Furniture High & Furniture Low
Updated: Apr 18, 2022
A guide to budgeting furniture and deciding which pieces of furniture to invest in - Living Room Edition
You walk into a store and are immediately overstimulated by different items, styles, colors, fabrics, materials, and aesthetics. Trying to imagine how this furniture will fit in your home, how it will be laid out, and how the space will flow becomes a challenging puzzle to solve. But above style and likes and dislikes, the most important component to think about when walking into a store is your budget. Knowing your budget and staying on it is crucial to keep the design on track.
But you may be thinking, "Well I don't know my budget. Maybe I will just walk into a store or go online and see what things cost." This works but can take a lot of searching, hunting, and eliminating to find the items that work.
There are so many stores that sell furniture; all at different price points. The worst feeling is falling in love with an item that is not in your budget. It's always good to look for inspiration from stores but it is important to keep grounded when looking at items above your budget. The reason is, if you need to furnish an entire room and you end up spending a huge amount of money on one item, then you are going to have a problem when it comes to staying on budget for the rest of the items. The good news is, there are so many stores that sell affordable furniture that is also aesthetically pleasing. It's all about doing your research and making conscience design decisions.
I use to work as a home stylist and interior designer at a furniture store, and my job was to help clients design their homes using furniture from that store. Sometimes I would have clients who knew exactly what they wanted and knew what price point they wanted to spend. However, most of the time clients would get lost on where to start, how much to spend, and where to spend their money.
Below is a guide which I hope can help you. If the thought of designing and budgeting your own space overwhelms you, this blog is for you. This guide will contain a design I have already done for a client. In addition, I will walk you through my "furniture highs" and "furniture lows" while comparing other furniture styles from different stores, at different price points. This is a great way to compare similar items, see which options you like best, and what items you would go high and low for!
Where to Start?
The first place I start with is the largest and most expensive item - the sofa - and I move on from there. Picking the sofa also aligns your design path forward; if you pick a certain style or color that then dictates the look for the rest of the space. Getting the larger and necessary items out of the way means you can always hold off on the smaller items like throw pillows or side table until you are ready to make another purchase.
The living room design was the main focus for my clients. They had a few requirements: budget was $5,000, neutral and minimal style, and long lasting main pieces that will still be stylish in 5 years. Living rooms have a large pricing variety but what I have found is the average budget varies between $4,000-$10,000. However, I was able to fully furnish my first apartment living room for $2,000, so just know it can be done for less!
Sofa - Furniture High
The average mid range sofa is $1,000 to $3,000 and for a sofa I recommend going higher for this item. A quality sofa will look nicer for a longer period of time. The average life of a sofa is 7-15 years. At the lower end of it lasting 7 years, you purchasing a sofa for $3,000 means paying roughly $430 a year or $35 a month. You are going to use this piece the most and will want it to be comfortable. Changing out a sofa is a lot more difficult than changing out a side table or rug so strive to have this piece for the longest in your living room. With that said, I also recommend picking a sofa that you can imagine loving for years to come. Think about if you are moving in the future, who besides you will be using it, any pets, and if you plan to grow your family. Getting a sofa that has treated fabrics is worth the investment, they are great for families and pets. If you aren’t able to get a treated sofa, invest in a treatment spray to put on your sofa to help preserve it.
The sofa selected for my client in the design board above was a sofa from West Elm in a treated fabric for $1,900.
Media Console - Furniture Low
The two main components to think about with a media console are: it needs to look aesthetically pleasing, and it needs to be sturdy. This is an item you will stare at while watching TV or sitting on your sofa relaxing with friends. Just because this is another focal point in the living room does not mean it needs to be expensive. There are lots of great lower end items that look amazing. Stores like Target, Walmart, and IKEA have great options. You can also easily go thrift shopping for a media console. On the lower end, I recommend spending around $200-400. Going a little bit lower than $200 can be risky, just be sure to do your research on the item to make sure it fits the two main components we just discussed. To dress up the media console you can add some simple decor or change the handles - really easy and inexpensive way to make an elevated change.
For my clients, I selected a Target media console that looked expensive but was a fraction of the price expected. This was a great saver to allow for more wiggle room in her budget to get other ticket items.
Side Chair - Furniture High
Similarly to the sofa, the side chair or accent chair in the living space is an item you will want to spend a little more on. Upholstery items like a chair should last 7-15 years. Investing in better quality and materials will ensure your item will withstand the daily wear of sitting on it over the years. When choosing a sofa, I recommend sticking with more of a neutral color and making sure the sofa meets your lounging needs. However with a chair you can have a little more fun, while still ensuring the fabric is high quality and the chair is one you and guests will want to sit on.
Getting a dog friendly chair was important for my clients, I selected a vegan leather chair from West Elm that will last a long time even with pets laying on it.
