful for her lovely friend across the street!ReplyCancel

  • marci - May 23, 2018 - 9:13 AM

    Auctions are the go to place for cheap. Sometimes a good house auction has nice antique furniture that goes for a song, literally as the auctioneer sings prices of fifty cents and a dollar for good sturdy chairs, I’ve seen it, I’ve bought it. Pillows, sheets, everything a house has is sold. I bought a Thomasville bedroom set for $150.00. Yes, cheap, good.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:23 AM

      That’s awesome Marci! However, like I said earlier, auctions are not prevalent around here. In fact, in my 27 years living in Westchester County, I’ve never heard of one.

      There are, however, plenty of tag and estate sales in the spring/summer. You have to get there super early and be willing to haggle, etc. Since I don’t do anything super early unless I’m dragged kicking and screaming, that wouldn’t be a viable option.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - May 23, 2018 - 7:04 AM

    Check the free section of Craigslist and the Freecycle website. Both will have lots of furniture. Also, sign up for your local group on Nextdoor. It is a neighborhood social networking site. There are always people in my neighborhood giving items away. Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Jenny R. Johnson - May 25, 2018 - 9:06 AM

      Great idea, craigslist and free cycle I have used both. Don’t know where she lives but where my mom lives(old folks’ home) they have a sale every month and i got my sons a good quality sleeper sofa for $50, and it looked like it had not been sat on. I expect there is something like that in every affluent community.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:09 AM

      Thanks Jen. Those were included in the link to an article in the post. But I just went and grabbed it and am posting it again here.

  • Suzan - May 23, 2018 - 6:41 AM

    Please fix widget on white curtains.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:07 AM


      I’m sorry that you’re having an issue, but it’s all working for me and there haven’t been any other reports. Perhaps check your settings. That is usually the culprit.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - May 23, 2018 - 6:39 AM

    Katie, you can find great furniture at estate sales; solid wood pieces and quality furniture. The best prices are on the last day of the sale when it’s usually a discount of 50%. Bargain and make offers. It can be a little intimidating but you have nothing to lose by making an offer. You can find sales in your neighborhood at I’ve corresponded with the Slipcovermaker and her prices seemed reasonable and she was very nice. All the best and hoping you find a sense of peace in your own place.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:04 AM

      Hi Suzanne,

      I clicked on that link and there is nothing close to me and I live in Westchester County. This option was mentioned in the post and it is a good one for some, but not everyone.

      My point which I’ve made before (but don’t expect people to know that) is that going to auctions and estate sales is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s fun for some, when you don’t absolutely need specific items. Also, it can be exceedingly time consuming and sometimes frustrating when you don’t get something that you want and need.

      One still should have a good plan of action so that they don’t end up with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work in their space.

      But thank you for the link. In some areas, there are a lot of these sales, just not where I live. And probably other people too.ReplyCancel

      • Shelby - June 1, 2018 - 11:01 AM

        A (sometimes) wonderful alternative to local sales is Everything But the House- I apologize if this was mentioned and I missed it!

        You can search for local sales to avoid shipping costs, but we’ve seen a few lovely authentic furniture items for $50-$100 that would be thousands on 1stDibs, so shipping can be worth it sometimes too.

        All the best to you, Katie, on your journey! Many hugs!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - May 23, 2018 - 4:02 AM

    Hello Laurel, I am having a little trouble understanding the basic problem. If she just sold her house, wouldn’t she still have all her old furniture and possessions? If so, your ideas about adjusting the ugly wall color are just what the doctor ordered.

    You have to become good at scouting out bargains. In Cleveland at least, house sales are very good, and are not depressing like some thrift stores, which increasingly feature the worst sort of junk. I know that some people complain that they don’t have time for house sales, but after all, it is a free activity Katie can do with her daughters, and they can even make money if they learn values.

