Lessons in Adulting: How Much Should Living Room Furniture Cost?

When we moved in together two years ago, my Craigslist-purchased couch with ripped cushions and protruding feathers, along with my once-glued together, now peeling-apart IKEA coffee table and self-desctructive Tar-gey bookshelves which are not safe to be around a small child, seemed perfectly fine for a trancient space. With barren white walls and a few half-filled and altogether empty frames scattered about the floor, this now-married couple is trying to figure out how to create a place that feels like “home” without overdoing it (you know, like we (…ahem… I) overdid our wedding.)

Right now, we really can’t have guests over because the place is embarrassing, even on its good days when I’ve cleaned up the piles of mess. Our lease is up in May, but it is doubtful we will move next year or anytime soon (the only real reasons for us to move is 1 – rents going up an unreasonable amount, 2 – we have a child and said child turns 2, or 3, one of us gets a job super far away, like, in another state, and we need to move.) Otherwise, it looks like we’re hunkered down for a few more years in our 800-square foot, overpriced-due-to-Silicon-Valley-rental-costs abode.

This furniture has got to go.

But what should we replace it with? Buying really nice furniture is not only costly, it is tough to invest in pieces when we don’t know what our permanent space will look like (or how much room we’ll have.) Then again, we both deep down doubt we can ever afford to own in this area, and now that we’re both in our mid 30s, it feels like it’s time to make our apartment feel like a home, even if it’s not a more permanent residence. Heck, if we end up unable to have kids, maybe we won’t move out of here for many years – or ever. I’d really like a place I can invite friends and family over to for dinner and other gatherings. I want a place that feels like a respite from the outside world and all the shit of the everyday. But I don’t want to go crazy and spend too much on decorating when maybe we will pick up and move sometime soon and find our newly-purchased furniture doesn’t fit our new space.

Although the bookshelves are an eyesore (and dangerous if we had any small children around), the couch and our bed are the two first items we want to replace. The couch is just straight-up gross and falling apart, and it’s time to say goodbye to it. The bed we both agree is too small for us (it’s a full but we want a queen) and I purchased it 10 years ago when I moved into my studio apartment… it seems to be on its last legs. We’d like a headboard frame as well, so our bed doesn’t roll away from the wall.

This weekend we went shopping specifically for couch replacement prospects. We visited a range of furniture stores — Macys, Ethan Allen, Thomasville and Scandinavian Designs. Originally we intended to buy a sectional at Macys, but I wasn’t impressed by their offerings and I’m desperate to not own a muted grey, beige or olive green couch. Ethan Allen’s couches were not only pricey, they were also way too old fashioned (my childhood bedroom set came from Ethan Allen so it was a walk through memory lane, but nothing stood out as the right fit for us.) Thomasville has a few potential options, but they were very expensive, and seemed like a better choice for our future-one-day-may-never-happen permanant house, and still felt either too old-fashioned or just boring. Both of us appreciated the modern lines at Scandinavian Designs (and I especially appreciated the price tags) but the quality of the furniture concerned me, especially given that I sit on the couch a lot and most of it wasn’t super comfortable.

Sofas and sectionals appear to range from about $700 to $5000+, depending on how fancy you want them to be, how big they are, if they have automated recliners, etc. Sectionals are theoretically more flexible, but if we don’t buy the entire sectional now it’s quite possible when we move later in life and want to add to it the model/fabric won’t be available and we’ll be stuck with something too small (or something too big.) Some sectionals aesthetically look silly to my eye, as the balance of the L-shaped piece is not proportioned well with the rest of the couch… what can I say, I’m picky about these things…

Another issue is that my husband likes grey couches. He likes black and grey and possibly navy blue, but that’s about it. I’m not desperate to have a light, happy teal-blue couch in a friendly-styled room, but I’d like the option to discuss. I certainly don’t like the furniture to be dark and heavy if we have a choice – I’d prefer a lighter sofa color (or medium-hued to hide any future stains) and darker wood furniture. It seems my husband and I have similar taste – we tend to agree on certain designs — but then he really likes things that I can’t stand and vice versa. It’s going to be challenging to decorate our household in a budget-friendly way that we both like.

Budget-wise, it sounds like spending $10k on a living room is a reasonable amount for furniture – but only if this is your permanent home. For a basic living room, a cheaper budget could be as follows (for new furniture)

  • Sectional – $3000
  • Coffee Table  – $1000
  • Bookshelf – $500
  • TV Stand – $500
  • Chair – $500
  • Lights/Decorations – $1000

~$6k-$7k, which is about right given that with tax, delivery, and things I’m forgetting it will be about $10k

Or, we just get a new couch and stick with our existing furniture for a while. Or a couch and a coffee table…

There’s so much to furnish in this tiny one-bedroom apartment, it makes me glad that we don’t have more space!

