Fixer Upper Taste on an IKEA Budget


In a traditional gender role shattering revelation, I am the interior decorator in our marriage. Shocking, right? No, it’s 2016 people, open your minds. I’m a dude who likes to pick out color schemes, arrange furniture, and make gallery walls. Don’t get me wrong, Maggie knows what looks good in an apartment or home, too. But as they say on HGTV: “I have an eye for design.”

Speaking of, I’ll admit it: I love HGTV. You know why? It’s so reliable, and not just in entertainment value. Go to pretty much any hotel chain for a night’s stay and I guarantee you that if you need a Love it or List It fix, channel surf and you shall receive. But the show to rule them all? Fixer Upper is king, no holds barred.

Chip and Joanna Gaines are my marriage spirit animal. They have a really admirable love for each other and an aspirational love for Jesus. Their children? The most precious angel babies that were ever on TV. He’s a giant goofball with a huge heart and can-fix-anything smarts and she’s a strong, independent woman with crazy design skills.

I’ll just put it this way: if my job paid me in shiplap, I wouldn’t hate it. (JUST LOOK AT THIS KITCHEN!)

It probably has something to do with my mom being a real estate agent. I grew up touring model homes and walking through housing developments. One of our favorite things each year as a family was to go to the Atlanta “Street of Dreams,” a subdivision of handpicked, mini-mansion floor plans from different builders. My mom redecorated some years in the summer when school was out, so I was with her at Main Street Interiors. I can’t explain it; it’s just fun to me.

So when the opportunity came to decorate my first apartment with Maggie, I was beyond stoked. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much. Our inventory:

  • Bedroom furniture

  • Target bookshelves


Luckily, I was very #blessed to have a relocation bonus through work. I thought I would be able to get all the things. You know what I quickly realized? Couches are expensive as hell. Pro tip: Don’t go to Crate and Barrel for your first set of furniture, it will reveal your true peasant status.

I quickly learned that factory stores and outlets were my friend. We found a local furniture warehouse where I furnished our living room (couch, lamps, coffee table and side tables) and bought the entertainment center for reasonable deals. I knew we’d want a bigger kitchen table down the road, so I got a one from a used, previously rented furniture store. It has some nicks and scratches, but it was super cheap.

Here’s where it got tough. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a “decoration budget” set aside. And I don’t have the time to go to antique markets to make Joanna proud. I had some expendable savings, and I knew that I could spare maybe $150 a month to make this apartment feel like a home. What could that get me?? Turns out, at IKEA, it gets you a lot.

3 canvas watercolor paintings for $17 - Check.

Custom desk outfitted with snazzy table legs and file cabinet for $170 - You bet.

5 pillows and pillowcases to go on the couch for $50 - Yes, please.

Weird translucent vase for $6 - I don’t even care, DONE.

I even bought fake flowers. I was so into it that I bought fake bamboo stalks that, as it turns out, are actually real. They’re now growing in our weird $6 translucent vase. Just the other day, I noticed they had leaves on them. IKEA HELPED ME CREATE LIFE.

I made two big excursions into that giant, beautiful warehouse - the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016. It’s so cheap that I don't regret buying way more than necessary (because options are key) and going back for returns. It didn’t matter that I was making 4-5 trips back and forth. When it got irritating, I just bought cinnamon rolls.

We now have a giant picture of bread in the kitchen because carbs are great, a mosaic of picture frames above our desk, and a lantern (why not?) as our dining table centerpiece. Our apartment has transformed from a bare bones, basic living quarter into a comfortable, inviting home to have friends over for Game of Thrones each week.

So what did we learn?

  1. IKEA is your friend. Cheap, young looking furniture and decorations.
  2. Factory outlets at large furniture stores are your friend. Thank you, $200 for a coffee table and two end tables.
  3. For higher dollar pieces you intend to replace soon, go to used furniture stores. I went to CORT.
  4. Chip and Joanna Gaines are always your friends.

Check out some of our ~high quality~ iPhone photos of our new items below. Please note the amazing $6 vase with bamboo in the couch picture. It is my pride and joy.

What do you think? How did you decorate your first place? Let us know in the comments or on social!