How to budget for furniture and decorating costs for a new home

Florine Tanner
On 6 min read

It is one of the most rewarding phases of any home-building project. It can be difficult to estimate the cost of furniture and set a realistic budget because there are so many variables.

Erica Reiner, Eco Method Interiors’ lead designer, says that decorating and furnishing your home is like shopping for a car. There are many styles to choose from, different types of cars, and differences in quality, longevity, and prices. A used Pinto, or a new Maserati could be yours.

You will be influenced by how you use your interiors, whether you are furnishing a home full-time or a second home or cabin.

Furnishing a Primary House vs. a Secondary Home or Cabin

Style, quality, durability, and seasonality are the key differences between furnishing your full-time or vacation home.

Size and style

Low Budget Home Decor Ideas To Decorate Your Home
Low Budget Home Decor Ideas To Decorate Your Home

How big your home is will impact how much you can spend on furnishing it. Your furnishing budget should be based on the cost of your home’s construction. A home build budget does not include furnishing. The landscaping and cleaning up are the final steps.

Andrea Woroch, a budgeting and consumer expert, says that your furnishing budget will vary depending on your financial situation. It can be as low or high as 10%, or even 50% of the house’s total cost. For a $300,000. home, furniture can cost between $30,000 to $150,000. Woroch says that you can lower your budget by using a few money-saving tricks.

Your furniture budget will be affected by the style of your house. Many new homes feature flexible, transitional floor plans that allow for flexibility in furnishing the interiors. However, certain styles of furniture will not look right if you have just built a beach home or a woodsy cabin.

Trendey Lead Interior Designer Andra DeMonico says that a vacation home could feature furniture with bolder designs. While you wouldn’t want rustic log-framed wood sofas in your main home, they would be a great statement piece for your cabin.

Quality and durability

Most people choose quality furniture over quantity when choosing furnishings for their primary home. They expect a lot of wear and tear. The choice of furniture for a second home will depend on how frequently you intend to stay there, and whether you plan on renting it out to guests.

You can choose more affordable furniture if the second home is not going to be used often. You might choose more durable furniture if you intend to rent it.

Kristin Patrician, principal designer at Dwelling Envy Interiors, says that clients often rent out their second homes or anticipate having many guests. They want to be certain of the home’s durability.

With this in mind, I look for furniture and upholstery pieces that can be upholstered with fabrics such as Sunbrella and Crypton. These fabrics are resistant to sunlight fading, dirt, and mold and require very little maintenance.


While your full-time home should be welcoming and comfortable all year, many vacation homes or cabins only get used one season per year. You won’t need thick throws and flannel sheets to keep warm if you live on a beach house in the summer. A ski cabin can also forgo ceiling fans or heat-blocking window treatments.

Seasonal use can also cause temperature fluctuations in your vacation home that could be damaging to some furniture types.

Patrician says that solid wood coffee tables and dining tables are not something she likes to use. Solid wood can expand and contract with temperature fluctuations and seasons. If you don’t live in your home or heat it and cool it regularly, you might find a broken or damaged piece of furniture when you return. I prefer to use engineered wood, stone top tables and upholstered ottomans.

Decorating Budgeting for First and 2nd Homes

Once you have established a spending limit and considered usage, it is time to establish a line-item budget. You can break down your budget into rooms to help you make better choices.

Reiner states, “The best thing is to make a spreadsheet.” This is my schedule or itemized purchase list. You can organize the spreadsheet by room. Then, add everything you need to the list. Don’t forget the accessories! This will help you decide where to spend your money and what to keep in budget.

Basics in a Furniture and Decorating budget

For a primary or vacation house, the main furniture and decorating expenses are the same.

  • Furniture: This category is the most expensive and offers the greatest opportunity for saving or splurging, especially for your vacation property. Patrician says that there is a common misconception that decorating and furnishing your second home will cost less than your primary. You can, if you want your furniture to last.
  • Rugs: You’ll spend more for areas that are high-traffic and where durability is important.
  • Lighting: These lamps come in a variety of prices, from statement floor lamps to vintage tables lamps. Careful selection is important.
  • Wall decor: Fine art is likely to be displayed in your primary home. You can save money on decorating your second home by using themed pieces.
  • Window treatments: While your primary home windows might need quality custom drapes and other window treatments, you can get by with less expensive off-the-shelf options if you have a second residence.
  • Accessories for styling: These accessories (pillows/throws, decorative accents, etc.) add style to your interiors. But be careful — even small purchases can add up quickly.

Tips to Stay on Budget with Furniture and Decorating

It can be difficult to stick to your budget. These are some tips to help you create interiors that you love, without spending a lot of money.

  • Second-hand is the best option. DelMonico says that second-hand, vintage and thrift furniture are more common in second homes. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find quality vintage pieces for your primary residence. Woroch suggests that you look for deals on second-hand websites and marketplaces such as OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, or Chairish, regardless of whether it is your primary residence, or second home. You never know what another person may be selling, and a little paint can make it easy to update a cabinet that you have under the TV.
  • You can upcycle items from your permanent home to your vacation or cabin home. Patrician says that sometimes it’s just a piece collecting dust in your basement. Sometimes it’s a piece you don’t want to use in your main residence, such as in the living room, dining or bedroom.
  • Coupons are a great way to save money. Woroch suggests that you sign up for an email newsletter from a store to receive a first-time discount code. You can also visit, which offers deals on popular furniture and home decor brands.
  • Shop bargains. Woroch recommends checking out local outlet stores or discount retailers such as TJMaxx and Home Goods. Ask store associates when new shipments are typically received so that you can plan to arrive at the door as soon as they open.

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