Cary Grant’s Mr. Blandings apparently had some pretty deep pockets when he was building his dream house back in 1947. Still, he spent every nickel he had and put his family into hawk to put together his house. Constructing and decorating it had nearly torn apart his family and driven Mr. Blandings into the poor house. And then, at the last minute, he was saved by a catchphrase supplied by his maid. His advertising career was rescued, he had the money he needed to pay off his lenders and they all lived happily ever after. Ah, a Hollywood happy ending!
Unlike the fictional Mr. Blandings, we are on a very tight budget for buying and decorating our dream house. If we could scoop up all the money we have right now and time warp back to 1947, we’d be rich. By 2013 standards, however, we’re just getting by. We certainly don’t have a lot of money throw around in furnishing the house. Nor do we want to go into debt to achieve the dream home. And you know what? We’re totally fine with that. In fact, we’re going to love the challenge.
We’ve got a plan, you see. We have a plan to outfit the dream house on a small budget while still looking like we spent a million bucks. It’s probably going to require a lot patience and there will definitely be plenty of elbow grease involved, but we’re up for the challenge. So what’s the plan? It’s simple:
Almost every piece of furniture we bring into the house is going to be used. We’re shopping Craigslist, thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales to furnish the home with vintage pieces. Save for a few items (mattresses, perhaps a sofa) we want every piece of furniture in the house to be unique. And you know who makes the most unique furnishings? The people of yesteryear. They also made high quality furniture that can be scooped up pretty cheaply.
Now that we have the actual dream house in our sights (rumor has it we may be ready to make an announcement soon) we’ve started shopping for furnishings for it. My first purchase was two mission style armchairs that I found on Craigslist. They required a one hour drive outside the city but they’re damned nice chairs. They’re big, solid and well made with a nice dark finish and brown leather cushions. If I had bought them new they would have easily been $500 apiece. I scored two chairs for $225.
But wait – it gets better. Our plan for furnishing the dream house is two-pronged. While we’re buying and collecting used furnishings to put in the new house, we’re also selling off some of what we already have sitting around.
A couple of days after I bought the chairs, I sold a bed that had been collecting dust in our storage unit for sale. I set a price of $300 on Craigslist, assuming that the buyer would negotiate. Three days later, a young couple handed over fifteen $20 bills and carried off the bed.
If you’re keeping track, that means I not only recouped the $225 I spent on the chairs, I had gained $75 more!
Armed with $300, my next mission was to find two matching twin beds. I’ve been hunting for weeks actually. I’ve gotten up at 5AM to hit estate sales and I’ve trolled Craigslist and ebay. And then yesterday, thanks to friends who are super vintage scouts, I scored the twin beds in the photo at the top of this post. They’re definitely vintage, although I’m not quite sure how old. I was immediately drawn to their French Provincial styling and by the fact that they have wood side rails with original hardware. But the best part was the price. I got both beds for $175.
I’ve already spent the other $125 – and then about $100 more. I also bought a pine full-size sleigh bed, a drop leaf table, a small bench, one giant basket and a few odds and ends at the same thrift store.
Still keeping score? OK here’s the breakdown.
Originally spent $225 on chairs –
Sold a bed for $300 +
Bought two beds and assorted other furniture for $400 =
Have practically furnished a house and have only spent a few hundred bucks.
Now that I’ve gotten started, I’m really loving the challenge! It’s so easy to sit down and buy new furniture out of catalogs. That’s never how I’ve wanted to decorate a home. Hunting out quality vintage goods takes patience and a willingness to be resourceful. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Image: Mr and Mr Blandings
You are on the cusp on one of the most thrilling experiences known to man, the thrill of the hunt! There are so many good, well cared for vintage items out there that were built to last generations. From blankets and linens to enameled pots and pans. I know your home will turn out beautiful. Have fun!!