Decorating on a Flea Market Budget: Living Room

I’m going to do some posts about (patiently) decorating over time on a flea market budget. Since I like vintage and lovingly used items, this particular style comes easily to me. I’ve always had to be on a strict budget and I’m used to taking my time. And quite frankly, I don’t want anything in my home that doesn’t have a story, that doesn’t speak to me. First up: the living room.


The loveseat was one of my first purchases when I lived in Cambridge. It was originally a deep gray velvet. I bought it because it was the right size for my apartment and nestled perfectly into the bay window niche. This means that I’ve had it about 23 years. The slipcover has given it a new life and, again, it manages to be the perfect fit for the living room here at the cottage. The yellow chair is the only new item we’ve purchased in the past several years and it cost more than anything else in the room. The little green table between the couch and the chair was found in an antique store for about $30. Lampshade: vintage, found at Christie Repasy’s studio 3 years ago. Curtains: Target. Small print in white frame: Christie Repasy. Rose in vase painting: painted by my father when I was a child.


(Scout has yet again managed to sneak into a photo.) The coffee table was refinished by our old friend, Rob, for someone else. When that someone decided he didn’t want it, Rob sold it to me for $75. We’ve had this since we lived in San Diego, about 14 years or so, and we are crazy about it. McCoy Pottery: found in San Diego. Tray: from an antique store in San Diego. Tole crumber: a birthday gift from Don. Vintage film can: a flea market find a couple of years ago. National Geographic: a Christmas gift from my father.


Monty the cow: found in an antique shop about 10 years ago. Vintage lab stool: found locally in an antique shop.


Red Chair: found about 15 years ago in San Diego. I bought it (for $50) because it reminded me of a chair that was in my grandparent’s den when I was growing up. Pillow on left: IKEA. Pillow on right: a present from Gail via Judy of 20 North Ora.


The sideboard was one of the first pieces that Don and I purchased together. We found it in an antique store in Ocean Beach during our San Diego Days. I think we paid about $100 for it. It’s made of tiger oak and is very, very heavy. Yellow and blue McCoy Pottery: gathered over time. Clock: found in an antique shop here in the Hudson Valley. It was an anniversary gift to each other. We put in on layaway and paid it off over a few months. It’s very precious to us.


Books of poetry by Edgar Guest: found on eBay. Edgar Guest was my dad’s godfather, so these mean a great deal to me. Bakelite napkin ring: found online. Lamb: a gift from Sheila.


Parakeet lamp on left: a birthday gift from Don. Blue glass container: Home Goods. Shells: gathered by me in California and Florida.


Cupboard: I got it at an auction for $100. It’s huge and heavy and I love it. Pottery: gathered over time. Garland: made by me.


Blue bench: found in a local antique shop for $40. Brick: found on our property. Heart shaped rocks: gathered over time. Door stop: found at auction for a song. Flower frog: found in San Diego. Ship: was my dad’s and he recently gave it to us. Organ stop: found years ago in an antique shop in Canada.


Dollhouse: found on Craig’s List for $35. Table: found at Heidi’s store – repainted by me. McCoy Jardiniere: eBay. Floor Lamp: found years ago in San Diego.


Piano: inherited from my grandmother. McCoy birds and vase: gathered over time. Miss Keyboard’s School sign: Found at Vignettes in San Diego. Hymns sign: found in an antique shop in the Hudson Valley several years ago.


Desk: found in a local antique shop. Chair: found locally for $5. Lamp (whoops – crooked shade) found locally. Firkin: my grandmother’s. McCoy pottery: a gift from Heidi. Border Collie doorstop: from Heidi’s shop. Wreath: made by me.


Yes, that’s a basket of stuff waiting to be filed. Painting on left: Christie Repasy, purchased 4 years ago in San Diego. Sign: found for $25 in a local antique shop.

Apart from the yellow chair, the clock and the loveseat, nothing in this room cost more than $150.00 and most things were purchased for considerably less. Many pieces were gathered by Don and me and we can tell you the story behind each piece. A few pieces were things I brought with me when we married: the piano, the loveseat, some of my grandmother’s pieces. Everything was purchased on a a budget.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the living room. You can decorate on a flea market budget and add wonderful pieces to your home for very little money. Take it from me.

