Friday, November 9, 2012

Debt-Free Decorating, Day 4

Today is the penultimate day of my mini series on debt-free decorating, and I am writing about how to fill your house with furniture and accessories when you have no budget for them. This might be relevant for someone who is just starting out after college, a family that has moved to a larger home, or even someone decorating a cottage or second home.

In my case, I was starting over. When I got divorced, I moved out of the "marital home". To minimize the trauma for my children who would still be living there part-time, and because the duplex I was going to be renting was only 600 square feet, I took very little with me. Then I moved to my current house and needed to fill much more space.

This little chess table of my grandpa's worked great in the teensy kitchen of our rental,
but we needed something more substantial when we moved to our house.

1) First things first
When you are acquiring furniture and accessories for a new place, think about your priorities, or "put first things first". Everyone is going to need a bed. You'll need somewhere to eat meals. You should have something to sit on for visiting, reading, or watching TV. That's pretty much it. Keeping this in mind can help you avoid panicking or making unnecessary purchases.

2) Call your contacts
Before you hit the stores, think about who might have what you need. No matter how old I get, my parents are always the first place I turn. They have handed-down lots of things to me over the years, and I even have some things that belonged to their friends! 

One big example of a hand-me-down is my pink couch, which my parents used in their formal living room, but actually was a piece that my grandmother bought in the 1950s. Or, according to one family legend, it came over on the boat when my great-grandparents emigrated to the U.S. Who knows? It's old, but sturdy with classic lines. My mom had it re-upholstered in the 90's in a good quality fabric, which has further extended its life.


People who are moving to smaller homes or combining households are another great source for furniture. My brown couch was given to me when my friend got married. It had originally been a wedding gift to her in-laws! Since they are my age, this is not a very young couch either. But, like "pinky", is also well-made and sturdy. 

Many communities have Freecycle, an online forum where people can trade items that no longer work for them. I am in a group like this with other moms from my kids' school, and have gotten a few things for the house (and missed out on a few more cute things...).

Living in a college town, I have also gotten some free things that were intended for the trash man (cue the Sanford & Son theme song). It may sound terrible or gross, but people are moving and don't necessarily have the time or resources to properly get rid of their stuff. I scored a great desk from the curb outside an apartment building one warm spring day. Cleaned up, it makes a great entertainment center in our basement. 

Both of these chairs have been part of my
living room decor at some point.

3) Re-purpose
Another way to furnish your home is to re-purpose items. Many times in the past I have added extra seating to a room by bringing in chairs meant for the outdoors. Add some pillows or a throw to create softness, and you're all set. --Like the trash man suggestion above, I hesitated to mention this as a strategy because it might seem kind of out there. But in his book No Place Like Home designer Stephen Saint-Onge recommends this exact strategy as a way to give your room a new look. Page 37. So, boom!

4) Thrift
When you must buy, go cheap. I've gotten dining chairs from Target, bar stools from e-Bay, and tray tables (that make great little side tables) from Wal-Mart. Other good places to find bargain prices are HomeGoods, IKEA, World Market/Costplus, and Craig's List. If you can paint or sew, you're even better situated to make something inexpensive look like it's extra-special.

5) Splurge strategically
Some things you will have to spend money on, in which case, go for quality. You might really want good bedding or towels (Pottery Barn usually has a pretty awesome selection of clearance items in this section). 

Or, you can trompe l'oeil a pulled-together, hand-me-down room by adding some luxurious-looking pillow covers or fancier picture frames on the wall. In some ways, furniture can fade into the background whereas accessories pop out. If you put more attention into these elements, your room will feel richer.

As I look around my house and mentally calculate the cost of what I have, I am shocked by how little I have spent. Even better is that the things I do have tell a story about my journey and the people who've helped me along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Carrie, I love this post. Great practical advice. Thanks so much for linking up :)


Thanks so much for commenting! I love to read what you have to say. ~Carrie


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