Realistic Decorating Budgets for Your Forever Home

Last week, we went to visit my Handsome Husband’s parents in Georgia. I almost always  browse the airport magazine racks for a design magazine to peruse, and this time I picked up the September issue of HGTV Magazine.

A makeover I read therein gave me the perfect launchpad for writing about a topic near and dear to my heart and one that I’ve been wanting to discuss with all you lovely readers for a long time  —


Realistic Decorating Budgets for Your “Forever Home”


I’m not talking about budgets for living rooms for the out-of-college, first apartment where you’re scanning street corners for cast-off sofas (been there, done that). I’m not talking about your newlywed house (though that sometimes becomes your Forever Home — talk to my parents!) where you’re just trying to furnish it as cheaply as possible in order to get the rooms filled.

I’m also not talking about having a SUPER EXPENSIVE HOME. What I mean when I say “Forever Home” is this — this is the home where you hope to spend 10-20+ years (barring unforeseen circumstances, of course!), and so you want your style & decor to last as long as your time in the house.


I.e. not end up in a dumpster in 5 years because it broke down or you got sick of it.


I’m talking about what it costs to decorate a room well, with quality that will stand the test of time, and from scratchmeaning how every. Single. ITEM. adds up to make a room feel finished and makes you say, “AHHHHHHHH! I’m home.”


I can’t go into budgets that my clients use, but that HGTV article provided me with an excellent example for you today!


Example: HGTV Forever Home Living Room Budget


This lovely couple who had just bought their first house in Madison, WI, a 1,500 sf ranch. I don’t know if this is actually their Forever Home, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s just say that it is.


All images from HGTV .

Realistic Living Room Budget for Your Forever House
Patrick & Katie Roetker and their adorable first home.


Now, I’m used to seeing HGTV make over spaces on the cheap, and I’m also used to seeing the magazine profile higher-end homes and then close with ideas of how to get a similar look for less $ (like with Kelly Rogers’ gorgeous home here).

And granted, I don’t read this magazine regularly. But the September issue was the first time I’d noticed HGTV using quality decor that wasn’t “here-today-dumpster-tomorrow” … and showing the REAL $$$ of those items at retail prices. So let’s begin.


The Roetkers’ families had helped them furnish with various hand-me-downs to fill the rooms, but Patrick says:

“It felt like a jumble, and we didn’t know where to being with redecorating, so we just left it.”


Realistic Living Room Budget for Your Forever House
The Roetkers’ living room *before*.


Sound familiar? I hear this EXACT COMMENT from sooooooo many clients.


When HGTV was done with their living room, it looked like this:


Realistic Living Room Budget for Your Forever House


Realistic Living Room Budget for Your Forever House


Realistic Living Room Budget for Your Forever House


Whether or not this room is to your personal taste, you have to admit that it has character and style now.


From the pages of the magazine:

Realistic Living Room Decorating Budget for Your Forever Home
The Budget Break Down


  • Navy sofa: $6,800
  • (2) Leather Chairs: $1,998
  • Lounge Chair: $2,460
  • 9 x 13 Rug: $1,455
  • Coffee table: $2,544
  • Shades (estimate, based on similar from Smith & Noble): $4,390
  • Large art: $1,300
  • Small art 1: $96
  • Small art 2: $67
  • White side table: $348
  • (2) Pom-pom pillows: $256
  • Yellow pillow: $94
  • Grooved stone lamp: $269
  • Side table: $297.50
  • Floor lamp: $199
  • (4) Additional accent pillows (estimate): $400
  • Mantel & tabletop decor (estimate): $300


Total: $23,273.50

Not including shipping, taxes, or potential sale prices. Like that navy sofa? I have something similar for sale at half the price!


HGTV vs. Reality: Just How REALISTIC Are Reality TV Decorating Budgets?


You can read about the rest of HGTV’s makeover here.

When I started designing my own home (before I got into the business), it was SO HARD to figure out how much I could expect to spend on furnishings that would last the lifetime of our time in this house. But I’m a New Englander and a straight shooter … I wanted the facts so that I’d be prepared. I wanted to KNOW what I could afford, and what I couldn’t.


And I have a feeling others out there may also want this same info.


Want to know how I think HGTV’s budget compares to a realistic decorating budget?

Realistic Decorating Budgets for Your Forever Home


After my years as a DIY decorator for my own home and then as a professional decorator, I’ve come up with these budgets to give you a ballpark idea of what you can expect to spend.


This FREE guide gives you Value, Mid-Range, and High-End Budgets for decorating the 3 types of rooms I’m called in to decorate most:

  • Living Rooms
  • Dining Rooms
  • Master Bedrooms



You can also go to the guide and see how I think the Roetkers’ living room compares to what I consider a realistic living room budget!

To receive it, sign up for Home Glow’s Saturday Blog below:


What do you think of the HGTV’s living room budget? Do YOU think it’s realistic? More or less than you thought?

I’ll be taking a break for Labor Day, but I’ll be back the week after. Woohoooo! School starts Monday!!!!


Home Glow Design Shop on Chairish


4 thoughts on “Realistic Decorating Budgets for Your Forever Home”

  1. Way way too expensive for me but I do admit that my frugal furniture purchases do not hold up. Also, not trusting my own capabilities in decorating, I am afraid too spend too much then not like it.

  2. Way too expensive for me, too. I’m from NC where furniture has been made FOREVER. With antiques and used furniture from consignment shops and thrift shops, filling in with new things like mattresses that you would not want used, you CAN furnish a house for a song. I recently helped my 36 year old bachelor son furnish his living room in his first awesome house. I would scout out the shops and send him pictures and he would say yes or no. He could have afforded to spend what the Roetkers’ spent, but he was appalled to learn that furniture actually costs that much. He paid $150 for one sofa from Restore, $5 (yes, you read that correctly) FIVE DOLLARS for another sofa from Goodwill with a torn skirt that we just removed. Although the tags with the brand names had been removed both of these sofas were well constructed with eightway-tied springs and feather and down cushions. Then he spent $50 at Salvation Army for a Ballard Design Larkin chair that had a small tar type stain that I removed. His side tables were picked up from consignment shops and his coffee table is actually two small ming style tables that he paid $60 for the pair from Salvation Army. The lamps are from Restore. Only the throw pillows are new. It took a few months, but so would special orders for new furniture. Now he has plenty of money to spend on the art that he wants. And if Ms. Right ever shows up, they can redo it together if they want.

    1. You are very blessed to live where you do and have such decorating abilities! Here in New Hampshire, cast-offs aren’t nearly so good — more like broken down Ashley Furniture.

      I agree that scouting consignment and auctions are a fabulous way to save money in high quality furnishings, and I’ve done many posts on those subjects. But I’ve also seen people who have still wasted thousands of dollars on home they don’t enjoy being “penny wise pound foolish.” It comes down to having an “eye” and a plan for decorating in your head, something that is outside of many homeowners wheelhouses.

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