Happy Wednesday.



  1. says

    Claudia I enjoyed the tour very much. It is such a special home and I love how each and every piece has a story and a memory for you and Don. I dream of living in a small cottage with just the things I love! Hugs, Linda

    • Claudia says

      I really need to sort through things that are shoved in closets, etc. around here. I’d like to eliminate a lot of the stuff we just don’t need.

  2. says

    Claudia, yes it is possible to decorate on a flea market budget especially since you found many of your items years ago. I’ve noticed that antique stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army and consignment shops have really raised their prices. Sometimes, I can find something similar as a knock-off at Home Goods but it doesn’t have the history, charm or story that you speak of. I adore your home! I love the little desk in front of your staircase. Your staircase is beautiful! Your home is charming and filled with wonderful pieces of furniture that all tell a story. My late aunt starting collecting antiques in the late 60’s. Her collection was worth a fortune when she passed away. When my mom passed I got a few of her things. Sure wish I would have kept more!

    • Claudia says

      I can never find anything at our local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. It’s not that things are too expensive, there just isn’t anything worth a second look (at least in my area.)

      • says

        That’s true. When I do find something I like, it has a high price tag. I think I do best at garage sales because vintage stores usually have to mark-up their items in order to make a profit. I love looking and it’s thrilling to some a nice thrifty treasure!

  3. says

    Every piece in your living room is a treasure! And you’ve arranged them beautifully. I loved reading the history behind it all, it’s like a story of your life and especially your life with Don. I have told young people just getting married to never, never go to a store and buy whole rooms of furniture, that their taste will change over the years and then they’ll be stuck with a house of matching furniture. Of course, they all insisted that they knew their style already. Maybe so, but I sure didn’t. A story like this where each piece joined another one over time is so much more interesting.

  4. says

    Claudia, I came back again to look at everything more carefully. I also gave you a shout-out on Facebook. I’m still trying to figure out Twitter and all the other social media tools. I love the way you remember every detail about the piece and where you purchased each and every items. You even remember the price! It’s the stories that make our objects interesting and endearing. Now where did you get the sign Use Other Stair?

  5. Debra says

    Your house looks so warm and inviting. It looks like a place where people feel happy and comfortable. I have two dogs that manage to worm their way into my photos also!

  6. says

    That wood chair with the plaid cushions is exactly like the furniture the Marine Corps furnished our apartment with in Oceanside 50 years ago. I’d bet the military got rid of it many years later when you lived in San Diego. We lived there in the 60s, I wouldn’t be surprised. The sofa and chair we had was indestructible, especially with 2 babies, honey. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. says

    Thanks for the tour! Love the sideboard and kudos for not painting it! I have the same bird napkin ring– two of them sit on my living room window; found very cheap at a thrift store.

    • Claudia says

      I just couldn’t paint that gorgeous tiger oak. I think there needs to be a balance between wood furniture and painted furniture in a room.

  8. Judy says

    Please excuse my ignorance, I don’t know what a Firkin is? I’m sure I will Love it when I find out! I’ve said it many times I would Love to have a crumb of your talent!

    • Claudia says

      The firkin is the wooden bucket on the floor next to the desk. It took me years to figure that out!

  9. says

    I love your whole house, Claudia. It is so warm and welcoming. It’s nice to see decorating that truly reflects someone’s personality and I think the only way to do that is over time. J

  10. says

    Your room is beautiful and personal, Claudia! I love how everything has the “”collected over time feeling and isn’t matching, but all goes together. It reminds me of the feeling in our sunroom…and it’s my most favorite room in our house!

  11. Donnamae says

    Great post….love the history of different items. And yes it does take time to accumulate, but so worth the effort. Years ago, I had my mother label her things with numbers, and she wrote an index of the items and their history…so I would know the items provenance. I really learned a lot reading that. You have a lovely home, filled with items you love. That ship from your Dad is gorgeous…did he make that? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Claudia says

      That was a good idea. My grandmother told me a lot about certain items, but I foolishly never wrote the information down.

      • Claudia says

        Forgot to add that the ship was given to my dad by my mom when they were living in MIchigan. He didn’t make it.

