How to Budget for Furniture and Decorating Costs for a New Home

Furnishing and decorating a new home can be fun, but you'll quickly bust your budget if you're not careful when estimating costs.

Putting together inviting interior spaces that are functional and personalized is one of the most enjoyable phases of any home building project. But because there are so many variables, estimating the cost of furnishings and establishing a realistic budget can be tricky.

“Furnishing and decorating your home from scratch is like car shopping,” says Eco Method Interiors lead designer Erica Reiner. “There are tons of style choices, types of cars, differences in quality or longevity and prices. You could get a used Pinto or a new Maserati.”

Whether you’re furnishing a full-time home or second home or cabin, how you use the interiors will influence your choices.

Furnishing a Primary Home vs. a Second Home or Cabin

The key differences between furnishing a full-time home and a vacation home involve style, quality and durability as well as seasonality.

Size and Style

The size of the home significantly influences how much it will cost to furnish. Set your furnishing budget based on a percentage of the total cost of your home build. Generally, a home build budget doesn’t include furnishing. It ends with the landscaping and cleanup.

According to consumer and budgeting expert Andrea Woroch, your furnishing budget can be as low as 10 percent or as high as 50 percent of the home’s cost, depending upon your finances. So for a $300,000 home, furnishings can fall between $30,000 and $150,000. “You can keep your budget toward the mid- to lower end of that range with a few money-saving hacks,” Woroch says.

The style of the house will influence your furniture budget. Many new builds feature versatile, transitional floor plans that offer flexibility for furnishing the interiors. But if you’ve just built a beach house or woodsy cabin, certain furnishing styles will look out of place.

“Your vacation home could have themed furniture that’s bolder in design,” says Trendey Lead Interior Designer Andra DelMonico. “You wouldn’t want a rustic wood log-framed sofa in your primary home, but it would make the perfect statement piece in your cabin.”

Quality and Durability

When choosing furnishings for their primary residence, most people opt for quality over quantity because they anticipate lots of wear and tear. For a second home, that choice will probably depend on how often you stay there and if you plan on renting the home to vacationers when you’re not.

If the second home will be used sparingly without renting, you can opt for more budget-friendly furnishings. If you plan to rent it, choosing more durable pieces might make more sense.

“Often clients rent out their second home or know that there will be lots of guests visiting, so they want the added peace of mind of durability,” says Dwelling Envy Interiors owner and principal designer Kristin Patrician.

“With this in mind, I typically look for furniture and upholstery items that can be upholstered in such fabrics as Sunbrella, Crypton and Perennial. These fabrics resist sunlight fading, dirt and mold, and are very low maintenance when it comes to cleaning.”


Winter Ski Cabin lindo12345/Getty Images

Your full-time home needs to be comfortable and welcoming year-round, but many vacation homes and cabins are only used for one season a year. If you have a summer beach house, you won’t need flannel sheets and thick throws to keep warm. And a ski cabin can forgo ceiling fans and heat-blocking window treatments.

Seasonal use can also mean that temperatures inside your vacation home fluctuate dramatically, potentially damaging some types of furnishings.

“I tend to stay away from solid wood dining tables, coffee tables, etc.,” says Patrician. “Solid wood will expand and contract with the seasons and fluctuation in temperatures, so if you do not live in your residency full time or don’t heat and cool it consistently, you may come back to a split or cracked piece of furniture on your next visit. I tend to find other materials such as upholstered ottomans, stone top tables or engineered wood.”

Décor Budgeting for First and Second Homes

After setting a spending cap and considering usage, you need to create a line-item budget. The more you can break down your budget by room, the better it will be guide your choices, large (couches, beds) and small (table lamps, decor).

“The best thing to do is make a spreadsheet,” Reiner says. “I call this my itemized purchase list or schedule. Organize the spreadsheet by room and put everything you need on this list, including the accessories you want to finish the styling, too — the devil’s in the details! Then you can decide where to splurge and where to budget.”

Basics Categories in a Furniture and Decorating Budget

The main furniture and decorating costs are the same for a primary or vacation home:

  • Furniture: This is the biggest ticket category and also where you have the most leeway for splurging or saving, especially for your vacation home. “There’s a preconceived notion that you won’t spend as much money furnishing and decorating your second home as you would your primary,” says Patrician. “But the reality is that you absolutely could if you want your items to hold up and last.”

  • Rugs: Like furniture, you’ll need to spend more for high-traffic areas where durability is a priority.

  • Lighting: From statement floor lamps to vintage table lamps, prices in this category vary greatly, making careful selection a must.

  • Wall décor: Any fine art will likely be displayed in your primary residence. Themed pieces can keep a second home decorating budget on track.

  • Window treatments: Your primary home windows may warrant quality custom drapes or other window treatments, but you can easily get by with more budget-friendly off-the-shelf options for a second home.

  • Styling accessories: This catch-all category (pillows, throws and decorative accents) are the pieces that add flair to your interiors, but beware — these smaller expenditures add up fast.

Tips for Staying on Your Furniture and Decorating Budget

Sticking to your budget can be a struggle. Here are some ways to create interiors you love without breaking the bank:

Thrift Furniture Storeadomer/Getty Images

  • Opt for second-hand items. “Vintage, second-hand or thrift furniture tends to be more acceptable in a second home,” says DelMonico. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find high-quality vintage pieces for a primary home as well. “Whether it be your primary residence or your second home, scope out deals at second-hand sites and marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp or Chairish,” Woroch says. “You just never know what someone else may be selling and a little paint can go a long way in updating a cabinet you need for under the TV.”
  • Upcycle items from your full-time home to your cabin or vacation home. “Sometimes it’s a piece that’s been collecting dust in your basement,” says Patrician. “Other times it’s a current living, dining or bedroom piece that you’d rather use in your second home and purchase something new to replace it for your primary residence.”
  • Use coupons. “Sign up for a store’s email newsletter to get an exclusive first-time discount code,” Woroch says. “Or go to a coupon aggregator like where you can find deals for popular furniture and home décor retailers.”
  • Bargain shop. Woroch suggests checking local outlet stores and discount retailers like TJMaxx or Home Goods. Ask the store associates when they typically get new shipments, so you can plan to be there right as the doors open and get your hands on the best pieces.

Rebecca Winke
Rebecca Winke moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter took a deep dive into country living by renovating a sprawling medieval stone farmhouse and running it as a B&B for 20 years. Today, she spends her time writing about travel, culture, and food (it's Italy, after all!) for publications like The Telegraph and Italy Magazine, as well as pondering the strange winds that blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria.