I very clearly remember buying furniture for and decorating my first apartment (it did NOT look like the above for anyone wondering). I was in my mid-20s, only had bedroom furniture in my possession (mostly espresso-stained pieces from IKEA’s Hemnes line with the exception of the upholstered headboard I DIYed), and found myself in need of things like a sofa and coffee table after accepting a job three hours south of my home town (and parents’ house where I lived after college like every proper millennial). It was my first real foray into “design” and man was it exciting. You know, except for the part that I had very little money to do any of it. As any super responsible twenty-something would do (i.e. this was a terrible idea and I’m still paying off debt today from it so I do not recommend this route EVER just in the name decorating), I opened lines of credit (don’t do this, young people) to buy furniture so I wasn’t sitting on the floor for six months. (Keep reading if you’re interested in the tale of “Arlyn Proudly Buys a Macy’s Sofa and Also Lots of Random Things From HomeGoods and the Internet”…if not, feel free to skip my nostalgia trip and head straight to the roundups.)
Being a total furniture newb, I scoured the web, not really knowing what anything should/would cost, what stores to go to besides Rooms To Go or Ashley or IKEA. This was my first real adult apartment (I’m not counting my college dorm apartments with the clinical waiting-room furniture they provided), so obviously it had to be a chic work of art that precisely expressed my 26-year-old tastes and the fact that I was now, ahem, a design magazine editor. And you know what I wish I had back then, all those years ago? AN ULTIMATE BUDGET APARTMENT FURNITURE GUIDE. Like THIS ONE! If you can’t help your past self, help the present and future people that are living your same experiences, right?
There are so many more options today, specifically online, for furniture that isn’t just a generic honey oak veneered box or the same espresso-stained birchwood media cabinet over and over again. That is what I affectionately refer to as furniture déjà vu—when you hit a point in the search process where you recognize every silhouette, it just goes by a different name and price at a different online store. Anyhow, none of this is to say I don’t fondly remember my gray velvet Macy’s Chloe sofa I bought during a One-Day Sale for $600 (plus the “care” package for an additional $150 that I absolutely never used) or my too-small-but-who-cares black-and-white chevron rug or the “weathered” wood coffee table I afforded with a rebate for signing up for AT&T U-Verse. I was proud of what I had put together, which subsequently made me want to have people over (except I had no friends because I was living in a new city). I felt like an “adult” with my matching throw pillows and my DIYed wall art (a constant reminder I clearly needed of my initials plastered in numerous parts of my apartment).
My very practical brother kept telling me not to waste my money because it was “just a rental” but I knew better. Sorry, bro. I knew that I would want to go home to a place that felt special to me. That had “my touch.” Sure, eventually I’d upgrade from most of that stuff once I merged homes with my S.O., but I carried it with me through three apartments and I don’t regret the money or time I put into my “just rentals.” Plus, they all were sold off or donated to new homes. I’d like to think that that old Macy’s sofa is somewhere still…probably in another 20-something’s apartment, definitely not splattered with red wine stains and French fry grease.
And now I’ve reached the part of this post where I realized no one besides my mom would care about my furniture ghosts of apartments past, and I’m about to get to why you’re probably here in the first place (that, or you created your own blog post reading adventure and skipped ahead to about here). Welcome. We worked really hard to dig up “budget apartment” living room furniture that we love right now, regardless of being “budget” and tried to touch on the main pieces you’d need. This roundup doesn’t include any soft goods (pillows, rugs, curtains), since those are pretty easy to find in your own personal style, but rather sofas, coffee tables, armchairs, media consoles, and accent tables, at price points by category we thought were fair but manageable. BUT WAIT. I cannot continue without throwing in the obligatory BE SURE TO GO THRIFTING/FLEA MARKETING/CRAIGSLISTING IF YOU WANT CRAZY GOOD FINDS THAT ARE USUALLY VERY WELL BUILT. Okay, now that that’s done, let me get down from my soap box and walk you through what we found:
Sofas Under $800
Here’s something funny we learned while going through this exercise: inexpensive sofas are not that difficult to find (a handful here are even under $400). Now, we can’t vouch for quality/comfort here, so be sure to dig through reviews as best you can…and double check measurements. A lot of these are on the smaller “apartment-sized” side, though there are a few larger ones. I’m pretty smitten with the shape of #5, the color of #3, the legs of #1, the cool modern side table thing of #6, and the French seam of #19. Oh, and for added fun, #21 is exactly like my first sofa, except mine was a lighter gray.
1. Aaron | 2. Aquarius Dark Grey | 3. Forest Green Samara | 4. Derry | 5. Ambrose | 6. Reid Side Table Convertible | 7. Owen | 8. Marcella Velvet | 9. Salisbury Slip Cover | 10. London Optical | 11. Sandbacken | 12. Charcoal Gray Quentin Chesterfield | 13. Winslow Armless Sleeper | 14. Landskrona | 15. Magner | 16. Shullsburg | 17. Loft | 18. Novogratz Chapman Sectional | 19. Henley Convertible | 20. Mid-Century Modern Linen | 21. Felton Tufted
Coffee Tables Under $300
While “budget” sofas in good styles are easy enough to come by, coffee tables are a totally different story. Man are these hard to source under $300. We did, however, excavate six that are $100 and under (check those sizes, though, some are on the smaller side) and a few others that didn’t feel like your usual coffee table fare. I’m very into the natural look of #2 (two side by side could be cool if you have the space/budget), #3 has some storage, #5 is minimally cool, #7 is a great pop of color (cute hardware, too!), #14 looks far more expensive than it actually is, and #18 is a classic mid-century style in a price that would be hard to beat outside of a garage sale.
