Decorating on a Budget Without It Looking Cheap

Hi Everyone,

This is a two-part post, but part 2 is very short. If you’ve read part 1, please click the link below to skip to part 2. If you’re here for the first time to read about decorating on a budget without looking cheap, please keep reading from the top.


Part 2 Begins Here


We’re (mostly) taking a break from ME to talk about a common decorating dilemma – Decorating on a Budget – Without it looking CHEAP.

Dear Laurel,

Thank you for sharing all of your decorating plans. All I can say is GOALS!
However, the budget for your kitchen lighting is the budget for my entire home! At least, right now, it is.

So, for now, I’m getting vicarious pleasure from seeing what you’re doing, and the thing I also love is that you don’t seem to take any of it for granted, and even though it’s all still too expensive for us, I can see you’re still needing to be mindful of your pocketbook.


Maybe one day, when my kids have graduated college, gotten married, and I’ve dumped my husband, I’ll be able to afford a lot more.


Just kidding about dumping my husband. I love him to bits!

So, any helpful ideas for the other 95% of us would be great!


Ineida Sumbuks




Thank you, Ineida. ;]

As for GOALS. When I was your age, there was no need to bother with goals because there wasn’t even a remote possibility that I could do what I’m now doing.  It was always, Sigh… “In my next lifetime…”

Yet, here we are.

So, even when the odds seem stacked against you, don’t give up hope! And I am saying that to all of us.


Okay, let’s get into our topic, one of my favorites– decorating on a budget.


Actually, I’ve written about ways to save money decorating numerous times. However, I realize it’s not always easy to find things, even with the search box. So, first, I will link to many of the old posts.

The reality is that decorating on a budget is a VAST topic.

I mean, any one element could be an entire blog post.


However, I’ll also have some new things to say in this post.


And, then, at the end, I’ll include a widget of some of my favorite home furnishings that will help those decorating on a budget, and also some tips for helping some budget items look rich.

Also, where to get the biggest bang, as they say; however, here’s a post that talks about places to splurge and places where it’s safe to spend less. 
I find the place to splurge is on a killer pair of lamps or the throw pillows. And maybe one spectacular cabinet or coffee table. Those are things that will stand out.


The fabric you use for the window treatments, no.


From ten feet away, if the drapes are lined, you won’t see an appreciable difference between the 25-dollar-a-yard linen and the 225-dollar-a-yard linen.

Yet, custom drapes are inherently expensive, so one of my favorite posts is about how to make inexpensive, ready-made curtains look expensive.

This is another post from 2020 about 18 affordable home decor ideas.

You also might enjoy the ultimate guide for decorating on a budget.


For today, I will list my favorite sources when money is tight.


Of course, the best source is anything that’s Free.


  • One of those sources might be the street. Of course, this depends on where you live and the street. However, when I lived in New York City, I saw some fantastic pieces of furniture people no longer wanted and were up for grabs. You could walk around the block, and they’d be gone by the time you did so.
  • Along the same lines is a lovely item or items a friend or family member no longer wants.

Years ago, when son #1 (Yes, Cale) was one, a friend wanted to get rid of her 1970s Thomasville oak sideboard. I told her we’d take it, thinking it would only be for a few years.

Well, two years turned into 22 years! I have no idea what my wasband did with it. However, it served its purpose in our den.



Okay, now it’s time to review my favorite retail sources when decorating on a budget.


Wayfair – Of course, they have home furnishings at all price points and those great open-box prices. And as I said the other day, they have the best customer service!

Etsy – Do you have the Etsy Guide that gets updated every year? If not, you’re missing out on something I should charge more for. Speaking of, as a reminder, at the end of the year, the prices of all of my terrific interior design guides will be going up.

Home Goods and its affiliated companies, TJ Max, Marshall’s, etc. – I love that they often have high-end brands for super-cheap.


eBay –  Seriously, the site is still kind of shlocky looking, but I’ve gotten some fantastic items, including my new kitchen light, which arrived this afternoon. I know. That was lightning fast!

