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IKEA PS 2014 Collection

Budget Furniture: What not to Buy on the Cheap

Nothing makes me more excited than a bargain buy, you know that. But the big question is: when should we refrain from buying budget furniture? I’m going to tell you in today’s post, because some pieces are worth steering clear of.

Kmart homewares - Kmart triangle print bedding set in black and white

Budget isn’t Always Beautiful

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday and came across an advert for a piece of furniture from a local homewares brand.

When I saw the piece of furniture, priced at under $30, I couldn’t help but think… that won’t last long. I mean, how can a piece of furniture that is meant to serve a function (and not just look pretty), really last for years priced at under $30? I predict anyone who buys it will discover it falling apart within a few months, head back into the store (or to one of their competitors), and look for something else.

It was at that moment that I wrote down the idea for this post, because I really do believe that there are certain pieces in your home that you can go super-cheap on and others that you should invest in, so let’s explore this topic further – and please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below.

I believe that any good room, and good home for that matter, features an array of expensive and budget furniture finds, just like it features a mix of new and old, and a mix of pieces that mean something and are treasured alongside knick knacks you won’t keep forever.

I’ve also written about being proud of your bargain buys on the blog before, so trust me when I say that this is not a bashing of budget shopping.

“It’s less about thinking that your decor should be cheap, and more about the length of time you’ll have it. The less time you’ll have the piece for, the less it should cost”.

IKEA Nipprig range - ombe woven storage baskets

The Balance between Dirt Cheap and Designer

Now, if you’re on a budget (and let’s face it, aren’t we all?), then you need to consider which pieces in your home you’ll invest your cash in and which you won’t. For me, I believe that it’s the base pieces of furniture, that need to serve you functionally, that should be invested in.

These are pieces you’ll keep for years, and there should be more time spent on considering how they’ll work in your space and if you’ll still love them after forking out a bit more cash on them. Click here for more advice on which furniture you should avoid buying for your home.

When it comes to your decor and accessories, these can be of lesser value because you’ll rotate them all the time. You should revel in the bargains involved here, and never be ashamed if a killer cushion only cost you $20.

Now, that’s not to say that a cushion priced at $120 is a no-go. It’s less about thinking that your decor should be cheap, and more about the length of time you’ll have it for. If it’s a cushion that you’ll love for years, then $120 isn’t a lot of money to spend on it. The less time you’ll have the piece for, the less it should cost.

I also believe that function plays a major part in the decision of what you spend more on and what you buy on the cheap. If it needs to serve a purpose, like comfort, then the investment level needs to go up.

The top 5 Pieces to Invest in

IKEA Australia

Your Mattress

This is the most important of all the furniture pieces in your home as it has such a huge impact on how you sleep, and inturn how you’ll wake up and approach the everyday. Take a long time to select your mattress and beware of really cheap ones. Everyone is individual here, so you really have to road test them in-store and do your research.

Your Bed

The mattress is one thing, but what it sits on is just as important. Everyone is different here, but consider how high the bed is, what base it has (slats, springs, ensemble base etc) and which one is best for you. Often really cheap beds have poorly-made bases and they can bring down the benefits that a good mattress can bring to your night’s sleep.

Your Sofa

If you’re like me (reining couch potato king of Australia), then you sit on your sofa every day. Often, the cheap ones feature bad inner springs that droop and sag months after you purchase them. If you invest a little more on a reputable brand, you’re likely to have your sofa for years, and can change up the cushions and throws from season to season.

Your Dining Chairs

I might not sit at my dining table every night, but when I do (and if you do so often), then your dining chairs need to be comfortable. A cheap chair can often not support you long-term because the legs aren’t made of quality materials, or the way they’re put together won’t hold over time. Invest in something plush and comfy.


It’s a sad reality that you get what you pay for when it comes to rugs. The more you invest, the more quality materials you’ll end up with, which means you can sit on them, clean them easily and they’ll last years. There are tonnes of brands out there doing budget rugs online and in-store, but I doubt they’re built to last.

IKEA PS 2014 Collection

Change up you Decor on a Budget

With the above in mind regarding the pieces of furniture you should invest in, you can then balance out the money you’ve spent on the larger items by going cheaper on the decor. I am a firm believer that you should rotate your homewares with the change in seasons, so it can be hard to justify spending a tonne of money on a piece you’ll only have for a few months and then tire of.

That said, you also have to know yourself well enough when it comes to what you’re drawn to and what you’ll cherish for a long time. That’s why if you come across an ornament, or piece of art, or cushion cover that seems pricey compared to what you’d normally spend, you can and should indulge and purchase it.

Just make sure it’s the star of the setting and can work with a number of other pieces in your home. That’s why I always recommend making a mood board before you go shopping for a new room. It’ll help you cement what the space needs and what to steer clear of.

>>> Have you purchased a piece of budget furniture that’s lasted a long time? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Let me know what pieces you love to buy on the cheap – and what you invest in!

Image one via Kmart. Images 2, 3 and 4 via IKEA.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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