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by Arlyn Hernandez
Youxi988 Target Fall Product 2018 Threshold Traditional Cozy1
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how target’s fall threshold collection nails the “updated classic” trend

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?

Studio Session 042 Cropped
photo by  | from: a neutral mid-century living room vignette

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 ( 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

Youxi988 Target Global Modern Contemporary Living Room 3
from: a target budget living room

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 , the color of , the legs of , the cool modern side table thing of , and the French seam of . Oh, and for added fun, is exactly like my first sofa, except mine was a lighter gray.

Youxi988 Budget Apartment Furniture Sofas 1

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Coffee Tables Under $300

Youxi988 Target Loft Masculine Neutral Project 62 121
photo by | from: a modern yet warm loft with project62

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 (two side by side could be cool if you have the space/budget), has some storage, is minimally cool, is a great pop of color (cute hardware, too!), looks far more expensive than it actually is, and is a classic mid-century style in a price that would be hard to beat outside of a garage sale.

Youxi988 Budget Apartment Furniture Coffee Tables 1

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Media Consoles Under $300(ish)

Family Room 7 001 Tv
photo by | from: combining furniture styles in the casa soria family room

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 or . (which is the same line as Emily’s dining room cabinet), , and are more on the traditional side, while , , and would be cool style additions (I’ve seen that caned Target 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 () and I LOVED it. I could customize the interior storage however I wanted (shelves, drawers, etc.), brands like sell great retro-fit door options to up the design factor and you can throw on some cute legs from or and boom, you’ve got yourself a custom cabinet/media console.

Youxi988 Budget Apartment Furniture Media Cabinets 1

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Side Tables Under $125

Youxi988 Citizenry Photo Artwork Tessa Living Room Boho 5
photo by for ehd | from: a little room refresh with the citizenry

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  and , as well as the little handle thing from , though the bean shape of is a fun visual addition to a room usually full of straight-lined furniture. in the matte black feels cool and modern, and the fabric storage “bucket” on would also probably be pretty useful. I can’t believe …two tables under $50. These also come in black if white doesn’t work with your aesthetic. I think 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.

Youxi988 Budget Apartment Furniture Side Tables 1

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Armchairs Under $250

Youxi988 Target Fall Product 2018 Threshold Traditional Cozy6
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how target’s fall threshold collection nails the “updated classic” trend

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!).

Youxi988 Budget Apartment Furniture Accent Chairs 1

1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. | 7. | 8. | 9. | 10. | 11. | 12. | 13. | 14. | 15. | 16. | 17. | 18.  | 19. | 20. | 21.

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 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::

  1. This is SO helpful! Thank you! Can you do a dining room post just like this?!

    1. ^^I second this! Would love to see a similar budget-friendly dining room post, preferably with ideas for when you want to seat six. I hate how most posts assume that all apartment dwellers and/or single folks only need like two chairs. Um, game nights? Friendsgiving? Using a dining table as a desk for home office stuff too? Superbowl parties? Inviting over a friend who has kids. Just saying. People have diverse dining room needs, even if they’re in the same season of life.

      1. Agree! Would love to see this! Having a large table to work/entertain can be so useful. I made one out of pipes and plywood that has a recessed shelf below for storage. Cheap and super functional.

      2. ^ Yes, yes, yaaaaas!

        [chanting enthusiastically] “Dining room, dining room!”

    2. Second on the dining room request!

    3. yes! on the dining room one. i’m looking for good sturdy and pretty dining chairs. i have some amazing ones (marcel breuer cesca chairs and josef hoffmann cane ones – all from craigslist) that i’ve been storing, but i also have young kids that i think would damage the cane, so i really don’t want to use them yet. sooooo, i’m trying to find some new ones (because i hate my current ones) that are 1. pretty 2. kid friendly, 3. not too expensive, and 4. GOOD QUALITY (not cheap fast-furniture)
      i’ve been scouring craigslist for a while, but i still haven’t found the right ones.
      so i would love to see what you guys would come up with.

      1. Check out article svelti dining chairs. I had nice wooden upholstered chairs that came as a set with my table. With a toddler running around there were too many sharp edges and the chairs were difficult to keep clean. Article svelti dining chairs are cheap ($49 each), sturdy, and easy to maintain with a toddler.

        1. to Diksha:
          OMG. These are gorgeous. Like, literally exactly what I was looking for. and in so many colors! Thank you SO much for this suggestion.