Pottery Barn & West Elm – When I raised my kids in the ’90s and ’00s, half of what we purchased for our home was from PB.

Sometimes, you can find great deals on Chairish. I just found over a dozen wonderful pairs of vintage lamps for under $300 for the pair.

Of course, Amazon. However, please double-check the vendors and read the reviews. If the price is too good to be true, it almost definitely means it’s a fake product.


Now, for a few of my best tips for getting cheap, inexpensive home furnishings to look expensive.


Often, you’ll find a flat factory fake gold or brass finish. Otherwise, the lamp, chandelier, and curtain rod look very nice. Well, paint it! Yes, you can.

About 25 years ago we got a metal chandelier for our dining area from Pottery Barn.  It looked so lovely in the catalog, but when it arrived, it was just plain flat, boring black. So, I grabbed some acrylic paints and my gold rub ‘n buff and gave it a custom paint finish.

Sorry, the image isn’t better, but you understand.

my Zuber screen

I enjoyed looking at that chandelier for many years.

The trick to painting parts of lamps is to either remove whatever isn’t being painted, if you can, or use plastic and tape and make sure it is 100% covered so you don’t get paint on parts not meant to be painted.


Furniture. Yes, you can definitely paint case goods and tables.


But, can you paint upholstery? Yes, again. I painted these chairs over ten years ago. In fact, I’ve seen a couple of videos on Youtube where they painted a velvet sofa and did it in a way that it remained just as soft as it was, originally. The trick was to water down the paint, thus making the paint into a dye, not a viscous acrylic paint that you would put on the walls.


However, speaking of the walls.


There is nothing like a fresh paint job to make things look much better. Before I sold my place in New York, I had everything painted. Oh man, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t done it sooner. Even though it wasn’t bad before, it was so much better afterward.

Okay, I’ve made a lovely widget for you of inexpensive items that either already look much more expensive, or will with a little paint. Some are on sale, and some are inexpensive to begin with. However, since this is a two-part post, I’ve moved the widget down.


For Monday evening, I’d love to expand on this, so please let us know in the comments what you’d like to see more of.



Part 2 Begins Here

Okay, it’s not Monday evening. :]


It’s Tuesday evening. I don’t have a whole lot to add at this point regarding decorating on a budget. There is an updated widget after I’m finished holding you hostage for another minute. ;]

By the way, there are numerous posts I didn’t link to that discuss getting the look for less. Please use the search box to look up individual topics. For example, “cheap curtains,” “cheap sofas,” and “high-low.” That sort of thing.


Otherwise, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, which is going to bed at a more normal time.


Please, no judging. Thank you. :]

In other news,


I was told by the owner, Renzo Van Engelen, that it’s all crated up and ready to go, but I need his bank information to send him the money. No worries. He’s legit. He has a gorgeous website that you can see here.


Some of you have been inquiring about my sources for things I’m putting in my home.


So, I will be making a complete shopping list before long. Please know that I am paying for everything else except for the promised wallpaper and a fantastic recirculating hood insert from Zephyr.

I’m going to look at marble again for my kitchen counters on Thursday.


Tomorrow, September 27th, is the third anniversary of when I first saw my apartment.


After a second viewing, I made the offer on the 28th, and it was accepted the following afternoon.

I never dreamed it would take this long for me to get going with the renovation. Now that I’m beginning to see my long-time-in-planning vision beginning to take shape, it makes me a little teary. Not sad; happy tears.


It’s really happening!


Very soon, they will be able to install the kitchen cabinets!

Okay, here is the updated widget filled with home furnishings that are very reasonably priced, if not incredibly cheap, without being cheap-looking. (Some might need a little help with some paint, but that is not difficult to do.)


Please pin to Pinterest for Reference.

Decorating on a Budget - How to Get the high-end look for Less



Please check out the recently updated HOT SALES!

There is now an Amazon link on my home page and below. Thank you for the suggestion!

