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Hipsters to the Rescue: Tips Needed for Redecorating & Furnishing on a Budget

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(Photo Credit: Pottery Barn Kids)

Today’s Hipsters to the Rescue post interests me as I am always looking for ways to spruce up different rooms in my home without spending too much money (or even better, without spending any money at all). In the past few months, quite a few readers have emailed me asking for cheap (but hip! :D) redecorating and furnishing tips and secrets.

Check out some of their emails below…

Wondering how to redo a kids (toddler) room for cheap, but yet make it look really nice . I love the look of Pottery Barn but they cost more than what I want to spend and just wondering maybe where to look for coupons for their website store or “how to’s” on making items like theirs for cheap ? Or where knock off items are at?

Hi Collin! I was hoping you could help me out. I’ve just signed the lease on my first apartment, but now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to furnish it. I have a mattress (but no bed frame), a TV, and a small bookshelf. Yikes! I’m also a college student, and can’t afford much. I’ve tried the obvious places – Craigslist and Ebay, asking around for unwanted furniture, but so far I haven’t been able to find anything. Any help is appreciated!

You and your readers have such good ideas and I could use their help. My son is (finally) moving into his first apartment. We told him we would help get it ready with all the “stuff” you need. Not that I want to spoil him but I want him to have a sense of pride with this new home and phase in his life. I need help figuring out how to do so without breaking the bank. Any ideas??? Sites??? Thanks

Hi Collin! My husband and I just moved out of my in-law’s home and to another state recently. Since we were living at a fully furnished home, we left with very few furnishings to fill our new place and are looking to buy several new pieces to make it a home. However, we do not want to spend a fortune on furniture, so my question to you is how or where can we buy good quality furniture for cheap? How do you get deals on big ticket items like these? Thank you for all your help in advance, I read your blog religiously!!

So now it’s your turn!! Share your tips and tricks with us! ๐Ÿ˜€

Join The Discussion

Comments 182

  1. Jennifer

    I love Overstock.com for furniture. They have some great stuff at really good prices and they often have deals where they will ship for a flat fee of like $2.95! I have purchased beds and other large items from them and always loved my purchases. Check out their clearance section too.

  2. irene

    Starting out, most of my finds were discards in nice neighborhoods. You’d be surprised what people toss out. Also, yard sales were such fun ways to bargain hunt. Now that our house is full, I move things around from room to room to update.

  3. Katie

    Dumpster Diving!!! I furnished my first apartment this way and had TONS of pride in what I used. If you live near a university/college, find out when all the apartments lease’s end. I used to live in a town where everyone moved out of their apartments on August 31st, and into their new apartment on September 1st. Apartment complexes would set up huge dumpsters because people would toss so much furniture. 85% of the stuff that is tossed is in good condition. The other 15% can be spruced up with some creativity and a coat of paint.
    So find out when people move, and start diving through these dumpsters a week or two before the move. (If you get too close to the move, you get actual trash). Also, this is the best time to search craigslist for free/discounted stuff. Everyone’s willing to sell their stuff at the last minute for super cheap rather than throwing it out.

  4. Cynthia

    Be patient to catch the deals. I have slowly been purchasing items for my 2 teen boys over the past few months to redo their rooms. I have learned to wait for good sales and coupons. For instance…the recent $10 on $25 deals at JCP. I was able to purchase $100 worth of thermal curtains, taxes and shipping and paid only $27 total. I could have purchsed more items that I found I liked, but I know they offer deals weekly..so I will wait until the next good sale to purchase more. It takes patience, but I have managed to purchase a queen memory foam 10″ mattress, 2″ twin memory foam topper, 4 thermal drapes, twin bed in bag set & a queen duvet set all for around $425 so far and all delivered to my door step. Also, shop around seasons/events…if you are in college or have a teen..then shop after the “back to school/college” timeframe. You can score good deals on clearance items if you wait. I also shop craigslist and refurbish old items using bhg, hgtv, diy, etc. as inspiration.

  5. Lynne Wright

    Don’t underestimate a good quality air / blow up matress/bed. I slept on one for almost three years. They are easy if you are on limited space – you can deflate your bed every morning and reinflate at night. Much of the furniture I own has been repurposed from thrift, flea markets, garage sales and estate sales. Estate sales on the last day are usually really good for finding odds and ends at bargain prices – people pick out all the antiques the first day or two and the last day – you may find usuable tables, chairs, large items and kitchen wares for dirt cheap.