    4. we’re on it!

    5. I agree.

  2. Please makeover your $80 bergere chair and show us. Please, please, please!

  3. Arlyn I liked your adulting story 🙂

    Maybe a series on “budget outdoor spaces”? You know, now that we’re roaring into buy-stuff-for-your-patio season.

    One thing I want to bring up is the casualness with which you mentioned buying furniture with credit… I was assuming you were going to come back later in the story and say something like AND NOW I’M OLD AND WISE AND I REALIZE CREDIT IS A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE WAY TO FURNISH MY HOUSE. Like, it’s one of the worst financial decisions a young person can make… (sorry not trying to bash you here, but I had just assumed that EHD might use this platform to remind us click-happy readers that the anticipation of buying something really makes it worth the wait to buy with cash, not credit)

    1. Agreed. Having a nice couch is not worth going into debt.

    2. Agree! Please update to feature a warning/disclaimer on credit!

    3. yes I updated the copy because I realize my sarcasm about being “responsible” was, uh, too subtle. NO ONE SHOULD GO INTO DEBT UNNECESSARILY JUST TO DECORATE. I AM indeed older and wiser now, and am mad at my past self for not caring about what my future self would then have to deal with for almost a decade later.

  4. I love this series! I’ve been in the process of furnishing my first one bedroom and have been trying to find budget items all over the place! I finished furnishing my apartment before this post (though my coffee table, media console, and arm chair were ALL featured—what?!), but it’s such a helpful resource. I’ve love something on budget art, rugs, curtains, kitchen gear, etc. All the other small things you need to finish a place that can add up!

    1. oh great idea. Originally, we had rugs and lighting in this roundup, but those felt like they should be separate for some reason, so we’ll get to work on these, as well!

  5. My first (several) apartments featured one hand-me-down mattress on a bed frame abandoned by the previous tenant, an armoire I found on the sidewalk, and whatever my mom gave me from her garage. My ‘design’ was to spray paint everything matte black so that it matched, and use thick drop cloths for bedspread/chair cover, windows so at least everything matched? I could not even afford Ikea!

    1. I also very much went through a “spray paint everything” phase, except for me it was gold…

  6. nice roundup. i can’t believe how cheap some of this stuff is. this is good if you don’t have access to good vintage stuff.
    but for me, the first place i look is always CRAIGSLIST (except for beds, gross). you can get really good quality stuff (not fast-furniture, but actual good quality) for cheap! Go second-hand or vintage! almost all of our furniture is craigslist, but really good stuff. i love it!

  7. Great post! Super helpful for not just first apartments/homes but those of us a) renovating, so furnishings budget gets pinched tighter and tighter and change orders come in and/or b) furnishing rentals (apartments or airbnbs) with some soul.

    Would really like to see the “I got this on credit” part updated with BUYING FURNITURE ON CREDIT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE JUST STARTING OUT/CAN’T PAY IT OFF IMMEDIATELY. Especially for “younger” people starting out/making their first paychecks, in their first apartments/homes, please please please do not encourage/not actively DIScourage purchasing furniture on credit.

    Really enjoying the recent content–this was helpful, Monday’s post about budgeting was really great and OG Emily–sharing some nitty gritty. Also love the mountain house posts where you talk about things you cut/decided not to do because of budget/time/decision fatigue (like cutting the bunks, etc). Would love a round-up like Monday’s on things you have initially considered/planned on but ultimately cut. Particularly because so much material is gifted/sponsored (which is AWESOME, get it girl–it’s inspiring to see beautiful materials used in “real life”) the places where you “cut” really hit home and make me think twice about things in my reno!

    Thanks for all you do!

    1. Oh goodness I def didn’t want it to read that way. I want to add that I am STILL PAYING OFF THAT DEBT YEARS LATER and regret every second. I’ll be sure to update the copy because I wouldn’t want it to come off nonchalant.

  8. Please show me how to style a small apartment balcony.

  9. Great timing for this post! I just had major back surgery and am looking at upwards of a year to full recovery. I’ve listed my car for sale since I won’t be driving it anytime soon and am planning on going shopping for new, more comfortable for me to rest on, living room furniture as soon as the cash is in my hands. I have boards full of favorite rooms built up over the years and am sure the sales people are going to be rolling their eyes when I start mixing & matching pieces from different collections on the sales floor as I really don’t want an all matching set, lol.

