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What to do if you've got great style and no money? How do you create the living space of your dreams when you've got to be frugal and realistic with your pocketbook? If you're just starting out and need to fill, for example, your first living room, might I suggest these affordable finds?

Let's say this is your "before" shot. A sweet apartment living room in Toronto's beaches neighbourhood, with lots of detail and character. You're off to a good start!

The search begins with the biggest investment piece — a sofa. I found this one for under $750 at Guff! Its classic shape and neutral, fresh colour allows us to go in any direction we want with the other colours and pieces.

Next, we need some chairs. I found these perfectly scaled bergere chairs at a hotel liquidator in Oakville for only $55 each! They're small enough that they won't take up too much room and can easily be moved around to suit different seating arrangements. Plus, with open legs and arms, your eye sees right through them, keeping the space feeling open and large.

But that upholstery has to go! I'd go for a few yards of this punchy grassy-green and watermelon coloured ikat from Designer Fabrics in Toronto. Since you wouldn't likely need more than six yards for two chairs, and it only costs $17 per yard, you'd have your fabric for about $100. Upholstering two chairs might cost $700, so add it all up and you're looking at about $900 or around $450 per chair, which is still pretty reasonable.

To hold the TV, stereo, books, DVDs and everything else you have to hide in a small space, I'd opt for a handsome armoire like this one from the same hotel liquidator. I'd try to buff up the wood with sandpaper and keep it natural along with the tarnished brass hardware for a substantial, traditional note in the room. At $105, it's the deal of the century!

For occasional tables, I'd opt for a mix of old and new. These marble topped end tables are a steal at $113 each from Funk & Gruven A-Z in Belleville, Ontario. I would keep the marble as is and paint out the base of the tables, probably in a chalky poppy seed grey colour, highlighting the texture in the carved Greek key design.

For the new component, I'd head over to Ikea for this $90 modern waterfall-style coffee table. Clean, simple and lets the more ornate side tables do the talking.

We'd want to marry the whole grouping of furniture together and add an organic note with a jute rug like the Vejen from Ikea — again, under $200.

When it comes to lighting, I think throwing off expectations and going for something slightly industrial would be interesting. These black metal lamps from Bowring are under $50 each and would look fantastic on either end of the sofa.

With the green and watermelon ikat fabric on the chairs, it's time to pick a wall colour. White would work of course, but I'd go for something daring and handsome. Maybe even faux lacquer the walls (using high-gloss paint) in a yolky-yellow hue like Babouche (223) from Farrow & Ball.

Then I'd repeat the fabric's pink with some simple solid cushions from Crate & Barrel on the neutral sofa.

Over the sofa I'd hang this round detailed mirror from Captain's Treasures Antiques and paint the frame white.

Then I'd add some of these plaster-looking plaques from West Elm (on sale now!) in a loose, free-form drift over the sofa. So, maybe one big mirror and three plaques; two on one side, one on the other.

Here's a snapshot of the whole scheme together. Fun right? It's classic but cheeky, tailored, yet fresh.

Here's the budget breakdown:

Sofa: $745
Chairs (all in with fabric and reupholstery costs): $910
Armoire: $105
Carrera side tables: $225
Coffee table: $90
Rug: $180
Pair of lamps: $80
3 gallons of paint: $120
3 cushions: $75
Mirror: $95
3 plaques: $80

Grand Total: $2,705

Not dirt cheap, but certainly a really great price for a sophisticated and fully furnished space like this. Now all you have to add are some fresh flowers and call it a day!

See another Colourful Apartment Makeover I did for some friends of mine with a tight budget.

Photo credits:
1. Viewit.ca
2. Guff
3, 5. Moveline Liquidations
4. Peyton Ikat, Designer Fabrics
6. Funk & Gruven A-Z
7. Expedit coffee table, Ikea
8. Vejen rug, Ikea
9. Union Metal Task Lamp, Bowring
10. Babouche (223), Farrow & Ball
11. Nolan Magenta 20" pillow, Crate & Barrel
12. Captain's Treasures Antiques
13. Stray Dog Sea Life Plaques, West Elm

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