For my first living room, I was able to create a space I loved by happily accepting hand-me-downs, scouting thrift stores and discount retailers like Home Goods for lamps and accent tables, and using some basics from IKEA.
1 & 2. Love seat or two comfortable chairs. Full-size sofas are expensive and really only needed if you have a multi-person home. Smaller options like loveseats or comfortable chairs are more affordable and more practical for a home of one or two. In terms of a functional, affordable sofa or chair, you really can't beat IKEA's Klippan ($249) or Ektorp Tullsta chair ($149) for affordability and neutrality. My first solo sofa was the Klippan in natural. I made it work with my style by using a few hip accent pillows, and I can honestly say it was a great first sofa. I have no regrets, or I suppose that would be Jag har inga beklagar. I wish I could say that about the veritable goof troop of bad dates I allowed to sit on my Klippan. Löjligt. Completely löjligt.
3. Lamps. Lamps are essential because they act as strong points of visual interest in a room and they also generate good lighting, which is incredibly important. Indeed, harsh overhead lighting = no one feels or looks good. Soft, warm lighting = everyone feels and looks good. Soft, warm lighting + wine = everyone looks and feels really good. Lighting can be surprisingly expensive, but looking in the sale sections of your favorite stores can lead to some wonderful finds, like this cast metal horse head lamp from West Elm (on sale for $49.99 from $149.00). And with all the money you saved on the lamp, buy yourself a bottle of this wine to celebrate.
4. Rug. For living rooms with hardwood floors, area rugs add softness and warmth. Finding rugs at an affordable price can be tricky, but I've had good luck with sites like Overstock (which also features customer reviews so you can have a sense of product quality) and stores like HomeGoods.
5. Accent pillows. Accent pillows may not seem like a necessity, but modestly priced sofas are often not terribly exciting. A few vibrant accent pillows, such as these Greek patterned pillows in a bold orange shade, add color and pattern to a basic sofa and also contribute to the overall style of a living room. A few squares of color can really impact a room.
6. Throw. A soft comfy throw that you can keep rolled up in a basket next to the sofa is incredibly important in any living room that is actually lived in. I mean, truly, is there anything better than curling up with your favorite blanket (in a living room with good lighting and a glass of wine, of course) and watching a movie?
7. Artwork. For me, photographs and artwork make my living room come alive. The blank walls suddenly become interesting and vibrant. Displaying art also keeps my room inspiring because I get to look at work I love every day. And art does not have to be expensive. Sites like 20x200 and Etsy are sources of exciting art and photography prints at affordable prices. Also check out local flea markets, art & craft fairs, and thrift stores, where I've found some of my favorite pieces at a steal.
8. Extra seating. One of the fun aspects of having your own place is having friends and family over. Stylish and affordable seating is certainly doable. Options such as poufs or stackable chairs like IKEA's Vilmar ($ 39.95) offer a more stylish alternative to dragging out the folding chairs.
9. Accent table. Coffee tables are often expensive, and not essential in my book, but one or two small side tables are essential for lamps, drinks, and reading material. They serve the same purpose as a coffee table but take up less space and cost less money. Chiasso has some great options, such as the Kiki table and the Chelsea table.
10.Sentimental objects. You probably already have in your possession some of the things that will make your living room warm, welcoming, and personal. These are objects from your life that have special meaning to you, like a treasure you brought home from a special trip, a family heirloom, or a special item gifted from a loved one. Display these objects around your living room in a way that showcases their importance and reminds you of where you've been, who you are, and who loves you. Cost = priceless.
(Images: As linked above)