How I transformed my living room on a shoestring

Have you ever been so completely frustrated and at a loss of what to do with a space that you just pretty much gave up? I have. For years I was frustrated with my living room. The problem I had, was we had two competing focal points - the fireplace wall and the TV cabinet, and they were on adjacent walls. Naturally, the sofa orientation was toward the TV wall, and due to the room layout, this meant that the back of the sofa was pretty much the first thing you saw when you came in the front door, and when you were on the sofa, you had to turn and twist to see who was at the door.  It also cut off the room, making it feel even smaller than it is. But I didn't know what to do, and this frustrated me. I just couldn't see how to make it 'work.' This was years before wall mount TV's were really even an option, which was the tipping point that made re-working the room possible really! I also could not spend much money in this room - so I'm calling it my One Room Challenge. I didn't have a dollar amount I was holding myself to, but I only spent where I deemed necessary, and was as frugal as possible. Did I mention that this was being done after a bathroom renovation, a kitchen renovation, and in the midst of an extensive exterior renovation?? So yeah. :)

I don't have a good full pic of the room before but here's a pic I found that my daughter took randomly...and this was when the room was at an in-between stage. I had painted the walls, arranged the corner by the front door, and removed the shelves that used to be between the two windows, which held mostly kids toys. See how the sofa cuts off the room? The gray microfiber sofa had to be different...somehow....but I couldn't justify a new one and hadn't found one used that I wanted, so I planned to re-cover it. The two ottomans were just placeholder pieces. I liked the vintage one (that I had experimented with re-upholstering and it got weird in the corner) but I didn't like the other one, plus the scale wasn't right and they took up a lot of floor space. 

This room took a LONG time to come together, from the wall colors I tried, to the various furniture that's been in and out of here, to the too-short curtains (I can never find ready made curtains long enough because I have super tall windows...). Across from the sofa (which you can't see) was the TV cabinet.

LR before

Here are the items that I kept (all but pillows and ottomans). Sofa is covered farther down):

White wood dresser in background - 5.00 at a garage sale

Wood bowls - thrift stores - 10.00

Tall thrift store buffet lamp that I spray painted and added a shade to: 15.00

Mirror that I found in the basement and added a frame to: 25.00

I've since added some plants here: 10.00

Total: 65.00


So here's pictures of the in progress project...I painted the Fireplace wall in Sherwin Williams Peppercorn to help the TV not stick out so much, and we had it mounted on the wall and wires run through the wall to the left. The tape on the walls is where I was marking my shiplap and shelf lines to visualize (tip: marking with tape is so great to get a feel for layout. You can mark outlines of furniture on the floor, too, to get a feel for layout and whether or not it will work in your space).


Add here are some after shots. We did a custom built in cabinet to house the electronics, movies, and misc. I installed some faux shiplap and shelves, and carried the brass from the fireplace surround to the hardware. I spray painted the hardware on the picture and the shelf brackets (detailed above).


Breakdown of above...

White round mirror off FB: 15.00

Shelves and brackets from home depot (that I painted/spray painted): 25.00

Frame and L brackets that I made: 5.00, print cost 3.00

Books and misc decor (mostly thrifted, again): 50.00

Cabinet with pulls and contact paper top (guessing here but cabinet is made with the 1/2 in Purebond Plywood from Home Depot). One sheet is 40.00, plus about 15.00 for three pulls: 55.00

Three thrifted white vases: 10.00

TV mounting: 225.00

Electrician to wire in two outlets in cabinet area: 195.00

Cost of TV- I don't want to know ;)

Pair of thrifted MCM chairs: 30.00

Thrifted Magazine rack: 5.00

Plank for faux shiplap wall: 15.00

Paint: 60.00

Total cost: 693.00 


So this custom cabinet, I covered the top in marble contact paper - love it. I got the brass pulls from home depot I think, and same with the brackets and picture hardware. In fact, I made the frame so I got the wood (just 1 by 2 wood) from HD too. I installed the shiplap wall and shelves (also painted Peppercorn).

Finally, here's the other side of the room....

sofa wall.jpg

The sofa now is directly across from the fireplace wall, which is the main focal point now, and the curtains are longer and now kiss the floor- YES. And YES, I had to custom make them. By the way, hang curtains high! Some like to hang the rods up by the ceiling, but I like to split the difference and hang them halfway between the casing and the ceiling. I used electrical conduit to make the rods - super inexpensive. 

Most of my furniture is thrifted - there is so much awesome stuff out there for good prices. But you have to be patient and know where to look. :)

I'm so glad this room has finally come together. There's nothing better than hanging out here with my family, in this room that feels so comfortable and casual. 

Sofa (that I recovered): 205.00

Pillows & blankets: 60.00

IKEA side tables: 40.00

West Elm Emmerson waterfall coffee table (FB): 75.00

Accessories: 75.00

Fiddle leaf fig & monstera plants (not shown): 65.00

Curtains (IKEA and hobby lobby) with hardware from Home Depot: 150.00

Frame for silhouette (mine from preschool): 8.00

Sconce repurposed from another room: 0

Blankets/wood bead garland already on hand: 0

Total: 678.00

Not really shown (just a little in the above photo, to the left) is the piano and gallery wall above, which I didn't total here.

Grand totals:




$1,436.00 - for mostly ALL thrifted stuff. NOTE that no labor at all is included, except for the 2 pros hired - the TV mount installer and the electrician. No design fees are included either. :) Many times, people have unrealistic $$ amounts in mind when wanting to re-do rooms. I get it, I really do. It adds up, fast! The retail price for that West Elm coffee table? 499.00. Tax not included. That right there would be 40% of what I actually ending up spending. I love quality and I'm willing to pay for quality, I just have to pick and choose what to spend on and what to save on. I also don't have a rug in the LR, or my totals would be at least 600.00 higher. And I am not a high-end designer by any means, but don't get me wrong. I like to work with people like me, who want personality, beauty, and a pretty room but need help pulling it together without sacrificing their retirement! 

This took lots of time to come together, and patience for sure. I probably even underestimated costs, but I recalled everything as best I could and I think it's pretty accurate. I kept better track of expenses on my kitchen and bathroom renovations, which I'll cover in future posts!