Furniture Items to Buy, In Order of Priority…

  1. Sofa/Sectional ($3000)
  2. Queen-Sized Bed & Headboard/Frame ($3000)
  3. Coffee Table, Side Table & TV Stand & Bookshelves ($2k-$3k)
  4. Kitchen Table & Chairs ($2k?)

I think if we purchased those items we’d be in a much better spot than we are now. The question is not only should we spend the money and when, but can we can agree on any furniture styles!




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6 thoughts on “Lessons in Adulting: How Much Should Living Room Furniture Cost?”

  1. We bought a “Sac”tional couch from the LoveSac company for these reasons – and we love it! It’s modular, so we can rearrange it any way we want, and know that it will fit in every apartment we’ll ever live in. It comes with machine-washable, replaceable covers, and it’s super durable, so it’s kid-friendly. (That wasn’t important yet when we bought it 2 years ago, but now we have a kiddo and it is!) And it’s super comfy, which is what the LoveSac company is known for in the first place.

    And your husband would be interested to know that we got ours in grey. 😉 I have purple pillows on it and it looks great. But with the removable washable colors, we don’t have to stick with one color/fabric option forever if we change our minds!

    It’s a little pricey – we paid about $3500 for the pieces we bought, and in a larger space we’d probably want to add a few more pieces to it. But considering it’s meant to last a lifetime with just the covers being replaced once in a while, I’m very happy with the value we got.

    (Oh, and if there’s a LoveSac store near you, I recommend going in and sitting on some Sactionals. Their sales people are NOT paid on commission, so it’s nice to not get the hard sell, like you would at a regular furniture store. Since they’re not on commission, they don’t even care if you just come in to sit on the stuff and then place your order online later. It’s awesome. We spent half an hour sitting on sacs and couches and just talking to the employee about video games!)
    Stephonee recently posted..Reader Question: Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

  2. Bassett Furniture also has good options. I’ve always thought their furniture was a nice mix of contemporary and classic. Price-wise, it’s probably more like a Thomasville, so an investment, but it won’t break the bank, especially if they have a sell going on. You can also pick out your own fabric, etc. I think they have locations in CA too.

  3. All of our living room furniture came from IKEA, and it’s all at least ten years old. The trick is skipping the cheap particleboard/MDF stuff and getting wood or steel construction. We brought all of it home ourselves, once even renting a moving van to drive to New Jersey for the couch. I even remember the prices and weird IKEA names for some of them.

    Couch (Kramfors) – $1,400
    TV Stand (Magicker) – $150
    Coffeetable (Pilbo) – $150
    Desk – Probably $60-80. It’s a big wood plank with spindly legs attached.
    CD shelves (Three Bennos) – $120. Still haven’t parted with these.

  4. We bought our couch from C&B for $1.2k, delivery included. Room and Board has a nice selection at the mid to high price range. I’ve also heard people swear by Joybird (online retailer). If you are willing to wait, all the furniture stores have big sales around back-to-school time, ~15% off. You can also try buying non-fabric wooden items, like your coffee table and dining set at secondhand stores or even Craigslist for a fraction of what they’d be new.

  5. Based on your description (which I hope you are embellishing because it not, it sounds gross), it sounds like you desperately need to stop living like impoverished college students and buy some new furniture. Our approach has been to completely do/redo a single room at a time (kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, kids’ room). It gives such a refreshing feeling to come home and enjoy a fully fresh looking room that’s complete. And then you can wait for a few months and then do another room and get to relive that refreshing feeling in another room. This also will spread the expenses out. I don’t think it would be quite as satisfying to replace just the couch and then 6 month later do the coffee table, but maybe it would work for you. I assume that you spend more of your awake hours in your living room than your bedroom so I would certainly do that first, and then tackle your bedroom unless there is a major reason to upgrade your bed immediately. You’ve been sleeping on that bed for 10 years, what’s another 6 months?

    I’m with you and like Scandinavian Designs, but I didn’t think they were cheap. My parents have Stressless recliners that they have had for the last 20 years that are still in great condition, but they were $3000 back then so I don’t know what your concerns are with quality. Have you considered Pottery Barn? We got our couch from there and it is comfortable. I think it’s this one (maybe an older model, maybe not), but as you can see they are made to order and therefore have a million different options and can range in price from $900 to $3000.


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