  12. says

    I always love getting little glimpses of your charming living room so I really liked this tour, and a great lesson on decorating on a budget. Your home is so cozy and inviting, I can just imagine settling down in a chair and having some tea with you. I have a few old pieces of furniture that I picked up for a dime and I like them just as they are…I’m not big on painting. And I love a mix of things, just as you seem to…there because of the memories made or being made.

    I love how that Scout hangs out with you!


  13. says

    That was so much fun! I love seeing how cozy little cottages like yours are put together over time. Every piece means something. It’s interesting to see the His and Hers before—and the things you bought together. That makes is even more special.
    I enjoyed it. Thanks for the tour.
    I love flea market and thrifting to decorate. Pat

  14. SondraC says

    Thank you for the tour; your home is so, well, homey. I have many pieces of furniture, quilts, and linens from both my mother and grandma – I love them all. New homes today seem so sterile with all the marble, soaring spaces and designs. I’ll take a little cottage any day.

  15. says

    It sure is comforting to look around your home and know the story of every item. It’s especially nice that you and Don have shared in collecting your treasures! You’ve done a wonderful job of making your home special!

  16. Francine says

    Claudia – thanks so much for a tour of your living room. It all looks so comfy and adorable!! I love how it is a reflection of things you and your husband have gathered over the years and it all looks so nice!! I am also from here in the Hudson Valley and a day’s drive to check out our many lovely antique stores is one of my favorite things to do… have a good rest of the day!! Francine

  17. Kim says

    Love your cottage Claudia! I’m so jeaous of that piano, and I would love to find a little desk like yours. Love things with a story. I don’t know how people can go out and just buy new everything. And the light you get in your house is fabulous.

    • Claudia says

      We are really lucky in the amount of light that comes through these many windows. Of course, that leaves us with limited wall space, but it’s well worth the trade off.

  18. says

    Two visits to this post later and time to say thank you for such a wonderful visit. I love the organ stop. Would never have guessed what it was – well, my mind tried it out as a square rolling pin but rejected that and as I read further you gave the answer.

    • Claudia says

      Pretty neat looking organ stop! I have a very close friend who is a professional organist and I couldn’t resist it when I saw it.

  19. Nancy says

    Loved the tour of your charming home.
    I thought I was the only one who picks up and saves heart shaped stones!
    I also have many things that came from auctions, antique malls, and an occasional garage sale. One day, years ago, I was driving my kids to school and saw a beautiful antique iron bed on a driveway, at a garage sale. I braked, told the man I wanted it and paid for it, and took the kids to school and came back with a pick up truck. It has the most beautiful scroll work. My daughter now has it in her home, along with a walnut chest of drawers that cost $30.00 at an auction, and a wonderful chair that cost $7.00 at a different auction. It is such a cozy, welcoming room. They have expensive furniture from a high end furniture store, in other areas of their home, but that guest room gets the most compliments. You don’t have to pay a lot for wonderful furniture, and you have demonstrated that beautifully.

    • Claudia says

      Lucky you, finding that iron bed! I think the thrill of the hunt is part of the whole thing….snagging something for a great price that will look perfect in your home is such a great feeling.

  20. says

    Your home is lovely. It has a warm and inviting feeling as though one could walk right in and put their feet up.


  21. says

    Claudia, I adore how you use your beautiful McCoy. I just want to plop down in your living room and curl up, so cozy, so warm.

  22. says

    I love everything, and all the items fit perfectly into you space just like they were meant to be there. Loved this post, can’t wait to read more like it.

  23. says

    That is how we shop too. I can count on one hand the items we have bought new. Your home has a lovely cottage collected look that I like very much.

  24. says

    Claudia, I love your home. It is so cozy and warm. I like that the walls are painted in light colors and the furniture is mixed in painted and wood and different colors and fabrics. But the best part of all is all the history of where and when your special pieces came from. Some were for special occassions…….where is Mabel, hah. If I came to visit, I don’t think I would be able to leave. I have several pieces from my grandmother. I like to mix it up as well. Thanks for the tour.

  25. says

    You are a girl after my own heart Claudia. I love things with a story behind them. My grandmother was an antiques dealer and I have collected previoiusly loved things since I was a little girl.

    I love your cow and your dog doorstop and the “Use other Stair” is fabulous. I like your style, gorgeous, comfy home.

