You've tagged along behind your realtor on house tour after house tour when you finally make your way to the home you'd love to call your own. Everything about it is perfect--until you remember that you still have to furnish the place, which is twice the size of your current place. That's when you start wishing that along with the bathtub and kitchen sink, your new home came fully furnished with a dining-room set and a couch or two.
What can you do when you've sunk your life savings into a down payment and have nothing left over for a table and chairs?
Not everyone with minimal furniture in their home is house-poor. Some are just waiting on the right piece--which will come along if they're willing to wait. They prefer not to buy furniture that's "acceptable" to satisfy an immediate need, when two years from now they could buy furniture that's "ideal." Intentional furniture buyers have a plan, and they stick to it. They're willing to sit on the floor until the right couch comes along.
Never Say Never
Don't say no to hand-me-down furniture. A little elbow grease and a coat of paint will do wonders for old pieces with good bones. Got dining chairs with stained or torn fabric seats? It's easy to reupholster those, without sewing a stitch (and we've got coupons for the fabric)! So it's not your style--think of it as a temporary fix until you
can afford find that piece you really love. Refinishing furniture is an inexpensive way to get the look you want. And don't be shy about telling people that you're looking to furnish a certain room or two. You may be surprised by their generosity.
Thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales are great spots to find eclectic pieces to fill in the gaps. If you're wary about purchasing upholstered pieces from unknown sources, stick to tables, dining chairs, desks and storage units. Often you can find those at great prices. Like to bargain? Hit the yard-sale trail around noon, when many homeowners are ready to bring it all back in. Chances are they'd rather get rid of it at a lower price than haul it inside. Craigslist and Freecycle are other options for finding inexpensive or free pieces that can fill in your furniture gaps.
Slip One On
Slipcovers are a great way to camouflage mismatched furniture. Whether it's your old stuff that just doesn't fit the décor of your new home, hand-me-downs from Grandma's attic, or thrift-store finds, slipcovers are an inexpensive way to dress up an old piece of furniture. You can find slipcovers to fit your style and your sofa: traditional, modern, or shabby-chic. BONUS: slipcovers can be easily changed out if you get tired of the look, and they're washable to boot.
Got shelves, but no books? You don't have to fill bookcases with books. Use them to display other collections, craft supplies, even framed photographs. This look is pulled off best when your bookcase has a great color scheme. Paint the interior of the bookcase a different color than the outsides of each shelf for more visual interest. And don't be afraid to leave room between items.
Got books, but no shelves? Maybe you're a recent college grad with four or five years' worth of textbooks and literary gems sitting in repurposed milk crates. Lose the starving-student look with a simple trip to the hardware store for some large L-brackets, a level, and a few bolts. Mount the brackets in pairs on the wall and simply stack books on top of each set of brackets. Note: no books are harmed in the construction of these invisible bookshelves; they're all still accessible if you do want to read them!
Plan Your Purchases
If you'll be filling your home with furniture over a longer time period, make sure that the furniture you buy first gives you a lot of bang for the buck. Don't furnish the guest room that's used three weekends a year before you take care of the kitchen you use three (or more) times a day!
Go Where the Deals Are
There is no shortage of bargains on furniture and décor for your home--if you know where to look. Our Home & Bath Coupon pages offer deals on everything from trendy to traditional and inexpensive to luxurious.
With a little planning, some creativity, and plenty of flexibility, you won't be sitting on lawn chairs in your living room for very long!