  6. Sharon

    I am not sure if we can mention websites, but I found one called
    Richmondthrifter.blogspot.com She owns a home decor shop, and shows people how to take inexpensive/cheap/free finds and turn them into Pottery Barn etc. look alikes. I have had a great time getting great ideas from her. Hope this helps

  7. Jen

    IKEA!!! Seriously — their stuff isn’t made to last forever, but some pieces have tons of style and are featured in magazines.

    Paint. Don’t underestimate the power of even a single wall painted in a bold lovely color.

    Wall decor. Go for it — I’ve used wrapping paper, old wallpaper samples, interesting leaves dipped in paint and used like a stamp….ummm….just about anything to create an interesting wall effect. You can go to estate or garage sales and pick up frames on the cheap — don’t be afraid of the old, beat up ones or ones that don’t match. Also, don’t forget to play with perspective. Some of the best pictures I have in my bedroom came from an old book of black and white pictures of Paris — $5 at a book sale. I used old black frames and mats — moved around the mats until it framed the picture in an interesting way.

    Furniture on the cheap? Well…..start with your bedroom. Don’t have a headboard? Make one — one idea I’ve been kicking around involves a wooden frame and 2″ grosgrain ribbon woven to create a shimmery effect. Pick up a few yards of a great fabric and staple it onto a wooden frame. Cheap & easy to change. In my experience, finding couches on the cheap that don’t look shabby is hard to do. That’s one area where I’ve always just bought it, albeit at a discount store like Weekends Only. Don’t ever say “I’ll use a slipcover or have it reupholstered” — reupholstering is expensive and slipcovers never seem to sit right. Coffee tables, side tables can all be made from large pots, oak barrels, whatever you can find on the cheap in your area.

    Hope that helps!

  8. mg

    Looking for free stuff – don’t forget freecycle.org! For the college student…have fun with it. I had some friends with an apartment in college and they had borrowed patio furniture in their kitchen (they had to give it back come spring) so they had fun with it by making their kitchen beachy/outdoorsy beach balls around and white christmas lights, etc. It sounds silly but everyone loved it and many thought it was intentional.

    I’ve been looking for tips for decorating and I recently found many blogs, including Thrive (http://choosetothrive.blogspot.com) where the writer has made over most of her house spending very little (zero at times). She has very creative ideas and homemade knockoffs that look amazing and not too difficult. I saw some other blogs with knock-off how-to’s but I didn’t bookmark them (it exists if you google it though).

    One easy nursery tip is wall art. If you have photoshop you can put together word art and print it at home or order a print (walgreen’s freebie?) or print/paint/decoupage on a canvas (http://formamas.blogspot.com/2011/07/picture-canvas.html) or paint on a piece of wood. We just did some song lyrics and sayings for our kids room.

    As for kids starting off on their own in the future, I started keeping my eyes open a couple of years ahead of time (not intentionally – I unexpectedly moved home after college because the best opportunity was there) and I found great deals – a set of Pfalzgraff dishes at the dollar store, small appliances on clearance or store closing sales, furniture to refinish from people upgrading (even a single chair can work!), a mirror with glass from the glass cutter and an unfinished frame from a Michaels coupon, postcards matted and framed in cheap/free frames. A can of paint helped tie everything together and most of the things were on clearance because they were last year’s trend (in the kitchen? who cares!) so it was surprisingly easy to find things that went together because they were all the same trend.

  9. Anonymous

    If you live near a hotel that is being remodeled, ask the manager if you can purchase some furniture items before they are sold to one of those liquidation places. The hotel I work for sold solid wood furniture in good to excellent condition for $5.00 each piece! Also, shop at a liquidation store. Goodwills, Salvation Army stores, and thrift stores are great for “retro” furniture — a current favorite of young adults. Also, check the clearance section on shop at home websites. I personally love the Nate Berkus collection on HSN.com. I always wait until his pillows, rugs, and other accessories go on “deep” clearance, and I buy my larger ticket items at discount stores. Mix and match dicounted designer items with discount store items and can still achieve that 100% designer look! Lastly, shop at a Rent-a-Center type store and ask about the furniture the has been repossessed or returned that can not be sold or re-rented due to condition issues or discontinuation. You can sometimes bargain with the manager for these items and the repairs or restorations can be very easy.

  10. vickie

    I have made it a point to hit Salvation Army every Wednesday. Almost everything they have is half off. I purchased an oil painting framed from Michael’s and it is my favorite picture and only paid 19 dollars. They even have new furniture. Check it out, their stores have been nice when I have gone there to shop.