  26. says

    I super enjoyed the lookabout in your livingroom! We have very similar tastes and I got a kick out of how many similar things I have that you have. We also have a cut down round oak dining table for a coffee table. I have 2 firkins that I treasure, wish I’d gotten them from my grandma. I am also glad to see you keep the original finish on antiques with beautiful wood.. I actually cringe when I see some ornate antiques painted over. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

    • Claudia says

      If the finish is truly ragged or looks cheap, I’ll paint the piece, otherwise, I like to keep the wood finish.

  27. Jana says

    Claudia…….I’ve been following your blog for about a year and a half and enjoy it so much. I love your cottage and the way you have it decorated…… warm and cozy. I, too, love the “gathered over time” look…….so much more inviting than homes with all matchy matchy furnishings. Thank you for sharing your home with us and I look forward to seeing more of your decor on a flea market budget. Jana in Texas

  28. says

    Claudia – So enjoyed the tour of your living room! It is so interesting to hear the history of each piece and how special it is to you and Don.Thanks for the tour!


  29. says

    This is why I love to stop by and see what your blog post is about. We have the same interests. My living room is a mix of vintage finds that my Hubby and I have found over time. No rush.. it just happens when you find the one piece that speaks to you. I love everything about your space. Warm, cozy and inviting. But, my favorite piece is the white cupboard. It’s a beauty! Thanks for the tour,
    xxx Liz

  30. says

    Claudia, I enjoyed the tour, and you have no idea how touched I am that the little lamb I sent you is there with your anniversary clock. I feel so honored, and I know the lamb does, too.

    I want to know something. What are those neat little rugs on your staircase? That looks interesting to me, and I don’t think you mentioned them. I love all your collections and the fact that your things tell a story about your lives together. So sweet. And any picture with Scout is a better picture. That’s what she’s trying to tell you. ๐Ÿ˜‰



    • Claudia says

      Those are tread rugs, for lack of a better word, that I got at Home Depot. They are just inexpensive pieces that come in a pack. We couldn’t afford a runner when we moved in and we didn’t want the dogs slipping on the slippery wood, so I tacked these down – alternating red and blue. I’m not crazy about them, but they DO look sort of funky.

      • says

        I love the way they look! Very cool! I like the way you alternated them, too. They look like the tiny oriental rugs that were used as samples, and that’s what I thought they were, only bigger. Neat, though!



  31. says

    I love your home – so cozy and warm. The chair that reminds you of your grandmothers is the exact same kind my grandmother had. I wish I would have kept hers.

    I was thinking of you on Monday. I had to put our beloved black Lab down. OMG – that was so hard to do. :-(

    • Claudia says

      Oh Kim. I am so very, very sorry. I know how hard that decision is to make and how painful and heartbreaking it is to lose a beloved pet. Please accept my sympathy on your loss. And some hugs, too. xoxo

  32. says

    Thanks for the tour of your living room and the history behind all your lovelies! I love the sideboard; what a gorgeous piece of furniture. The piano…do either you or Don play it? I took piano lessons from age 8-16 and continued playing until I got married and moved out of my parent’s house. I’ve never had a piano since then.

    • Claudia says

      I play the piano, Melanie. I studied from the age of 8 until sometime in high school. I don’t play enough nowadays and Don is always after me to play more.

    • Claudia says

      One of the things we fell in love with when we first saw the cottage was the amount of light that came in through the windows. There are a lot of windows here, which can make decorating a wee bit frustrating, but the light is so worth it.

  33. Betsy says

    Thank you for the tour of your lovely, cozy living room. I feel like I could sit down, take out my knitting needles and stay and chat awhile! I, too, love the fact that everything has a history and you know it well. Those kinds of room envelope you and welcome friends. Thanks for letting me visit.

  34. says

    Your home is so cozy, Claudia. I never tire of ‘touring’ it with you. I decorate the same way you do — Flea markets, thrift shops, kind friends and family, curb-finds, and very, very, very few new purchases. And I do so for the same reasons: thrift and a love of the past. (There are only four pieces of furniture in my entire six room cottage that I purchased new and am the original owner!?) I find it adds more character to a home. And I love knowing the stories of each item… or imagining them.

Please check back to follow the conversation!