Furnishing a living room on a budget

My first apartment – all to my own darn self! – happened when I was 23.  I moved to San Francisco for law school, I managed to live on my own, and I have never looked back.  (Some people weren’t meant to have roommates.  As a perpetually early riser, I realize that I am one of them.  LET’S GRIND COFFEE AT 4AM!  Whee!)

When I moved out, I – quite literally – had no money.  I had no furniture, other than the stuff at my dad’s home.  And definitely no dishes, no appliances, and no linens.  What was a girl to do?  Call upon the power of her family, that’s what (with your powers combined, I am Captain Decorator!).

My mom is pretty brilliant at shopping for bargains, then refurbishing (if necessary) so that things have a cohesive theme.  Which is exactly what she did for me: she took her extra lamps and furniture, and refinished them so that they would fit my color scheme.

Whereas my mom decorates in primarily warm colors, I had a turquoise-and-white theme in mind for my living room.  So mom took three completely different pieces, and with one or two cans of silvery-pewter paint, fixed it so I had three matching pieces (four, if you count my silver-and-wood-desk!).

This funky lamp was a thrift store find, and used to be a metallic gold/bronze.  I had always loved the shape and the shade – I mean, talk about a statement piece – but the color wasn’t anything I could see myself using.  With some silver paint, the bronze lamp became significantly more subdued, and now it resides behind my couch as a focal point.

My coffee table used to be the glass pictured, but the metal was in shades of pink.  It had been painted with a “granite” sort of paint, where you paint one color and then spackle a stucco-esque coat on top.  It worked well in one room of my mother’s house, but not for my apartment.  With the same silver paint, all of a sudden it matched the lamp.

Finally, the bistro set (one other chair not pictured) used to be black metal with floral yellow/orange/red tiles.  Again, all Mom did was paint it silver, and poof – I had my very own matching table and chairs, that also match my coffee table, lamp, and desk.

Throw on a plush seatcover, add a lamp (Marshall’s, a $70 splurge, but so worth it) and a Subversive Cross-Stitch, and you have a matching set of furniture that would make any student proud.

The moral of the story?  Go to thrift stores and yard sales, and don’t be limited by what the piece looks like at the time.  With minimal effort and cost, my mom provided me with a set of “matching” furniture that I may not have been able to acquire myself.  It’s also a heck of a lot more eco-friendly than trashing your old stuff and buying something new – and that is never a bad thing.


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