  11. Doxy

    In my early years of starting to furnish my house I used a Old Cable spool, (like you see laying by the electrical workers) for my coffee table, a little stain, paint or even a cheap piece of material on top made a very sturdy piece of furniture. Also I needed some seating so I took 2 old kitchen chairs and set them side by side, used a zip tie to keep them together, threw an old comforter over them, placed some cheap throw pillows on the chairs, (looked like a loveseat)!! Good luck.

  12. AmandaBeth

    Rooms can be expensive a good way of redoing a room is to start with a comforter set that you really like & a neutral toned wall! I am in love with a can of paint in a great accent color to spruce up frames & tissue boxes! & pretty much anything you find at a thrift store!

    another thing to think about is contact paper you can cut it & make room decals which is super simple & won’t mess up the walls! You’d be suprised at how good some different sized circles can make a room!

  13. Michelle

    If you have patients and do not need any items NOW you can always hit auctions. Bad weather ones are really always the best we’ve found out. Do a search for the items your looking for and head over to auctions for you shopping fix and cheap items. We got a solid wood large kitchen table for $10. Sometimes, they do need to either have mionor repairs or painted.

  14. DCGal

    Ikea. We always get compliments on our Ikea furniture. And in general it seems to hold up pretty well. We’ve had some of our items for over 10 years and it still looks/functions as good as the first day we bought it. Beyond the pain of putting them together the first time, they have been fantastic additions.

    We’ve also had great luck just putting out to our friends and family that we’re looking for old stuff. It is amazing what people come up with. I furnished my first apartment almost completely with items friends and family had no use for any more. I always offered to pay and people were more than fair, usually throwing in a few extra items.

  15. jma280

    I made my own decorative “decals” with fabric! i ironed on 3 layers of fabric paper to the back of fabric, cut out a tree design and leaves, birds, etc, and it was then stiff enough to put on the wall with art gum. i added a cheap birdhouse with a nightlight to it mounted on the wall.

    they are staying well so far, as long as they are not touched a ton or rubbed on something they shouldn’t fray.

  16. Amanda

    Couple of ideas:
    I made my own no-sew curtains with heat-n-bond. No one is looking at the backs of your curtains to see if they’re perfectly sewn.
    I have a friend who used a decorative towel bar and two towel rings (like you’d hang hand towels on in your bathroom) to string two very long pieces of chiffon fabric over her bed like a canopy. She mounted the bar from the ceiling at the head of the bed and let the extra fabric hang behind the headboard. She mounted one ring at each corner foot, again from the ceiling, and draped the fabric to the floor. Beautiful!
    I also second the contact paper/wall art idea. I found a roll of silver, cut out a zillion little stars and placed them on a dark blue wall. It was like $4!

  17. liz

    BLOGS! I wanted to decorate a room with teal and I typed “teal blog” in the the search engine. Turns out there are great design ideas and blogs generally help to do it on the cheap. When I was in college the Pottery Barn Outlet threw away their furiture. We would open up the dumpster at night (the dumpster was bigger than my bedroom) and find tons of great stuff in brand new condition. Still in the boxes! And there was no actual “trash” in the dumpster so no worries about smells, germs etc. They have dumpster police now, but I am sure other outlets are doing the same thing. I also live in a neighborhood with very small houses. It is amazing what people throw out every week. I have a patio set, kitchen table, swing set, and many more, all from the trash. I allways look at the lines on furniture. If they look good but the wood is ugly, I simply paint it. Look at painted furniture blogs for that.

  18. MommySpendsLess

    For the lady looking for Pottery Barn style for toddlers, here’s a link I found when I was redecorating my daughter’s room:

    http://pblookalikes.blogspot.com/2011/03/pottery-barn-kids-brooke-and-daisy.html

    And here are a couple of really cute Pottery Barn-esqu quilts for $50-$70:
    http://www.amazon.com/Greenland-Home-Polka-Stripe-Quilt/dp/B00575TI5Q/ref=pd_sbs_hg_5

    http://www.amazon.com/SNA-Textile-JUVQ-KATY-QSET/dp/B0053WT8FS/ref=pd_sbs_hg_16

    I went with Cynthia Rowley’s Olivia pattern for my two year old. I saw it on HGTV’s user-submitted rooms where the lady said she’d gotten it at Home Goods for about $40 but I couldn’t it find it there ๐Ÿ™ I finally splurged and bought the quilt and sham from eBay for $85 but because it’s a basic pattern with lots of colors I can easily (and cheaply) change themes later by swapping out the smaller accessories and wall decorations.

  19. De

    I only ended up completing 6 months of interior design school because it wasn’t what I thought it would be but I think decorating is something that comes very naturally to me.I redo things quite often and never spend anymore than $20 to update a wall space.