Please note that I have decided not to create a membership site. However, this website is very expensive to run. To provide this content, I rely on you, the kind readers of my blog, to use my affiliate links whenever possible for items you need and want. There is no extra charge to you. The vendor you’re purchasing from pays me a small commission.

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Thank you so much!

I very much appreciate your help and support!

28 Responses

  1. Laurel, to the sources for furnishings & decor I would encourage people to check out local auction houses and estate sales. I found an incredible antique 9×12 Sarouk Persian rug at a local auction place (that looks like a complete dump but gets great hauls), which I bought for around $2k. Took it to a professional rug restorer and they said similar rugs sell at a local store STARTING at around $18k! You do have to wade through lots of crap but there are gems to be found!

  2. I’ve been reading about your exciting kitchen! Also about your opinion Re: glass cabinet doors. Wondering what glass you like if there are no muntins? My inserts will be. @12×32 Thanks!

  3. Shopping for countertops? I would LOVE a post about the process – not the technicalities so much as design. Dark? Light? Deep veining? Subtle? Thicker edges? Island different from periphery? Thank you so much for all your wonderful posts.

  4. Hi Laurel! I am loving watching the process of your imagination in designing your new home, and then making that vision real.

    I am redoing my kitchen! refacing my cabinets and painting them with new hardware, and then quartzite tops with the help of a lovely company, KITCHEN DOCTORS (and they truly are ;-).

    And upgrading the lights. I can’t seem to locate your instructions (I’ve lived a ling time) on how to paint and gold leaf items via the link in “So, I grabbed some acrylic paints and my gold rub ‘n buff and gave it a custom paint finish.”

    Would you please post the link to that content?
    Thank you!
    Sally, a big fan for years

  5. Really love this post! Using your Super White palette, and info I gleaned from your posts, I helped design a new build and the interior decorating for our old beach house. It turned out fabulous. We sold it last year to the first people who saw it! I worked in some pieces I bought off Craigslist, Ebay, and Facebook Marketplace. I heavily researched fabrics and their stain resistance/cleanability (as a retired chemist I basically set up a lab in my kitchen haha). I figured out quickly the beautiful white/off-white crypton and the like fabrics from Serena and Lily, Ballard, Pottery Barn, C&B, etc., that I loved, were going to be off limits for me-they all held certain stains. I settled on navy and grey fabrics with high rub counts and sectional/chairs from Maiden Home. Unfortunately, in the process of having mostly nice new furniture for once, I became the ‘Overlord of the Sofa’. I realized I had a problem when I was constantly removing the new custom pillows I bought on Etsy from behind my husband’s back and told him he must remove them all before sitting on the (deep-thus needing pillows) couch- to which he said “can’t I even enjoy sitting on my own %$# furniture?” Talk about anxiety while watching my grown kids eat popcorn on it enjoying a movie. I’ve resolved to turn my thinking around about this.

    We are starting a reno of an old home we bought to retire in. At times in the summer we will have 20 people sleeping there and almost 30 for dinners. An outside shower will help. I want to have a feeling like my parent’s house-everyone felt so welcomed and comfortable there because of their relaxed attitude. My mind’s eye sees comfort and relaxation in British designs, not so much in US designs. (Except Maura Endres’ home looks comfy.) If you designed a room for a British customer that liked Ben Pentreath (love your posts about him) and Carlos Garcia (toned down a little) and some worn flattened chair cushions, and no karate-chop pillows, and ottomans to kick up your feet on (gasp), what would your rooms look like?

    P.S. That sectional and chairs took a ride in a U-Haul to my Daughter/Son-in-Law’s new house in Boston area. Along with helping them get their new (super old and tiny) house and another daughter get a (shoe-box-size) condo in Boston (paid insanely high prices but they are out from under the thumbs of their Comm Ave slum/land/lords), I gave them a lot of my furniture that they were grateful to have. I’m on Facebook Marketplace every night looking for deals for all of us!

