french country living room

Styling Your Home On a Budget + Living Room Update

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Today’s post is a combo of tips to styling your home (or a room) on a budget + showing you some updated pics of our living room! We’ve been in our “new” house for almost 2 months now and though this isn’t our first rodeo, I’m still learning more and more about styling a chic home room by room! Starting over is fun (albeit stressful at times), but I hope this post will inspire you if you’re in the stage of moving or you’re simply just looking for a refresh!

I want to bypass some of your typical tips and my hope is that reading how I styled a living room from scratch on a budget will give you ideas for your own home! Nothing wrong with the “typical” tips, but we all know to gather inspiration and set a budget- in fact, I’ve already talked about all that here!

My style is French Country cottage cozy chic! Nothing too modern, new, or industrial. I want my home to feel cozy, lived-in, loved, and yet chic at the same time!

Related: How to Create a Parisian Inspired Home

Let’s kick it off with some before & afters and then we’ll move onto the details!

The major transforming things in this room (besides decorating) were painting the walls white from green and yellow, doing board and batten for a cottage feel, and replacing the metal radiator heat covers.

Funny story about the radiators…

So we actually didn’t know that the house had radiator heat. I mean, obviously we saw them, but we were under the impression that they were old and out of duty because the house listing said the home had forced air. My plan was to take them out immediately because the huge metal monstrosities definitely didn’t add to the room.

Well fast forward to the inspection and the inspector told us that the boiler system looked great and we were like, whattttt? Boilers? What about the furnace? He told us that there is no furnace! Utterly confused, we talked to our realtor who then talked to the realtor who was listing the place and was confused that we were confused because there is most definitely a furnace and it just got put in 5 years ago!

Now we were all confused wondering where this invisible furnace was in the house.

Fast forward again and it turns out the house listing was wrong and there was no forced air. At this point, we were almost going to back out of the house. I know some people have radiator heat and that some actually prefer it, it’s just not what we were expecting.

After being reassured that the system was great and the radiators aren’t hot to the touch (because kids), we decided to move forward with the home. I mean, we were 2 weeks away from closing at this point and had nothing else lined up. Our choices were to take the house, go live in a hotel, be homeless, or make frantic calls hoping to get a rental in just 2 short weeks.

So obviously we chose the home and though the story isn’t critical to this post, I just thought it was interesting and it explains the new wooden covers that Titus built because I hated the metal ones!

Though I don’t love the system, I am glad we moved forward with this house. Plus, this isn’t our forever home (building one day?), so it was easier to accept it for the time being.

But that story does bring me to my first point though…

Styling Your Home On a Budget

1. What can you DIY?

When styling your home, everything you can do or make yourself is going to save you loads of money. Titus & I aren’t professionals, but we’re decently handly and love to do things ourselves to save money and have it feel more like “us”. I get not everyone is this way or has the desire, but if you can paint or even sew a pillowcase from scrap fabric you can save yourself a lot of money- perfect for people that are looking to style on a budget!

You might have noticed a fireplace got added in the after pictures! The fireplace is fake, but we added brick veneer around the edges and created a hearth to give the appearance of a built-in fireplace! We have a wood fireplace in our basement, but the living room desperately needed a focal point after we decided to keep our tv out of the main area.

2. Look into using materials in unconventional ways

When I was planning my house in my head before even moving in, I was so sure I was going to get bamboo shades and gauzy linen curtains. I just loved the look. I knew they were expensive but I was willing to invest. When we actually moved in and I measured the windows I quickly figured out that what I thought was expensive jumped to majorly expensive. We don’t have standard windows and this meant custom shades & curtains. I did a lot of shopping around and it came to about $200 for just the bamboo shade for one window. Not including curtain or rod.

I was bummed at first because I had my heart set on this look, but I also knew I wasn’t willing to spend that on just shades. At least not right now. The budget-friendly option was keeping the existing white blinds that were already here and using drop cloths as curtains instead! Using drop cloths as curtains is nothing new, but try to think of materials or items that can work for what you’re looking for! Maybe a big rug is out of your budget but throwing a carpet pad under fabric you added starch to could work instead!