    1. oh man I wish you a speedy, full recovery! And good luck with those sales people. they can roll their eyes all they want as long as you get what you want!

    2. You may be surprised, when we went to buy our bedroom furniture, we mixed and matched from different lines, and I laughed and told the sales guy “sorry, you probably think people who do this are a pain” and his response was “actually I really like when people mix it up. It’s fun to see how you put the different pieces together, and it will end up looking much more interesting.” They make a sale regardless, so why should they judge you for what you’re buying? And I bet when they buy furniture, they don’t just go buy a matching set, because they dont want to be just another person who did!

  10. Where was this list when I was in my first apartment????

  11. Love this post — thank you so much! Would you be open doing a similar roundup for 2 kids sharing a room? I need BUNK BED and rug help!

  12. Though only tangentially related, I’ll ask this here because this community has been a fantastic resource. I am looking to buy a sofa from Inside Weather (their base model is not much more than the round up, sub-$1000) but was wondering if any of you have used the company in the past and have any thoughts on it.

  13. Emily can you post stuff on how to create common living spaces shared by adults children. We live in an apartment with a toddler and have one big living and dining room which also functions as a play room during daytime. I struggle with keeping the space looking organized and not hosting adult dinner parties in a playroom!!!

  14. Totally purchasing that wood toned media console from Target! We’ve been in desperate need of a new one for ages!

    Paige

  15. Please post on affordable hardwired lighting to replace builder grade horrors. Maybe feature more Etsy vs IKEA I hope there are beautiful affordable options out there that aren’t 200 from Wayfair!

    1. oh yeah!! we love lighting around here. we’ll add it to the list.

  16. Budget items are the MOST terrifying things for me to buy online. It’s a bummer that you can’t vouch more for the quality of any of this. Like you said, it’s not hard to find a cheap sofa online….but it’s VERY hard to find out if it’s any good. I would love to see a more ambitious post that test runs some of these things?

    1. Yes! I agree 100%.

      We recently spent a month in a sublet (long story). Most of the furniture was vintage, but the chairs at the dinner table looked new. I sat in one and it fell apart. The landlord came to discuss something; sat in another one, and it fell apart. (He’s probably under 200 lbs & im considerably less). I’m sure he got them because they’re cheap and looked nice, but people want to know their furniture won’t break under them!

      Please check things out before recommending them.

  17. Love this post!

  18. Love this series! So helpful. Would be great to see dressers and desks!

  19. Having just recently been looking for an affordable media console, I immediately recognized a LOT of the furniture on this list 😀 but I’m a little bit weirded out by how terrible the reviews are on some of the pieces you’ve suggested. Budget is budget, I know, but what would be much more helpful to me (and I’d think some others) was if you actually looked into the pieces’ materials and construction before recommending them based on looks. I agree that these are all super cute and stylish, but $200 ain’t actually all that cheap for something that you can’t put together because it’s made badly (and then you have to figure out how to return it) or that falls apart within a year or two.

  20. This is so great! Would love to see a bookcase roundup and a kids’ bedroom / playroom furniture roundup, too, if you guys are able to work those in someday! My big dream is also to see a greenguard / non-toxic furniture roundup on a great design blog one of these days – that stuff can be so hard to find – but I know that’s a big ask…

  21. Should that be coffee tables under $200? I didn’t see one that cost more than that. Maybe I missed something? Nice roundup!

  22. This is great, thanks. I have two kids headed to college next year and this will come in handy. I’d love to see a series on furniture in the mid range price wise.. I see a lot of low and high price. Quality that is affordable. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Target. My house could be a showroom. I just have a hard time trying to find something a step up that will last and be a bit timeless.
    .

  23. Yes, I did check out the furniture and most is marvelous, but I’m at the point where I need to have the big makeover with paint. I especially liked the creamy color of the Living room first shown. Did I miss the color or did you not share it?

  24. this is SO GREAT — thank you!!!

  25. Don’t underestimate the possibility of buying store floor samples. I work at Crate and Barrel part time and since displays switch out with some frequency (mostly January and July, but sometimes during the year, too), you can get a nice quality piece for a really good deal–50% off retail or more. If you can forgo delivery and pick it up (maybe you or a friend has a truck), ask for an additional discount.. If the store doesn’t have to take the time and resources to wrap and deliver it (even if you’re paying for delivery, the prep takes time), you’re likely to get another percentage off.
    I’ve bought several chairs this way and used Uber XL to get them home!