    • Carolyn - May 24, 2018 - 7:32 AM

      All things aside, Katie has no money. Not difficult to understand, nor uncommon. Many of us find ourselves in this type of situation unexpectedly at one (or more) times in our lives. So regardless of the why’s and wherefores, Katie can not spend money.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 10:32 AM

      Hi Jim,

      I don’t know if there was a house sale. I’m not sure, but maybe her husband stayed in the house and kept all of its possessions.ReplyCancel

      • Parnassus - May 23, 2018 - 1:28 PM

        Hi again, Sorry, I think I phrased my comment a little oddly. The real issue is decorating for no money, which applies to people in many situations (although abandoning your family is despicable!). I had a series of houses and apartments in Cleveland, New Haven and Taipei, and it is amazing what you can get for free or by spending practically nothing. I had a free but not great dining table here, but it was fine to use until a friend moved and gave me his granite one. Just keep in mind that the next great find is right down the road. –JimReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 2:10 PM

          Hi Jim,

          No worries at all. Your comment just gave me what I think would be a wonderful premise for a blog.

          A middle aged woman with two young children finds herself cut off from her former life and sets out to decorate her new home with a budget of say $2,500. And that includes living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom(s) and two bedrooms, plus entrance.

          Oh, and she doesn’t sew or possess any carpentry skills. But, I love this idea so much that I’m thinking of maybe doing a once a month “how to get ______ for free, or close to it”

          That would be a challenge, for sure!

          But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen great looking furniture on the streets of Manhattan! I mean, gorgeous chairs, like they don’t make any longer (but should.) Sure, the fabric is finished, but with a re-upholstery job would look brand-new. That’s the premise of Chairloom. Love that company too!ReplyCancel

  • Danni - May 23, 2018 - 2:33 AM

    Laurel, I always ALWAYS check your blog before doing stuff (esp weird stuff) and I have great confidence in you and your advice. I esp love your inspiration pictures. But it’s posts like this that tell me you’re also a good human and I am grateful to you all the time, so thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - May 23, 2018 - 1:56 AM

    Katie could let her needs be known among her friends. Someone may know a family that is redecorating or moving. I would much rather give things away to someone who really needs them rather than take them to the thrift store or advertise in Craig’s List. We have done just that with some major furniture items when we redecorated. It is gratifying to know those things were truly needed and the look of appreciation is heart warming.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 10:28 AM

      Some people are introverted and don’t have a lot of friends. Or their friends live far away because they moved. The latter has happened to me dozens of times.ReplyCancel

  • Danae - May 23, 2018 - 1:30 AM

    Laurel- When I was starting out 30 years ago I found wonderful classic pieces at Auctions. I was bidding against designers and shop owners who were going to have to mark up so I figured I could pay more. Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning are great for small furniture, rugs, lamps and accessories. I find high end brands there and Overstock is a favorite for linen and even Dupioni silk curtains. Get on their email and you can get up to 15/20% off frequently. Kirklands for mirrors. I like your slipcovering idea with Etsy pillows! Paint can make a big difference as can a fabulous rug of which I have found RUGS USA to be great for natural fiber rugs. I love antique shops and flea markets! (Focus on shapes and imagine it painted white) 🙂 Oh and Laurel, I think we have the same Mother!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 10:26 AM

      Thanks for all of that Danae. My mother is alive, but her mind is kaput. :[ReplyCancel

  • Kiera - May 23, 2018 - 12:24 AM

    Oh, man. I feel for you, Katie. I hope things get better for you. I can definitely imagine how some good luck in terms of finding ways to make your current place feel more like home would go a long way in making you feel better about your situation right now. I will say that I troll the Chairish website in the evenings as a form of enjoyment, and this has worked out in my favor more than once. I set some email alerts so that when new items within a certain category come in I get a notice. I also usually filter my searches for price as well as things like style and color so I’m not looking at things well out of my price range, and I often filter the geography settings as well to see what’s available closer to me. I recently found an gorgeous reupholstered chair for an unbelievable price, that was close enough where I could drive to get it. If you like website window shopping, this might work for you as well, since the inventory changes so rapidly. Good luck and I send you all of my best wishes as you navigate through the rough part to the much better life that lies ahead for you!ReplyCancel

