How to Update Your Living Room on a Medium Budget

Some of the furniture in this post was provided by Article for review purposes.

After living through a kitchen renovation last year, updating our living room was the last thing on my mind. Never mind that we were still using my husband’s old leather couch from his bachelor days, and never mind that it had a persistent hole that kept reopening no matter how many times we (he) stitched it up.

Truly, I was not ready for another project. We were not going to update the living room.

Ahem.

Sheepish human and dog in their new living room.

We had been saving up for another goal that ended up not happening in October, and we found ourselves with a few thousand dollars that no longer had a purpose. It would have been fine to sock it away for retirement, but even my still-burnt-out-from-the-kitchen self had to admit that the dear old couch had seen better days.

So instead, we decided to treat ourselves to what I’d call a medium-budget update for the living room, in the same way I think we had a medium-budget kitchen reno, and a medium-budget wedding. Not the cheapest by any means, but we were smart about our spending and paid for things that we loved (and skimped where we didn’t care all too much). 

Some of the those medium-budget things we love.

We’ve covered what that looks like for weddings and kitchens around here, so let’s talk living rooms. How much does it cost to do a medium-budget living room update?

1. Make a Shopping List

First, to come up with a budget we had to make a list of what we wanted. A couch and a chair were non-negotiable. They were the foundation of the room, and honestly the most justifiable expense—the old ones were, and this is not an exaggeration, falling apart.

The coffee table was next on the list in terms of priority, because the old one was a hulking black beast of a table and really didn’t fit with our (my) ideas for the room.

Everything after that was a wishlist item, so they weren’t bought right away, but it included new lighting, new artwork, and maybe new side tables. So we were looking at:

  • Couch (1)
  • Chair (1)
  • Coffee table (1)
  • Lamps (2)
  • Art (6)
  • Frames for the art (6)

2. Shop Around (and Do a Mood Board!)

Once we had the wishlist, and in order of importance, we shopped around. I dug through all the online stores I could find that either sold or showed off furniture. We even did an in-person walkthrough of a semi-custom furniture store, which helped open our eyes to how much furniture can actually cost, which made us (me) feel a lot better about our eventual spending.

After all that research, we ended up narrowing it down to a few options, all from Article, for the couch. The couch became the real centrepiece, and it was going to end up deciding a lot of other things, so I put together some comically bad Google Slides with copy-pasted images together in my approximation of a mood board to help us choose.

This was the winning “mood board” please marvel at my epic design skills.

We settled on a combo of the Ceni sofa in Aquarius Aqua from Article, and the Timber Charme chair in Chocolat, also from Article. The “mood boards,” as horrible and hacked together as they were, really helped us picture what we wanted the end result to be—and helped us make the call about the couch and the chair, even though other than the rug we already had, we bought nothing else in this photo at the end of the day.

Total cost: $3161.74
Some, not all, of this cost was covered by Article for this review. This is the retail cost of what we bought.

Article Ceni sofa review: Is it worth it?
The couch is very much dog-approved now that we have it. Also, note to dog owners: the fabric is great and sturdy enough I never worry about the dog being on it or ruining it.

Confidential to those considering getting furniture through Article: We l-ov-e-d our experience! If you haven’t heard, Article is a modern furniture brand that delivers high-quality furniture to your door. They offer free shipping on all orders over $999, and flat-rate shipping for $49 under that amount. You have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee to try stuff in your own home, and in case you’re looking at the couch and chair we went with (and kept after unpacking them!) here’s a mini-review.

The Ceni sofa is gorgeous—it’s a firmer couch, with a more upright seat, but I am a dedicated lounger and it’s plenty lounge-able with the right pillows while still being formal enough to look nice. It’s got loose seat cushions, solid wood legs, and they are being very serious about the durable fabric. I don’t worry for a second about the dog being on the couch.

The Timber Charme chair is a cozier, cushier seat, and the leather is amazing—really soft and supple, full-aniline Italian-tanned leather, and it’s wearing beautifully (we’ve had it for a few months now). The seat and back cushions are loose, and the filling is a combo of down and polyester and whatever ratio they have in there is *chef’s kiss*.

Both are 10/10, would buy again.

3. Accessorize Around Your Main Pieces

After hitting “Buy now” on the couch and the chair, we…. waited. Seriously, we pressed a full-on pause on the living room project for a week until the Article shipments arrived (and were carried right into the room, a dream and an affordable upgrade I highly recommend). 

Once we had them unpacked, we wanted to get a feel for the items in the space and make other decisions based on how it would really work with the new couch and chair after seeing (and sitting on) them in person. This also gave us time to prioritize what was really important, and where we might be OK saving some money on the project.

The chair is, no joke, everyone in the family’s favourite. Very much including the dog.

As just one example, when we started out I assumed we would need to replace the side tables we got when we first moved in, but after seeing them in the room with the new pieces, they actually kind of worked—at least, they worked as well as any of the options I found online. That saved us an extra ~$500 off our total plan right there.

4. Explore New Online Decor Options

So yes, we got our main pieces of furniture online, which saved us money against similar quality items elsewhere, but we also managed to get a lot of our decor pieces online too. Specifically, I spent a whole weekend casually browsing Society6 and found some of my favourite art pieces for the living room—and they were heckin’ affordable. 

Add in some frames, sourced locally because shipping frames is actually fairly expensive, and for the first time in two years we have actually art on the walls. Imagine that!

5. Keep Track of the Small Costs Too

I can say with full confidence that we easily could have been like “The cost of the chair and the couch is what we spent on the living room” and fully forgotten that oh right, we spent a fair chunk on the accessories too. 

Once the entire project was said and done, we spent $1120.57 on accessories, including:

  • $226.37 at Society6
  • $129.09 on frames for the art
  • $198.95 for some lamps, art ledges, and wireless chargers
  • $428.27 for our coffee table
  • $137.89 for pillows

That brought our total investment to $4,282.31 to redo the living room. It’s not as cheap as we could have done it, but knowing what I know now about how much you can actually spend on a couch, it’s also not nearly the top end of what we could have spent.

And that, my friends, is exactly how we redid our living room on a medium budget.