  6. Great post. I love mixing high and low. Remember Metropolitan Home used to do that years ago? Loved seeing the opening picture of Melissa’s sunroom. Can’t wait until we finish and you have the whole room!

  7. Just saw on town website in Marblehead MA that the local Lee Museum is having a yard sale with two huge areas filled with lots of great stuff. This happens all the time all over the place. Five+ years ago when we sold our home there and needed to be out in TWO weeks, we were incredibly lucky that two churches were having sales that weekend. Had a lifetime of stuff to get rid off…and a cross country move to make…so they each got a great donation. Beautiful DR set, sofas, small table, drapes & rods, we no longer wanted/needed. Win, Win! Our mover also has a storage unit where he puts good stuff that folks want to get rid off…then he resells…he got my wicker. Realtors are also good connections. Our new place was stuffed to the gills with Asian antiques…estate sale. He gave us first dibs on anything. Make connections in your own town or village. People can be so helpful.

  8. You are right on time as always! Love this post, Ive gone to estate sales and my one lucky experience was a framed picture that was bought for $50… It was a custom frame that would have set me back a couple $100’s I ripped out the picture and had glass inserted.. That framed mirror stayed with me for 20 years above a fireplace and later as wardrobe mirror, later sold for $100 when I
    moved. Dont be shy at estate sales, you can find some lovely items for little money

  9. Great post as always. Would love to see more tips for hiding ugly things you can’t afford to renovate (walls, railings, fireplaces, etc.) I once saw a designer build a slatted panel to cover one of those 70s brick fireplace walls. Such a wonderful solution and cheap.

    When we were rebuilding our 1911 house, we were snowed under by debt and the finishing budget was nonexistant. My housemate called me Our Lady of Aquisitions, or Ola for short. I was always finding things on the street or online at buy and sell markets. My EBay 1920s painted milk glass and brass dining fixture was a showstopper and cost $99. The finds made the finsihed home so much more personal and unique in the end.

  10. I would love more posts about budget decorating. I find great things in all sorts of places and think if you have an eye for copying the great design examples you give us, Laurel, a lot can be accomplished for much less. I would be sending you photos if my life were not chaos. My flooring disaster has morphed into a long story. That and other events are taking all of my time right now.
    However, my vintage finds via everything from ebay to craigslist have been wonderful. My budget is now zero. Absolutely zero but I found a painting I wanted desperately this week. I could not pull the trigger because, zero. My art collection is eclectic and virtually every piece has a deep meaning in my life. This latest reproduction that I cannot afford right now would also have had a deep connection to my life. I am hoping it will still be available, if and when my finances recover.

  11. I call my condo “the house that estate sales, Facebook Marketplace, thrift and consignment stores, eBay and hand-me-downs built.” Save for a few lamps, literally everything in my home is from these sources. Here are some of my best finds from this summer:

    A 36” square Chinese Chippendale coffee table that had seen better days, but with all of the fretwork intact and in perfect condition, for $7.99 at Savers Thrift Store (!!!!!!! I swear I almost wet my pants right in the middle of the aisle!). I had it lacquered a great tomato red — Benjamin Moore Caliente.

    A $10 Dorothy Draper-style white and beige lamp with raised bamboo-like detail on Facebook Marketplace. A pair of them was listed as sold on Chairish for $1,600 (but who knows what the real sales price was).

    An absolutely perfect Baker Chinese Chippendale desk at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store for $60. Its twin was listed on eBay for $2,500 and the listing description said the actual retail price was in the $15,000 range. 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

    And that’s just a few. It really IS possible to find wonderful, classic, high-quality and beautiful pieces for next to nothing. And the hunt is so much fun!

    Wish I could figure out how to send photos here in the comment section. If anyone can help this tech dinosaur here, I’d be happy to share!

  12. Hi Laurel! I just bought that China Village Scene art print from your site – gorgeous! And brilliant of you to flag it, thank you so much!!