3. Shop around your house first

Before heading out to Target, take a look around your house and see what items could use a new home. Just because something has always been in the bedroom doesn’t mean it has to stay there! This helps items to feel new without having to spend any extra money! This red French-inspired pillowcase (below) was something I had originally purchased for our master bedroom but instead of thinking it had to stay in there, I moved it to the living room and ended up liking it way more there!

4. Don’t be afraid of secondhand items & hand me downs

Utilize all your options! Target and Pottery Barn are not the only places out there! Don’t forget about Craigslist, FB marketplace, Resale stores, Secondhand stores, and most importantly, DIY! If you can’t find the perfect thing, maybe you need to build it yourself or take an existing piece and upcycle it!

Yes, sometimes you should be afraid of picking up a free chair on the side of the road, but for the most part, you can add a lot of flavor to your home by mixing and matching new & old. Not to mention this route is really cheap if not free!

The beige & white striped couch was a Facebook Marketplace find for only $50!! The cheetah blanket not so discreetly hides some stains and sure, there’s a rip in the back, but it was only $50 and it’s so insanely comfortable. Plus the look is perfect for our living room! Most of my decor has been picked up over time at thrift stores too.

french country living room

5. Buy new strategically

Not everything in your home has to be used though. There’s a balance between everything being quality and everything being as cheap as you can get it. You’ll probably want your furniture and flooring to be of good quality. But accent tables and chairs? Things that are just for decor or that will sit there and not be used? Who cares if they’re cheap?!

6. Collect over time

Don’t get something unless it’s the exact thing you’ve been looking for. When you get something because “it’ll do”, you’ll hate it down the road and want to change it out anyway. Take your time to shop around at different brick and mortar stores, as well as online shops, flea markets, antique shops, etc.

Not everything in my home may have a sentimental story, but I’ve collected them over time and they’re all pieces I love. A candlestick here, a faux greenery bunch there. It’s rewarding to look around your home and see all the things that you think are beautiful.

7. Look into outdoor rugs

I think rugs are almost essential to the overall feeling of a room. Yet, they can be really expensive! For some reason though, I’ve found that outdoor rugs aren’t as expensive. Well, it’s because they’re thinner and have less padding, but if you don’t need something plush it’s a great way to save money and get a giant rug that will actually make your room look bigger! Or you can get two rugs and join them to look like one huge rug too!

But you know what you can do to add that plush feeling? Layer rugs! It’s also very stylish and adds that extra something to your room too!

8. Use what you have

This is more about the finishes of the home, but if you’re on a budget, sometimes you just have to make do with what you have for now!

The carpet in the living room came with the house and though my dream is hardwood floors, it’s free to keep the carpet and that’s what we’ll do for now!

My dream for trim is thick & white and though I’m not a crazy fan of the honey oak trim, guess what, it’s free to keep it and I can still be happy!

Sometimes you have to remind yourself of the positives and what you like about your home…and sometimes it just takes patience until you can make the changes you want!

I titled this post living room update and not reveal, because it’s not 100% done. I’m happy with how it feels now, but there are more things I’d like to do.

The shelves seem a little too styled to me so I’d like to mess around more with those. Plus we want to get wood floors in here eventually and I’m not sure what to do about the trim! Leave it? Paint it white? I’ve also considered doing a stain so I don’t have to sand or paint. I’d love to hear your input!

Leave me a comment and weigh in on what you think I should do with the trim + baseboards!

But most importantly, I hope you picked up a couple of tips to styling your home on a budget!

Jute rug | Sheepskin rug
end tables (hobby lobby)
Tufted sitting chairs (a little short & uncomfortable, but considering the price, I think it’s worth it)
Beige striped couch (FB marketplace, similar)
Chaise lounge (I got “conversation ivory”- looks a little more blue/green than beige, but I didn’t hate it enough to return it)
floor lamp
drop me a note if you want to know about something specific…but most things are second hand or old!

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styling your home on a budget
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Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.