    1. Ohh so smart. Thank you for sharing that tip!

    2. Yes! My husband and I have been stalking a sectional from RH for over a year now hoping they change out their display. Some places even have a waiting list for floor sample items.

  26. Your roundups are such a gift! And evergreen content. I’ve remembered and returned to them literally years later as it comes time to put them to use. This is sooo good.

    1. Love to hear this!

  27. What I’d like in this series? For form *and* function to be addressed. This series is for people who don’t have a lot of money, so they probably don’t have a lot of money, or a lot of space. Everything has to work! Chairs and couches have to be comfortable! Couches with beds are useful. Drawers in nightstands and media cabinets have to open and close well! Everything needs to be well made so it won’t fall apart. No matter how cool things on the list look, if they haven’t been vetted and found to be functional, they aren’t a good idea & the list isn’t helpful. Sorry to be such a downer.

    1. I totally get your comment. And as much as I wish we could personally vet everything, it’s just not that possible in an internet-focused shopping world. 🙁 But we can definitely try to do posts on things we HAVE owned and tried and loved.

  28. I love this. Could you do something for budget/ diy bookshelves? You know, that hold lots of books (as opposed to lots of decorative things) thanks!!

    1. Ha we were just talking about this today as a team. How to decorate and store books in an attractive way when you have a ton of them.

  29. Love these! Can you do a post on budget friendly decor for tiny apartment patios? Would love tips on how to use our sliver of outside space!

  30. loooove this post
    thank you so much for sharing!
    greetings from Italy

  31. Amazing! All the designs and art is truly fantastic. Great color combination. Would like to see some more information to match my interior with wall also.

  32. Love these posts! My husband and I have collected things over the years from Craigslist/FB sales and thrift stores…. We love when we find something to upgrade a piece of furniture with and can then resell the old one. I constantly see things on there that I am like, “Is this really cool or do I just want it to be cool…would Youxi988 buy this? Is it a steal or am I kidding myself?” I wish there was a way to send finds in and have Emily and staff say “love it!” or “leave it!” I loved the craigslist finds posts!

  33. I am living for this series, because this is exactly where I’m at in my life! I just moved out of my parents’ place last year at 25, and am currently living the all Ikea life. This makes me sad, as a Canadian, that we don’t have Target because SO many of the budget options that I like are from Target!!

    Anyway, another great budget idea for side tables is to use stools. We are currently using stools (from Ikea, obvi) as side tables in our living room, and they look and function so well as both side tables and extra seating for guests!

  34. This is so amazing, Emily! Thank you for putting this together. Pinned all of them.

    1. So glad it was helpful!

    2. Amazing sofa’s and chairs, you know I’m living in a pg in Gurgaonon rent and now I’m gonna design that room just like the one I’m seeing in pictures. It looks like they are budget friendly. i have not seen older one which other says they are really expensive. updated one looks ln budget Thank you for sharing the designs.

  35. Great ideas & love your put together looks. In all price ranges.

  36. You can paint the ugly fabric on your thrift store chair … Check for how tos. Looking forward to seeing your apartment next month.

  37. Absolutely love all of the content in this and every post. Sadly, I checked on some of the Target pieces on line and in my local stores and they are no longer available-specifically the tapestry rug and leather/vegan pillow-would love some pointers on any other affordable rug options-

  38. Liked the way the post disclaims the variety of product right @ the bottom with the prices. Helpful to choose thru the right product that suits the house.
    Thanks for the post.
    Keep posting

  39. We’re decades past millennial status (we actually just bought our forever home in Florida) but I love the options that you posted! We had planned on downsizing but instead we ended up buying a home that is 600 square feet larger than the home that we sold so now we need to buy a ton of furniture to fill it. Thanks to this post I’m no longer stressing out. After seeing all of these great (and affordable) finds I think I may be able to pull this off after all. Would also love to see some bedroom and dining room options so please don’t stop with the living room. Thanks Arlyn!

  40. Yes please on a dining room post!

  41. I read your blog. It’s really informative and helpful as well. I usually bought the budget-friendly living room furniture online from Get.Furniture at affordable prices. Thanks for the lovely post.

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