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adairs green cushion with pom poms

Saving Money in a Living Room: 6 Pieces you Can Happily Skimp On

Being the king of mixing budget and bougie in client homes, I’m often tasked with saving money in a living room. You might think clients on budgets bothers me as a designer but in fact I revel in the challenge.

Now, when it comes to hunting out budget pieces for clients, I pretty much have it nailed (if I do say so myself). Some pieces I will fully suggest clients spend on, and then there are others I insist we can save on. It’s all about balance – and having a keen designer eye that knows how to work in those low-price items without them looking budget at all.

So let’s talk it out. Below I want to share with you some of the first pieces I’ll go cheaper on if I’m trying to achieve a lot on a small budget. And considering we spend so much time in the living room, let’s start in this space. In the coming weeks I’ll showcase my budget tricks for other rooms. But let’s start with showing you how saving money in a living room doesn’t mean compromising on style.

I’ve also provided examples from retail stores for those of you who want to try decorating a budget living room yourself. It must be said that in most projects 90% of my products come from my lovely trade suppliers. But because you don’t have access to those I thought I’d show you some real and attainable examples. Enjoy!

cody entertainment unit walnut tv unit temple and websyter

1. Entertainment Unit

It’s not often I sit down to watch TV and marvel at how stunning the entertainment unit is. I’m usually more focussed on how amazing the transformations are on my fave interior design shows. So, considering a TV unit is not the focal point in a room, you can definitely afford to hunt out a more affordable option.

That’s not to say it has to be plain or boring. And I’m also not saying you have to hunt out the cheapest thing on the market. For an entertainment unit I’d hover around the $300-$500 mark if you’re on a really tight budget for your living room.

Take a look at this one from Temple & Webster for example. On sale for $279 and it looks sublime. Plus you get drawers and cupboards to store your Foxtel box, and old DVDs that nobody ever uses anymore but somehow can’t bare part with (guilty!).

kristoff floor lamp fantastic furniture navy blue sofa

2. Floor and Table Lamps

I do love me some phenomenal lighting. A big pendant dropping from a ceiling makes my heart skip a beat. But if you want to cut back on costs when putting your living room together then lighting is the easiest way to do it.

Floor lamps are a great way to set mood in a room and often the affordable ones are quite thin and minimal in style. That makes them great for small living rooms too because they don’t take up much space.

If you’re really looking to skimp, I’d spend about $70-$100 on a simple floor lamp. Fantastic Furniture have awesome floor lamps like the one above, and get a load of this phenomenal table lamp from BIGW for just $10 – pure insanity!

kmart 2020 home small living room with marble coffee table and marble side table

3. Armchairs (if Decorative)

Now, I’m not talking about something you want to curl up and watch TV in on the daily. If that’s the case you should check out these impressive recliner chairs that look nothing like the ugly one from the nineties.

I’m talking about chairs that sit across from a sectional to balance out the room. Or something more formal you might have friends or family sit in when they come around. These armchairs are used less often and not so much for relaxing in. So why fork out tonnes of cash for armchairs with oodles of upholstery?

You can find affordable armchairs in so many retailers. When I’m focussed on saving money in a living room I’d spend no more than a few hundred on armchairs. You can even get glorious ones like this from Kmart or why not try this divine option from Myer?

target maki side table affordable side tables for living room

4. Side Tables

If you need to cut back your living room spending, side tables are often my first go-to. They tend to be more functional in that they’re popped at the end of a sofa of beside an armchair. They’re often used when you have people over, not necessarily by you every day. So I’d rather put money into a stunning coffee table and have the side table be less expensive.

That doesn’t mean the side table has to be an afterthought. Just put a budget on yourself. There are tonnes of wow-factor side tables on the market that won’t break the bank. I also don’t like to match my coffee table to my side table, so you immediately have flexibility there in terms of the style you go for. As long as it works in the space, go cheap.

When cutting costs, spend about $100 on a side table and still enjoy some style. You can get sleek black or white metal side tables for around this price that are quality. I love this one from Interior Secrets, for example. Or if you like something more Scandi/Japandi, consider the lovely Maki Side Table from Target (pictured above).

urban road chanel art in living room with emerald green armchair and fireplace

5. Artworks

Don’t get me wrong. In some of my projects like in this Hamptons makeover, I’m fully into supporting a local artist. Getting a custom piece for your home is absolute joy. But if your focus is saving money in a living room then you’ll probably have to rule this one.

That’s when I turn to local art brands who can deliver on amazing art at an affordable price. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I adore Urban Road (have you entered this month’s giveaway to win some art from their website?). They always have something new and exciting to offer, and you can get a lovely framed piece starting from about $350.

The tough thing when it comes to art is that people often opt for smaller pieces because they’re cheaper. Sadly that’s not going to fill your wall up, and it just makes your room feel incomplete. So although you might think dropping $500 on art is a lot, it’s actually not in the scheme of things – especially not if you’re comparing it to a custom piece from an artist, which can cost upwards of $5000.

adairs green cushion with pom poms

6. Cushions

OK so these aren’t furniture, but you know how passionate I am about cushions. They completely transform the look and feel of your room and can make or break a sofa. And here’s the good news: you don’t have to spend a lot to get a gorgeous look.

I often turn to Adairs when I’m shopping for cushions for clients (like the one above), but there are even more affordable stores producing glorious options. Kmart, Target, BIGW and TK Maxx all stock beauties. You just have to take out the flat inserts and replace them with some of these so they look elevated.

Also don’t look past IKEA. They have glorious covers and you can buy inserts from them too. Tip from me to you though: pop two inserts in one cover so they look and feel much plumper.

I would personally not spend any more than $60-$70 on a cushion. Unless I was trying to achieve a unique hand-made look for my room. Sometimes you want a show-stopping splurge cushion like something from Bonnie and Neil. But day-to-day, I hover around the sixty buck mark.

How have you gone about saving money in a living room without compromising on quality and style? I’d love you to share some of the ways you’ve done it at your place in the comments below.


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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7 Responses

  1. Wow! such great info. Saw some lovely velvet cushions at Ikea today and 2 inserts will make them perfect.

  2. Great post Chris – Im all about the balance too . Just finished a Reno and at styling stage with no money left in tank Ive invested in some Ikea blue Ikat looking cushions covers for $4.99 and feather inserts to glam them up for $10 – BARGAIN

  3. We are retired and are downsizing. The apartment will be ready to move into early July. As we did not employ an interior decorator, your tips are very helpful. I am not a good visualiser so I appreciate all the help I can get. Thanks Chris. Oh, and yes I have entered the March giveaway.

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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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