1. Annette | 2. Hakon | 3. Alina Storage | 4. Arianna | 5. Tulou | 6. Listerby | 7. Wiley | 8. Stockholm | 9. Buckland Live Edge | 10. Janelle | 11. Mid Century Large | 12. Sayer | 13. Elgin | 14. Wyatt | 15. Toluca Marble and Brass | 16. Folkston | 17. Tachuri Geometric Front | 18. Elizabeth
Media Consoles Under $300(ish)
Alright, so a few of these are just over $300 (but in all fairness, when we picked them, they were $300 and under but prices fluctuate often on sites like Wayfair and Overstock). If you’re after a more modern look, pick something lower like #2 or #15. #3 (which is the same line as Emily’s dining room cabinet), #7, #9 and #14 are more on the traditional side, while #1, #4, #6 and #8 would be cool style additions (I’ve seen that caned Target #6 cabinet in multiple homes and it always makes me want to grab it…except I don’t need a media console right now). For many years, I had the larger size of the IKEA Besta (#11) and I LOVED it. I could customize the interior storage however I wanted (shelves, drawers, etc.), brands like semihandmade sell great retro-fit door options to up the design factor and you can throw on some cute legs from Etsy or Prettypegs and boom, you’ve got yourself a custom cabinet/media console.
1. Dayton | 2. Ezra | 3. Hadley | 4. Fjallbo | 5. Scandinavian Link Double Door | 6. Minsmere Caned | 7. Lunenburg Farmhouse | 8. Draper | 9. Westerleigh | 10. Wiley | 11. Besta | 12. Avondale | 13. Loring | 14. Windham | 15. Jarod
Side Tables Under $125
Side tables…because we all need a place to set a drink and some random stack of books/decor piece. This is their official slogan, FYI. So, the good news is, side tables can be VERY cost effective (four of these are under $50 and all but one under $100), which is a good thing because typically, you need two of them for each side of the sofa or next to a sofa/armchair.
I’m very into the double-tier situation at #1 and #13, as well as the little handle thing from #5, though the bean shape of #4 is a fun visual addition to a room usually full of straight-lined furniture. #7 in the matte black feels cool and modern, and the fabric storage “bucket” on #9 would also probably be pretty useful. I can’t believe #11…two tables under $50. These also come in black if white doesn’t work with your aesthetic. I think #15 is actually a nightstand, but a nightstand is just a side table…in a bedroom. Hot tip: Be sure to look for both terms to see ALL your options.
1. Listerby | 2. Cambridge Turned Leg | 3. Gladom | 4. Mae Bean | 5. Melia | 6. Aloysia Rattan | 7. Glasgow Metal | 8. Bjorksnas | 9. Meeks Round Storage Basket | 10. Manila Cylinder Drum | 11. Veria | 12. Loring | 13. Mandelin Wood/Metal | 14. Triangle | 15. Hafley Three Drawer | 16. Marble Pedestal | 17. Amherst Mid Century Modern Two-Tone | 18. Habitat
Armchairs Under $250
I lived many, many years without an armchair (again, no friends, so I just needed my sofa to sit on), until I found an $80 bergère chair at a local thrift store that had a very ugly beige taffeta-like fabric on it I swore up and down I was going to change soon. That was 8 years ago. It’s still untouched, but…one day guys…one day. Anyhow, these are kind of the “icing” on the cake in terms of living room furniture, but they can be so great as, you know, something useful to sit on for guests, or as something that provides visual interest (hello #6, #8 and #13 below!).
1. Koarp | 2. Mid Century Prouve Standard | 3. Lincoln Cane | 4. Gilliam | 5. Blue Tweed Thompson Upholstered | 6. Hanging Rope | 7. Rose Pink Tyley Upholstered | 8. Pierce Wicker | 9. Cora Slipper | 10. Massey Faux Fur Metal Base Slipper | 11. Kenn | 12. Luna | 13. Willow Wicker | 14. Vedbo | 15. Sorrento Mid-Century Retro Modern Fabric Upholstered | 16. Esters Wood | 17. Pomeroy Barrel | 18. Tankvard | 19. Isabella Rattan Barrel | 20. Poisson | 21. Storsele
And that’s all she wrote (after 1,700 words!). We’d love to continue on and expand the “budget/first adult” apartment series, so please chime in about what you want us to round up or put together. We have some ideas up our sleeves, but always want to hear from you all. Oh, and don’t miss the other posts in this series so far (here and here) or the giant shoppable Pinterest board we’ve put together with tons more budget-focused furniture options. Thank you for letting me relive my apartment memories…and can’t wait to show you my new LA apartment living and dining rooms soon (coming atcha next month). ::waves::