Give Your Living Room Timeless Character With Thrifty Finds

Your living room is where you gather with friends and family, so the space should be both cozy and stylish. Achieve big style on a small budget with vintage pieces found at flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales.

Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep

It's not uncommon to find brand-name, well-built, sturdy sofas that are in great condition but have an upholstery fabric that is stained or doesn't work with your decor. Premade slipcovers have come a long way and can be an economical alternative to buying a new sofa or having a piece reupholstered. Slipcovers can also be made out of inexpensive painter's drop cloths for those handy with a sewing machine.

Pretty and Practical

For slightly awkward or unused areas in a corner or under a window, or for a space that transitions into another room, use a petite secretary for paying bills, completing kids' homework assignments or working on a laptop. Small chests of drawers or drop-leaf tables are also great multifunctional pieces that don't take up too much space.

Before: Good Bones

When shopping for used upholstered pieces, always give the upholstery the "sniff test." Smoke and pet odors can be difficult to remove, and padding is costly to replace. Look for pieces with sturdy solid wood frames, soft padding and foam, and nice lines. Don't be afraid to lift up cushions and test out the piece before you buy. A $15 chair isn't a bargain if it ends up in the trash a few weeks later.

After: Found Fabrics

Think beyond the fabric store when looking for upholstery fabric. Vintage and antique grain sacks make for hardwearing, durable and unique upholstery material. Wash them in the washer to eliminate odors or stains, then line dry prior to use.

Coffee Table Talk

The coffee table can be one of the most versatile pieces in a living room. Think beyond the traditional and look for something unexpected. A higher table can be a great place to pull up a couple of chairs for a game of cards, an old steamer trunk provides great storage and loads of charm, and an industrial cart is a great conversation piece and can be wheeled around and used where needed.

Shop for Storage With an Open Mind

Don't look at furniture strictly for how it's meant to be used; rather, think about how it could be used. Dressers and buffets make great stands for flat-screen TVs or stylish storage for toys and games. Wardrobes can also stand in for storage of books, movies, and extra throws and pillows.

Make Minor Alterations

If using an antique or vintage buffet or dresser to house TV components, simply remove a few drawers to slide in a game console or cable box. Drill a hole in the back to run cords through and provide ventilation. Closed storage is great for concealing remotes, movies, cables and games.

Perfect Pillows

Vintage fabrics like ticking, linen tea towels and bedroom pillow cases can easily be made into a toss pillow cover with basic sewing skills. Look for fabric that is machine washable and free of holes or stains that cannot be removed. Use ribbons or buttons for a simple closure that allows the cover to be removed and washed.

Occasional Chairs

Chairs that are small in scale and easy to move around are a great addition to any living room. When guests are over, it's nice to have some flexibility with seating arrangements and that's hard to achieve with only large, bulky furniture. Armchairs that were once a part of a full dining set are ideal for this use and are very easy to make over with paint and simple upholstery.

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