    My number one tip is to take pictures ,or posters or something that you are using in a different room, or maybe not even using at all and create a focal wall using these plus very inexpensive decals you can get from the dollar store or wallies in the new room you are wanting to redo. Those cute sayings can really personalize a space and tie your pictures together well. Those of you with a cricut can make your own too.

    If you have mad art skills paint a mural or a piece of art to go into the space.
    I’m big on keeping bedding and linens simple, but adding cool pillows that match your accent colors. A $15 pillow is much easier to replace than a $100 comforter when you get sick of it. Everyone knows the slipcover trick. They really do give your old furniture some mileage.

    I have used shower curtains as curtains around a daybed in a disco themed bedroom and also for a window. In little girls rooms you can be super creative. Buy some of those silly feather boa’s you can get at the $1 store and use it to trim a mirror, a picture frame, or as a valance for the window. Faux fur that you can get at a craft store will do the same thing. I do not know how to sew. I am handy with the glue gun and iron.

    I can’t stress enough how much paint is your friend when redoing things. Faux painting furniture is an amazing way to make an old piece look new again. I have alot of accent storage furniture with pretty factory painted flowers but the colors of the flowers never match my house. I just use acrylic in the color of my choice, a small brush and paint over the flowers to go with my stuff. I use a lot of faux painting techniques. I like sponges, paper and plastic bags crumpled , anything that gives an interesting texture to make the pieces look more worn. They are beautiful. You would have sworn I paid a fortune for them.

    I have a friend who use old fashioned windows, thick styrofoam(a cork board would also work) and prettyily pinned her little girls baby clothes to it then mounted that to the window for a beautiful picture. One of the most darling ideas I’ve ever seen. She did this before cricuts and things of that nature. Someone could really go all out with this idea.

  20. Yvonne

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this but I would just like to remind everyone to be careful when shopping at thrift stores, or picking up discarded items….here in the northeast bedbugs have been making a huge comeback…they are everywhere! The other day in NYC I saw at least 15 mattresses placed at the curb because they had bedbugs. Please please please just remember to check out items you pick up because these are nasty bugs and almost impossible to get rid of! Otherwise, happy hunting and good luck!

  21. sarah@boxwood

    Decorating on a budget is my favorite thing to do! There are so many ways to do this, here are just a few:

    1. Use what you have to accessorize. I’ve done this by: wrapping brown paper around books and tying with twine (very Pottery Barn!), using cereal bowls as vases, cake stands in living room to display favorite heirlooms.

    My Pics:
    http://www.boxwoodclippings.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Picture-4.png

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_m-mLZIBS80w/SmjW7a04urI/AAAAAAAAAgg/OC8Af2rZZT4/s1600-h/camera.jpg

    2. Be a handyman/woman. The biggest impact in a room is the walls, by painting or adding molding you can create a real WOW factor in just an afternoon, with very little money spent. Molding is not hard if you simplify, have the hardware store cut your wood to desired length, then nail, and paint!

    MY MOLDING (we spent $20 on one wall):

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_m-mLZIBS80w/SmjW8WRmtAI/AAAAAAAAAhA/LExiiFM86ts/s1600-h/plant

    Similarly, you can create custom shelves, just buy brackets at Ikea or thrift shops, as these tend to be pricey at hardware stores.

    My Shelves:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_m-mLZIBS80w/SmjW7SZV5bI/AAAAAAAAAgo/KWc6mYfX41Y/s1600-h/dishes

    3. Shop sale alsles, I try to only by clearance items. Remember to haggle at thrift shops, look at “as is” items, and get price adjustments. Even in paint stores you can find cheap already mixed paint.

    PS. My sister just spruced up her bathroom for $10 take a look-see:
    http://www.boxwoodclippings.com/2011/08/10-bathroom-makeover/

    I pride myself on being good at the home bargain front, but Collin you’ve taught me so much in the food / personal care department…I love ya and thanks!

  22. Joan

    estate sales are awesome …. I have purchased chairs, tables, etc. Found a dresser in the classifieds for my grand daughter,, she is into the bright colors and animal prints.. Dress $5.00,, paint $12.00,, now the dresser is hot pink and the drawers are zebra striped.. it looks cool, and we painted some old frames the same colors… then let everyone paint a canvas for her to go in the frames.. Family loved it!

  23. Joan

    “duh” ***** DRESSER $5.00 sorry,,,

  24. stacy

    Just stumbled upon a new website when checking out Miss Mustard Seed and remembered this post and thought I’d share! There’s decorating tips and the woman repurposes furniture. She has a few pictures up. Totally talented and great ideas! I think she sells her furniture too.

    turnstylevogue.com

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