BFHU – adding style

A budget friendly house update (BFHU) style edition.


Tada!  The living room is complete.  While there are still things I may want to change eventually, for now it is balanced and happy.   In my quest to create a serene living space I learned quite a bit.  Those nuggets of wisdom are memorialized in the below list of do’s and don’ts.  And for full disclosure I included a summary of my costs.  Spoiler alert– I did go over budget by $24.

(the before and after)

As you can see in the previous post, we managed to spiff up the fireplace and shelves in the living room with some simple white paint.  With no style direction though, the improvements fell short.  The room felt unfinished.  It felt eclectic and cluttered and I was stressing about it.  The room was giving me anxiety.  Silly maybe, but true.

Do’s and Don’ts of Style on a Budget

  • Do have a clear picture of the style you are wanting and stick to it.  This was really hard for me because I love lots of styles and tend to change my mind frequently.  This may be fine when choosing an outfit to wear, but it can get really costly and time consuming with interior decorating.
  • Do choose a neutral color palette for the walls and furniture.  This is particularly true if you are someone who wants to change up the style of your room regularly.  You can then mix up the style on a whim with less costly and easy to switch out pillows, throws, side tables, and other accents pieces.
  • Do research to learn what you like and discover your style goal.  I spent a week looking at photos of living rooms on Houzz, going to open houses, flipping through home decor magazines (Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Anthropologie Home, Pottery Barn, and Wayfair to name a few).  I would take pictures of anything that caught my fancy, and then review the photos later for patterns and common elements.  I noticed that I was gravitating toward rooms with lots of light and white, and loads of texture.  And so my style goal took shape:  a clutter free contemporary light drenched room with lots of white and cream and accented with pieces having cozy textures.
  • Do identify the pieces you have that you love and incorporate them.  For me these were the coffee table, white throw blanket, and gold polka dot pillow.  These are the pieces that make me happy whenever I see them.
  • Do set a budget.  Once you have a style goal, figure out how much you’re willing to spend to achieve it, and the cost range of the items you want in your ideal space.  Then start prioritizing.  For me, I could not afford to go over $1,500, and I felt that (in additional to painting the fireplace and shelves white) changing up the rug would make the biggest impact.  So while I don’t really love the current couch and chairs, given their relatively neutral color I figured I could work with them.
  • Do get rid of clutter.  Getting rid of clutter is the most cost effective thing you can do to improve the space.  If you don’t love it and you don’t absolutely need it – get rid of it.
  • Don’t buy things just because they are on sale.  This goes out to all you Target shoppers.  I know how it is.  You go in for toilet paper and socks and you come out with a decorative deer bust, cutesy burlap wall decor, throw pillows, candle holders, and maybe even a rug.  These impulse buys are mistakes you make when you don’t have a clear style plan.  They’re on sale and you think you’re saving money, but more often than not they’re a total waste.  Don’t do it.  Focus on getting a style plan first, and then if you find something on sale that fits into that plan – GREAT!  Plan first, shop second.
  • Don’t shop where you can’t afford.  It’s just a depressing time suck.  I love Restoration Hardware stuff, so I look through their catalogs for inspiration – but for this project I did not set foot in their store.  I was in love with an RH fireplace screen, but at $600 my budget would have quickly be blown.
  • Don’t ask everyone for their opinion.  Asking lots of people with differing style persuasions will yield many opinions and could lead to self doubt, frustration, and even depression.  Don’t do it.  Limit your opinion asking to a very short list (1-3 max) of people whose style you admire.

(before and after)


Total cost:

  • Souk Wool Rug from West Elm.  The 9×12 is normally $1,329, but I was able to snag it on sale.  Still with tax and shipping it ended up being right at $1,000.  It was important to me to have a good quality real wool rug, so I was fine with spending the bulk of my budget here.  Still that meant only $500 for any and everything else.  Eek.
  •  Ultra Plush Rug Pad on Amazon.  The 9×12 rug pad cost roughly $75 and included free shipping.
  • Pleasant Hearth Fireplace Screen on Amazon. The screen cost me $75 (a tiny fraction of the cost of the RH one) and I love it!
  • Bevel Rectangular Mirror from Pottery Barn.  On this item I really lucked out.  I saw it in store, but at $399 it was beyond my reach.  Then a few days later I happened upon it at a warehouse sale for $190 and snatched it up!
  • Gallery Carbon 5×7 Picture Frame from CB2 for $40 each; so for 2 I spent $80.
  • Faux Fur Euro Pillow at Target on sale for $25 (orig. $35).
  • Blown Glass Lantern at Target for $17.  I bought 2, so $34, to balance each other on the shelves, but one is currently acting as a flower vase elsewhere.
  • Stainless Steel Lantern at Target on sale for $5 (orig. $19).  I found this lantern on clearance at my local Target and I really quizzed myself on whether or not it fit into my style plan or if I was just buying it because it was on such a good sale.  Clearly I decided it fit, but do beware of impulse sale purchases!
  •   Orchids and succulents.  These I picked up at my local Home Depot.  The orchid was about $20, and the succulents about $2.50 each x 8, or $20, for a total of $40.

TOTAL:  $1,524

I admit I came in slightly over budget… but overall I’m super happy with the results.


And finally, a HUGE shout out to my extremely talented mom who created the painting of Charles Bridge for the room, complete with gold splatters to compliment my favorite gold polka dot pillow.  It is true that most custom art would have thrown this project way off budget, but thankfully I was able to pay her in peanut M&Ms and diet Dr. Pepper.  THANK YOU MOM!!

(FYI – turn books around for a more neutral palette)

Happy renovating!

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