  13. Upgrading a lampshade is a great way to freshen up an old or inexpensive lamp. I am loving the print/patterned shades I see right now; Ballard is a good source for more moderately priced ones and I’ve also seen DIY tutorials. It’s amazing how expensive lamps have gotten in the past few years—it used to be $500 seemed ‘high’ to me and now I routinely see $800-1000+.
    After one failed experiment in our study with an inexpensive coffee table, I’d rather search FB Marketplace or estate sales for something used. Highly recommend that route…it takes time and lots of browsing and ‘saving’ items to curate your feed but there is some beautiful stuff to be had!

    My favorite posts of yours are your high-low takes on a designer room.

    Have a lovely Sunday!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      I know. It seems there are two price-points for lamps, super cheap and hellishly expensive.

      I love the high-low posts too, and would love to do more, however, I’ve had problems with copyright trolls
      trying to extort insane sums of money for a couple of photos. Ummm, no. I should be charging them a fee for the
      free advertising they are getting on my website! Of course, I’m not going to do that, either.

      Of course, if someone uploads that same image to their instagram or other social media, nothing will happen.

  14. I’ve been following you for years, and have shared your blog with many. I love your design style, how you share your knowledge with us, and your humor is such an added bonus! I so look forward to your posts with my morning coffee. I do have an idea on how you might expand on furnishings for less. For those of us who must think deeply about purchasing even that $50. throw pillow, could you do periodic posts strictly devoted to discounted options. Imagine widgets that focused on Home Goods, or Amazon, or Target! Just a thought. Absolutely love what you’re doing in Boston. Many thanks for the work you do.

  15. Depending on the age of your house, changing out the door hardware can make a difference in the look of your house & easy to accomplish. With the kids out of college, we now live in our wonderful 1937 built house but prior to that, our 1953 house had played “brass-like” hardware, which when changed out with a clean designed lever bought at our local big box home store made a huge difference in the feel of our flush panel doors. This is easy to accomplish with minimal skills.

  16. Framing art can be expensive. Sometimes you can find the right size frame at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or Target. When you have a non-standard size piece of art that you need to frame, you can have a custom sized frame made at They offer both custom cut mats and custom cut frames. You order the frames and/or mats, and you frame your art yourself. This is more expensive than the previously-mentioned standard size sources, but less expensive than having the piece custom framed.

  17. Hi Laurel. Could you say something about how placement and styling make things look more expensive, maybe with some examples if that chimes for you. Like, the right scale, evening up window tops etc. I rely on my husband (I do the soft furnishings) to make what we can’t afford. For example, we couldn’t afford long single-length curtain poles but I found some ash boat poles on the internet. We found some finials in a charity shop, then cut them into the (what do you call it?) doughnut shape I like and stained and waxed everything the same shade as the rings I bought. The whole house now has the same curtain rods and it makes it look like we thought about it, even though people don’t usually notice them individually. Is that the underlying principle – it looks more expensive when it looks like you thought it through?

    1. Hi Kim,

      The one thing I feel cheapens a room is where EVERYTHING is a one-off. In other words, there are no pairs of anything. It starts to look like a tag sale, especially if there are too many styles that don’t compliment the rest of the styles. There are some posts about styling on this website. Please try using the search box.

  18. I am still at the just dreaming stage of life. With a bunch of kids and the youngest is just two, we have a lot of Ikea and hand me downs. But, oh well, then it doesn’t hurt so bad when the two year old finds a permanent marker or someone spills something.

    Gradually I’m trying to get nice things. When we need something, I like to look on Craigslist or OfferUp or garage sales and sometimes I get lucky to find a really nice quality piece of furniture for very little money. Last year I wanted to find a shelf or something to store the kids’ games and school supplies. We lucked out and found a beautiful cabinet for $50 that was handmade in Japan. The joinery on this thing is beautiful. My husband loves wood working (and makes us furniture when he has the time) and has had so much fun looking at how it was built. He said it was an education. 😁

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

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