20 Budget-Friendly Living Room Ideas
Pinch pennies without skimping on style. Get inspired with 20 money-smart decorating ideas for your living room.
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Draw Attention to Details
Arizona designer Kirsten Holmstedt focused a gleaming brass picture light on the colorful abstract painting in this serene space. For a small (and inexpensive) accessory, that piece is doing a lot of work. The metallic tone adds a shimmer to the otherwise matte space. The illumination it provides will both accent the art and highlight the angles of the molding once the sun goes down.
Create Custom Shelving
No built-ins? No problem. This luxe-looking installation is plywood cut to size and painted to match the gray-blue brick fireplace and recessed spaces on either side of it. The thin white oak strips trimming the edges of the shelves are repurposed scraps from the home’s kitchen island (a reminder that you never know when leftovers might come in handy).
Splash Out on Wall Treatments
In a diminutive studio apartment like this one, the “living room” needs all the definition — and character that doesn’t gobble up floor space — it can get. The wall behind the console is adorned with removable wallpaper, and the wall behind the sofa sports hand-painted watercolor pinstripes.
Designer Natalie Myers filled this contemporary southern California space with toss pillows and an area rug in bold (but small-scale) patterns. Instead of flooding the room with assorted pieces on a gallery wall, she offset all those patterned textiles with a single, larger-than-life watercolor print.
Give 'Em the Slip
Custom-made, kid-friendly slipcovers can ring in at a quarter of the cost of reupholstering a sofa. The crisp white fabric Natalie Myers chose for this piece suits the room’s neutral, organic mood beautifully. If her clients feel like a makeover a year from now, they can make it happen in minutes.
Double Down on Vintage Pieces
This pair of graphic ‘70s pieces were $225 at an Atlanta midcentury-modern boutique, but their effect is priceless. They establish a retro mood and color story for the room that carries tones and artwork throughout the home.
Find Artwork on a Dime
Scour flea markets, estate sales and eBay for inexpensive artwork. Designer Emily Henderson creates a gallery display with her flea market finds.
Buy Antiques and Update
Buy classic pieces with good bones and reupholster them. This antique sofa was purchased on Craigslist and reupholstered in an oyster chenille fabric.
Buy Frames in Bulk
The spectacular photography wall in this Brooklyn apartment uses standard mats and frames for a dramatic cumulative effect. Keep your eyes peeled for seasonal sales at art and craft stores, and don’t be shy about filling your cart. You can often score even deeper discounts for larger purchases.
Idaho designer Judith Balis accented this breezy modern farmhouse by putting a new (and wallet-friendly) spin on architectural salvage. She used nine small, mismatched pieces of vintage molding to create a one-of-a-kind installation in a corner of the open living room.
Draping sheepskins over chairs to add luxurious texture is a tried and true designer move. Manufactured versions are easier on eyes and you. They’re both less expensive and significantly easier to clean.
Or Go Natural
Bamboo shades and a sisal area rug add texture and warmth to this beachy Santa Monica bungalow. Designer Alexis Manfer used those affordable fibers as a base for the coastal design style she developed with a live-edge coffee table, indigo-dyed armchairs and aqueous artwork.
There was no fireplace or other obvious focal point in this townhouse's living room, so the designer used gray shiplap to create an accent wall, then layered mirrors and other textures on top.
Think Inside the (Big) Box
Designer Rydhima Brar’s clients brought an eclectic array of pieces from Europe and Kuwait to adorn this living room. That one-of-a-kind assortment gave her the freedom to supplement their belongings with affordable items from stores like Ikea. The takeaway? Trust thoughtfully chosen basics to take on character from pieces with backstories.
Finesse the Fireplace
Gleaming gold mantel brackets, reclaimed wood and an ornate grate give this crisp modern hearth a triple hit of charisma. They’re surrounded by simple installations. An array of low-maintenance house plants balances the room’s warm flooring, credenza and textile art.
Try a Wallpaper Vignette
This dazzling living room’s unusual architecture makes the proposition of adding built-in shelving a tricky one — and since this home is a rental — it’s an unrewarding one at that. Rydhima Brar solved the design dilemma by using eye-popping removable wallpaper to frame a tall ebony bookcase. Paired with the bold print, the dark wood piece looks like it was made to fill the space’s narrow recess.
Perform a Makeunder
Designer Alison Jennison put her own Brooklyn townhouse’s best foot forward by letting it go barefoot, as it were. Instead of whitewashing or accessorizing its exposed brick, she accented it with minimalist ladder shelves on either side of the fireplace. The fireplace itself is additional proof that less is much more, as Jennison removed six coats of paint to reveal its original (and gorgeous) stone face.
This French country inspired coffee table is a two-part salvage project. Its white top was once a bead board door and its dark, geometric body was once the frame of a rope bed.
Broaden Your Search
Designer Aletha VanderMass let this living room’s original midcentury wall inspire her wide-ranging scavenger hunt for the perfect pieces to fill it. The vintage tables on either side of the sofa? Craigslist finds, $50 each. The Sputnik pendant that completes the space? A reasonably priced reproduction from a Los Angeles prop house.
Tablescape an Old Favorite
Browse local vintage stores and Etsy for eye-catching, contrasting finds like leaded glass candlesticks and a sculptural mineral specimen. Add even more visual interest by layering some curios atop coffee table books with graphic covers.