This $69 Find is My Secret to a Better-Looking Living Room

updated Mar 23, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Marlen Komar

I’m an impulsive person: I make snap decisions, like things to move quickly, and can’t deal with unfinished projects hanging over my head for too long. So when I moved into a new apartment with zero furniture to my name, I was pretty disappointed to find my budget wouldn’t allow me to furnish quickly. Who would have thought? 

In fact, my living room was empty for months. Over time, I eventually found a nice Turkish rug on Etsy, bought a locker-style TV stand from IKEA, and brought in a big, squishy couch, which luckily takes up most of the room. But I had one wall that remained annoyingly empty. And since I wasn’t entirely sure how long I would stay in this two bedroom apartment, I didn’t want to risk hanging art and losing a portion of my security deposit. So the wall stayed bare for months on end, until an idea struck.

Credit: Marlen Komar

I wanted a big shelving unit or a table in that space to display frames, plants, and tchotchkes, but I didn’t have the spare money to buy those kinds of things anytime soon. But a bench isn’t all that expensive, right? I looked around for different models and ultimately opted for the IKEA NORRÅKER bench, which took up a nice portion of the wall. And since I spend most of my time in the living room, I “shopped” for decorative odds and ends from my other rooms to display on the bench. I grabbed the scratch-off world map I had in my office, borrowed a few plants from spots around the house, and dusted off an empty picture frame I wasn’t using. Then with a black marker, I drew some of my favorite people and stuck one of the doodles in a frame and taped the other to the wall. For a finishing touch, I added a candle. And just like that, my blank wall was filled with adventure, fun family portraits, and a couple of happy houseplants. The birch bench cost $69 plus tax, but you could probably find one even cheaper at a flea market or thrift store. And, of course, I found a similar wooden bench on Amazon for pretty much the same price. 

Credit: Amazon

While I might eventually save up and put something a little splashier against that wall, the nice thing about a bench is that it’s always handy. It won’t ever be banished into the ghosts-of-decor-past reject pile in your basement or storage unit. I can later move my bench to the end of my bed, use it in my entry hallway, or haul it out to the balcony and fill it with plants and pots there. You can even use one at a dinner table. It’s a win-win, and now every time I walk into the living room, I can’t help but smile when I see this set up.