How we furnished and decorated our home without spending a fortune

When Joel and I moved from our small apartment into our much-bigger house, we realized that unless we wanted the house to be mostly empty, we’d need to set about the daunting task of furnishing and decorating our new home. While we both work full-time, we do have other bills and responsibilities (not to mention trying to build a decent savings). So as you might imagine, we did not want to spend an absolute fortune on brand new furniture or decor.

Now almost a year later, I look back on the time since we embarked on this journey. We are not “done” yet, and there will likely be changes in the future. But we are done with the big stuff. While we have a ways to go yet, I thought I would share how we managed to furnish almost an entire house in under a year without going crazy or broke.

Don’t be afraid to buy used furniture on Craigslist

We love antique furniture, but don’t love the big price tags. Guess where we found some of our most beautiful antique pieces at a fraction of the price… Craigslist! That might sound surprising, but hear me out. Yes, there is a lot of junk out there, and yes sometimes it’s a bit sketchy, but for those willing to put in a bit of time and effort, there are treasures to be found.

Whenever I use Craigslist, I always “hide duplicates”, which prevents looking at the same thing twice (sometimes people upload multiple posts of the same item). I also only look at postings that have at least one photo. If I see an interesting item, I politely ask the seller if they are negotiable on price. In my experience, most sellers can be flexible on price if you just ask.

When it’s time to go check out the item, Joel and I always go together. This is for safety reasons, and also because we like to both weigh in before making a purchase. To avoid awkwardly discussing an item while the seller hovers, we have a code. If one of us says “we need to measure our space again”, it’s our signal that we don’t want to make the purchase. It’s a system that works for us. We’ve found some pretty amazing deals on antiques using Craigslist.

Roll up them sleeves and do some refinishing

One of the very first Craigslist purchases that we made was our breakfast set. This is an antique table and 4 chairs made of gorgeous solid maple. The surface was quite badly scratched from years of use, and the finish was gone from some places. There was some fading and discoloration on one end of the table from years of sun exposure (the window was on that side of the room).

Despite the wear and tear, the quality of the set was unmistakable. Additionally, it was the exact color, size, and shape that we were wanting for our space. We decided to go for it, and refinish it ourselves.

My husband has refinished furniture before, but this was my first experience with it. It turned into a bigger project than I anticipated, especially since we did everything by hand (we don’t own an electric sander and didn’t want to buy/rent one). The sanding was what took the longest, as many of the scratches and grooves were quite deep.

It took an entire weekend and a LOT of elbow grease to sand and finally refinish (we used polyurethane), but it was well worth the effort! By the time we were done, the set looked brand new! All the scratches were gone and only a tiny bit of fading remained. The gorgeous maple shone, and we could not have been more pleased.

Know when it’s time to shell out for new stuff 

Ok, so one can always buy anything new if one has the disposable income and/or zero time or patience to hunt around for used stuff. There are very few times that you absolutely HAVE to buy brand new.

In our case, we ended up buying a new couch because we needed a specific shape, configuration, and size to go in our family room. The couch would be a centerpiece in a large space with walkways all around it, so we wanted something that looked nice from all angles, preferably in a beige color that wouldn’t seem too dark and clunky (does that make sense?).

I scoured Craigslist and all the local antique shops I could think of, but nothing I came across fit the bill. I felt like Goldilocks… everything was either too brown, too 70’s, too stained, or entirely the wrong shape/size/configuration.

After a while, we finally decided to browse our local Jordans furniture store. We found one that was the exact dimensions  and configuration that we needed. It was a big-ticket item, but worth every penny, because we were able to customize everything. We customized the dimensions , the upholstery type and color, and even the fill and density of the cushions. And another plus, it was delivered and assembled by a crew of very efficient guys!

DIY decor 

Joel is incredibly handy with woodworking. He’s making a frame for our large nautical map of Texas (where we lived for many years). The wood he’s using for it comes from a tree he cut down from our back yard. It was over our septic system and the roots were starting to invade, so sadly, our beautiful tree had to be cut down. The positive thing is that now we have an opportunity to put the wood to good use. Hence a frame, to remember our tree by. It will have so much sentimental meaning.

Another DIY project I recently completed is a large flower arrangement for the buffet in our dining room. I collected sticks and twigs from behind our house, and spray-painted them white. I also cut some grass “plumes” (I’m not sure what they’re called) from our back yard. I intermixed the sticks and plumes with faux flowers that I bought from a craft store. The end result is something beautiful as well as low-maintenance. Win win!

Patience, grasshopper

I constantly remind myself not to rush to furnish a space “just because”. We have empty spots in our house, but there is no reason to fill them up in haste. It’s less overwhelming to proceed gradually and take it one step at a time.

Have you ever bought from Craigslist before? What about refinishing? Do you like to DIY? 

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13 thoughts on “How we furnished and decorated our home without spending a fortune

  1. Hi, thanks for the visits! I got a KitchenAid dishwasher on Craigslist. It is great! Also, love to DIY, refinish furniture, strip wallpaper, paint walls, lay wood floors…not really but I love the money we have saved doing it! I hope you have many happy years enjoying the fruits of your labor.

  2. So, I’ve sold on Craigslist but never made a purchase. I didn’t know about the hide duplicates function, that’s a super helpful tip. I often search for an item like the one I am selling and in the same area to get an idea of a reasonable asking price. I never am bothered when someone wants to negotiate on the price as long as they are polite, I’m always willing to at least consider it. Also, I think it is super smart to go as a pair when looking. I had one buyer turn up with her grandkids. It was fine, because I’m a nice, normal person, but what if I wasn’t? I was thinking as she let them out of the truck before I was even outside.

    1. Yes, always a good idea to be cautious with Craigslist, even though I’m sure most buyers & sellers are totally normal people 🙂

    1. I have a few friends who avoid Craigslist for that reason (too scary/sketchy) so i definitely understand your perspective. Thanks for sharing these links! 😊

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