How to Make Inexpensive Furniture Look Expensive

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Looking to upgrade your home without spending a fortune? With a little creativity, you can make budget furniture look high-end.

This comprehensive guide covers easy DIY techniques to transform the look of flea market finds, secondhand scores, basic big box buys, or just something that feels cheap looking to you.

Learn how to make outdated pieces feel fresh and contemporary with simple upgrades like paint, new handles and legs, reupholstered fabric, and more.

Whether you want to breathe new life into hand-me-down pieces or flip garage sale deals for profit, these 9 inexpensive tricks will have your space looking professionally designed.

Transform the furnishings you already own with just a little effort and envision how to maximize future finds.

9 Excellent Ways to Make Inexpensive Furniture Look Expensive!

1. Strip Old Finishes and Apply a New Stain

Strip Old Finishes and Apply a New Stain


That old dresser you picked up at a garage sale definitely has potential, but the dated oak stain and yellowed finish make it look drab and worn out. Take the time to properly strip off those outdated finishes and apply a fresh stain or paint in a modern, neutral tone. I’d suggest a light gray or even a crisp white to give it a clean, contemporary look. Once you’ve prepped and finished it properly, no one will guess you only paid $20 for that beauty!

2. Elevate Furniture by Adding Stylish Legs

Elevate Furniture by Adding Stylish Legs


Elevating furniture with a set of legs instantly gives it a more polished, intentional look. Even basic hairpin legs in a brushed nickel or black finish can transform something that looks flimsy into a sleek accent piece. For your outdated console table, try a set of tapered wood legs in a natural finish. The contrast will make that flea market find look like it came right out of a high-end catalog!

3. Replace Outdated and Ornate Features

I know you love the ornate carved details and dark wood finish on that hutch you inherited from Grandma. But let’s be honest – with its fussy lines and heavy traditional style, it screams outdated. Why not give it new life by removing or replacing some of those rococo flourishes with smoother, more modern lines and finishes? Painting it with a light tone can also make it feel fresh and contemporary.

4. Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint

Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint


Paint can work wonders when it comes to upgrading furniture on a budget. The wood dresser in your bedroom is still sturdy and functional, but after years of use, it’s looking dull and scratched up. Instead of buying new, give it new life with a fresh coat of high-quality paint in a modern, elegant shade like navy or light gray. Sand it down properly so the paint adheres evenly, then apply two coats of paint followed by a protective sealer or topcoat. The transformation will blow your mind – and no one but you has to know it came from a big box store years ago!

5. Replace Outdated Fabric

Replace Outdated Fabric


Finding an antique chair or sofa at an estate sale can feel like striking gold…until you realize the outdated floral fabric belongs back in your grandma’s sitting room. Reupholstering furniture takes some effort but completely pays off in the upgraded appearance. Visit your local fabric store to pick out durable, contemporary fabrics in solids or subtle patterns. Neutral shades like oatmeal and light gray work especially well for a modern feel and hide dirt better too. If reupholstering seems daunting, you can also just cover over the existing fabric with a slipcover. Invest in quality materials and suddenly that frumpy chair could be the statement piece your living room needs!

6. Add Doors And/or Trim Molding

Doors, trim detailing, and decorative molding are some of my favorite easy ways to make budget buys look bespoke and dramatic. Add a door to a basic bookcase to make it feel like a substantial standalone piece. Use trim pieces like crown molding or baseboards to add architecture and definition. For dining room furniture, incorporate unique details like carved arches or distressed wood finishes. When sourcing materials, look for quality hardwood trim pieces to ensure what you add looks like part of the original furniture design. A little effort here goes a long way in elevating the entire look!

7. Replace Outdated Hardware With Modern Options

Replace Outdated Hardware With Modern Options


Over time, the hardware on furniture can become tarnished, faded, or dated. An easy upgrade is to swap out old handles, knobs, pulls, and hinges for new ones that feel fresh and modern. Visit your local hardware store to peruse styles and finishes. For a contemporary look, try sleek handles in matte black, brass, or chrome. Or go for an eye-catching shape like angular pulls or rounded knobs. Just switching out a few minor accents makes furniture look significantly more luxe and custom. While you’re at it, make sure the new hardware functions smoothly. Budget buys will truly feel elevated and special.

8. Incorporate Texture With Fluted Details

Incorporate visual texture and dimension by adding fluted decorative details and trim work. For example, attach trim pieces with delicate flutes and curves to a plain dresser. Or incorporate recessed panels on doors and cabinet fronts. These subtle high-end design elements make budget buys feel custom-made and special. Experiment with trim pieces, appliques, elegantly turned legs, or uniquely textured materials. The extra touches will lend an air of bespoke quality plus provide beautiful visual interest. People may be shocked when they learn how little you spent thanks to those special finishing touches.

9. Display Decorative Items on It

Display Decorative Items on It


Even after all the technique tweaks—stain, paint, legs, hardware, and more—sometimes the simplest thing can take a piece from basic to beautiful. Fill and arrange your “new” furniture with attractive books, collectibles, greenery, or artwork. Group personal treasures artfully on that antique sideboard or cluttered console table. Style that budget bookcase with colorful bound novels, geodes, coral, and gold vases. Anchor a garden seat with plush pillows and a cozy throw. Showcasing what you love automatically makes a piece feel curated and chic. Surround yourself with meaningful pieces and suddenly no one cares where you bought them!

Final Thoughts

Upgrading your home doesn’t have to drain your wallet if you know the right techniques. Following these 9 inexpensive tips, you can give lackluster furnishings a complete makeover.

With strategic updates like fresh stains and paint, elevated legs, reupholstered fabric, and modern details, you can infuse dull pieces with renewed life and contemporary elegance.

By taking the time to remove dated elements and incorporate textures and accents, budget-friendly furniture will look one-of-a-kind.

Showcase your enhanced pieces artfully with cherished items.

Before you know it, your home will feel curated, luxe, and completely custom. And you can take pride knowing you achieved the elevated design on a reasonable budget thanks to clever details.

With a little vision and elbow grease, it’s incredible what a difference these simple tweaks can make.

How to Make Inexpensive Furniture Look Expensive

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