Coffee Table - Furniture Low
The coffee table is arguably one of the items that will get the most beat up. From water rings and spilled dips to it being the main collector of animal hair, it can't catch a break. Although some may look at this and say it would be good to invest in an expensive table, this is an item that I go on the lower side. The reason is I would rather have a table that is still sturdy and durable but one I feel more comfortable replacing after a few years. The reality of a coffee table is, as we grow and evolve, I find a coffee table needs to as well. It's purposes change overtime. From being the makeshift dining room table in your first apartment to the future homework spot for a young and growing family. An example of this, I had a client that had an industrial pop-up coffee table which was great for her in college. It was her coffee table, desk, and dining table. When she moved to her first apartment she wanted to make sure she had a separate office and dining table from her coffee table. Getting her a new sleek coffee table to match the new chapter in her life helped her reset and use the space differently.
Another affordable Target find was great for my clients as their coffee table. They were planning on starting a family and wanted something round to avoid hard corners. This was a perfect match for both function and form.
Side Table - Furniture Low
For side tables, I recommend spending a smaller amount of money on this item. The reason I suggest this comes purely down to that fact that I personally have a hard time justifying spending hundreds on an item that is only 22 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter. To spend $400 on both a side table and a media console seems a little steep to me and I would rather spend the money in different areas. This side table is usually tucked away next to a sofa or chair and so I would rather let the sofa be the main focus.
This was a difficult pick for my client. She fell in love with a solid marble side table from Pottery Barn for $400. I brought up to her some edits that would have to be made to other items if she wanted to spend that amount on the side table. I found a faux marble side table and pitched it to her and after showing her where it would go - it was not really visible anyway - she agreed it would be a good alternative. We ended on her spending $80 for a side table and maybe one day she can upgrade it for her Pottery Barn pick.
Lighting - Furniture High
Lighting for a space sometimes gets overlooked until later on. It isn't always a necessary item and gets purchased after all the big items. With that in mind, I like to invest in a nice lighting fixture for the second round of purchases. Lamps that are made cheaply do appear as described. Lamps have the ability to increase the look or decrease it. If buying a lamp on the lower end, look up higher end lamps online first and then search for a similar alternative. The amount of affordable lamps to pick from on sites like Walmart, Target, and At Home can be overwhelming and it helps to have in your head an idea of what you want so you can edit the filters on the search engine. Check out below to see my example of doing this.
For my client, I picked a Crate & Barrel overarching lamp that has a beautiful detail on the upright. This item really completed the look and enhanced the room perfectly.
Rug - Furniture Low
Just like the coffee table, your rug is going to get lots of love thrown - or spilled - its way. Rugs can be expensive especially when considering a glass of wine may spill or a pet may have an accident. They can be hard to justifying spending a lot which is why I classify this item as a lower end purchase. Rugs usually last around 3 or 5 years depending on how much usage it is getting. Because it's a quicker turn around time, I say hunt for the deals and don't break the bank on this item. I would rather spend $80 on a rug and change it every 2-3 years than buy a rug for $600 and force myself to keep it for a longer time period. My biggest selling point for this mentality is, your style will also change over time and changing out a rug can make such a difference to a space - big bang for low buck.
My clients wanted a really unique and patterned rug. They found a similar one online for 3x the price, but I showed them this option instead and they not only loved the rug but they loved the price.
Throw Pillows - Furniture Middle
This one can be a bit of a toss up and so I may cheat a little and instead of saying "Furniture High" or "Furniture Low", I would go for the middle. Throw pillows that look nicer and are made of a better quality make the space feel more high end. It elevates a space in a really simple way by drawing your eye. Now this doesn't mean that you have to spend $100 on a throw pillow but I recommend being selective in your picks. Make sure that the pillow insert is a good quality fluffy insert; if the pillow case is too large for the insert, this draws the eye in a bad way. World Market, Target, and At Home have great pillow options for affordable prices.
My client fell in love with a few pillows from West Elm. We picked some that have a variety of materials, colors, and textures - this always makes a space more dynamic.
Ending Thoughts & Tips
The total price for the furniture for my client was $4,340. Their budget was $5,000 and although to the buyer I am in under budget the reality is with taxes and shipping fees the final price came in just under $5,000. This is the part that puts most new furniture buyers in sticky spots. Taxes and shipping can be a pricey component to getting furniture. Sometimes they have flat rate fees which includes installing and delivery, sometimes it’s doorstep drop-off or in-store pickup. When you begin to look at stores check out there shipping costs before you get invested in an item.
This guide above is just to get you thinking about the investment of furniture and if you are looking to make some larger ticket purchases, these are my recommendations for highs and lows. With that said at the end of the day the only opinion for your home that matters is yours, and it's important to pick pieces that are best for you!
Check back in the future for more tips and tricks - in the meantime here is a sneak peak of some topics to come!