  • Susan - May 22, 2018 - 11:30 PM

    Hi, Laurel! Thanks for all of this information. Very helpful and interesting, as usual. Since you brought it up, I have a question about throw pillows. What is the deal these days with “pointy” pillows?! Seems to be a trend. I think I’ll stick with my solid square chintz pillows!! By the way, special prayers for “Katie”. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • mrsben - May 23, 2018 - 5:10 PM

      @Laurel: I rest my case …. ☺. As I come from the old school of sewing and just consider myself ‘a hobby sewer’ I have never used a template (formula yes, template no) for creating tapered corners let alone realized one existed … lol! Do appreciate you taking the extra time to research/explain the principle of my comment. -Brenda-

      P.S.: FTR, if working with a ‘lightweight’ fabric (i.e.: Silk) I have found that application of a ½” triangle of light to medium weight interfacing to the corners (front and back pieces) will not only stabilize them but will assist in keeping their contour.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 5:28 PM

        Hi again Brenda. Well, you might not get paid for your sewing, but your knowledge is pro-level, for sure!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 22, 2018 - 11:42 PM

      Hi Susan,

      I’m sorry but I’m not sure what pointy pillows means. Do you mean that the corners are extra sharp?ReplyCancel

      • Susan - May 23, 2018 - 12:57 AM

        Well, maybe it’s that they’re not fully stuffed so that the top of the pillow looks somewhat like cat’s ears (although cat’s ears are much cuter!) — instead of being straight across the top. Not a major issue in the grand scheme of things!ReplyCancel

        • mrsben - May 23, 2018 - 8:42 AM

          @Susan: For those of us who sew, the corners you are referring to are often called ‘dog eared’ (exaggerated points) that are seen on knife-edge pillows whose stitching line has basically been sewn in a straight line rather than with a slight taper.

          • Ramona - May 23, 2018 - 2:50 PM

            Wow, I am confused. I’ve made a few pillows and watched many, many more made by my mother, including lots with cording.

            My mom was not interested in the multitude of flange and pleated and other types of pillows although I am.

            That template has my head spinning. I almost clicked through to buy it.

            The general rule of sewing a nice pointy edge is to actually sew a diagonal edge which when it is turned forms a nice sharp point. For example if you want a crisp collar edge.

            But I have to admit dog eared pillows have me stumped.

            I will have to come back to this when I can study it further.

          • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:18 AM

            Hi Brenda,

            I do not sew pillows, but I’ve seen dozens of them unfilled and I’m struggling to visualize what is meant by slight taper. So, I did what any sleuthing blogger does… I googled it: :] “How to avoid dog-eared pillows.”

            And Voila. A tutorial on youtube. It’s a little weird because she uses a template she created, but then has to trim to make the corners match. However, it explains the principle very clearly.

            Phew! I’m so glad that we cleared that one up! haha

        • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 1:26 AM

          Oh, I see now. Well, it’s a few different things. First of all in order to have pointy corners, it requires the style of pillow that doesn’t have a pleat in the corner. Some do have that which isn’t my preference. I do prefer a perfectly square pillow.


          What you are seeing IS a square pillow, but I think that it’s probably the opposite of what you are thinking; it’s a very full pillow, but it’s possible that it’s so crammed with down and feathers that the four points become even more exaggerated.

          Also, there are some pillows, that have a solid square dacron fill. That, you don’t see very often anymore, but they are flatter and more square and what is sometimes put in a cheap pillow.


          • Mary51 - May 23, 2018 - 10:59 AM

            Reminds me of the scene in “War of the Roses” (1989, I think) where Kathleen Turner angrily (you had to see the movie) karate chops the center of a down-filled pillow to achieve the pointy-pillow decorator look on her beautiful sofa in her gorgeous house.

          • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:47 AM

            Hi Mary,

            Yes, I saw that movie. Subtext. They truly loved each other. Tragic tale.

          • rebecca - May 23, 2018 - 9:56 AM

            Susan, are you maybe referring to way pillows are often “karate chopped” for photos? Most pillows I see styled for photos have been whacked in the top center. Regular Square pillows, just “chopped” for photos.

          • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:37 AM

            Hi Rebecca,

            That might be part of it, but I found this post which pictures a dog-eared pillow and one with a more rounded corner. But I still think that over-stuffing can accentuate the issue. Who knew that pillow corners could be such a hot topic!?! haha


          • Susan - May 23, 2018 - 3:17 AM

            Thanks, Laurel! I also prefer the square pillow but it seems that I’ve been seeing more of the pointy type online recently.

  • Clark - May 22, 2018 - 11:23 PM

    Love this post – we are always happy to find furnishings for our own home or our children’s that are budget savvy. Thanks for showing us that good design is available in a variety of places. My favorite budget drapes and rods are from Ikea – they have the super long lengths that allow me to mount them tall, and I use their rings as well. Also have had super positive feedback when using their drapery panels – the sheers that slide.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - May 22, 2018 - 11:12 PM

    She needs to get an attorney, not slipcovers for her couch.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 22, 2018 - 11:39 PM
      • Jenny - May 23, 2018 - 11:21 AM

        well it depends who one divorces with.and for how long. attorneys charge 400$ an hour(and every e-mail and phone call will be in the bill too-5 min spent, 10 min spent…)-in several months one could already go and furnish that condo in Roche Bobois, will get cheaper.
        sometimes there’s no choice of course. or one needs public defendant(won’t be 400 per hour but can drag forever). I do sincerely hope that’s not the case here. Slipcovers etc don’t even come price..both monetary and metaphorical..
        Sorry for that OT..
        I do love flea markets, vintage stores, and estate sales-one needs to have energy and time for that though. No question. Which I hope Katie has-or will find within herself one day.

        I’ve always loved eBay and especially Etsy, in my experience sellers often provide stellar service and are great with communication. One can narrow down by many factors as well.
        Besides Gilt and OKL, similar sites like RueLaLa and HauteLook might have great deals. Ruelala is good with everything bedding, Hautelook-throws and pillows..due to competition the return policy has improved allover everywhere.
        Anthropologie has good deals from time to time(now they have 20% off I think), and some items are very reasonably priced(since they carry different brands)

        And-of course art and plants-they have this amazing power to transform and uplift. Because they are most alive of all. And they can be also the cheapest.

        Thank you Laurel for you know..just being:) And Katie, I wish you to overcome whatever bad happens, and many good things for you to welcome soon in your life. You, and your girls.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - May 23, 2018 - 11:52 AM

          Hi Jenny,

          Thanks for the reminder! If I had two of me, I could’ve updated the hot sales page before I sent the post. But yes, the Memorial Day sales are starting in full-throttle, so I need to work on that today. In the meantime, this is a link for the Anthropologie 20% off sale.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - May 22, 2018 - 10:55 PM

    For things like lamps, pillows, curtains, pots, accessories (and basically my whole life, haha) I go to Ross and the max, but I think their might be other discount stores. I usually find some awesome items that jive really well with looking good and being easy on my budget. I mean like, if you want handmade artesian blobbedy blah they sometimes have that, haha! But they have a lot of great junk that can last you at least until you get stuff that you want forever. But I find the quality varies just like most places and it’s so much cheaper! Like $12 pillows and $100 area rugs? Uh ya, I’m in for now especially since I have a four year old boy, a husband that eats while he walks around and a messy cat. I like getting smaller items their often times and spending more on quality furniture from wayfair or pottery Barn during sales and whatnot. Makes life less stresful. Thanks as always for the wonderful post!ReplyCancel