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If you’ve ever watched your favorite renovation show and wondered how they got a room to look that great for so cheap, you’re not alone. We’ve seen our fair share of renovation projects and gawked at the astoundingly low total cost of home makeovers. While clients list their budgets and designers make an effort to stay within them, the reality is there are perks to being on the small screen. The sum total doesn’t reflect the complete picture. Not only do TV design personalities sometimes tap craftspeople and designers to pitch in at a reduced cost in exchange for the exposure, but they also don’t include a major line item in the total budget: furniture to fill the renovated space.
“We watch these shows because the process is stress inducing, but the reveal always seems worth the effort—and the money,” says Carisha Swanson, House Beautiful‘s director of special projects. “But I often wonder, Did the original budget include all of this? If they take this furniture away and put that ‘before’ furniture back in, it loses some of its luster.”
These are big projects with covetable results in large part due to a complete overhaul of poor layouts and new architectural features, but what makes us love these shows is the final furnishings, the rugs, the gorgeous tabletop, and the countless pillows and throws—and let’s not forget some familiar personalized trinket. Furniture plays a huge role in the reveal, but the furniture budget isn’t attached to the final number announced on the show.
More From House Beautiful
To dig deeper—and help clear the clouds from your home-reno dreams—we looked into episodes from the home-renovation universe and asked designers to estimate how much it would cost to deck out the remodeled room.
Behind the Scenes With Designers
“As a homeowner, I think it can be deflating to look at a room that is quoted at a too-low price and not understand why you are unable to achieve a similar result at the same price,” Ryann Swan of Ryann Swan Design.
Amy Pigliacampo of Amy Pigliacampo Interiors agrees. “I spend a lot of time gently educating clients on what furniture actually costs and how to have realistic expectations in terms of quality and experience,” she says.
Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin chimes in, “I like to talk about the budget at the very beginning so that it’s always present in every conversation. At the end of the day, money is always the deciding factor, so it’s important to include it in the jump.”
Fixer Upper: Welcome Home
Season 1, Episode 6: “Mediterranean Money Pit”
In this episode, Joanna and Chip Gaines renovate a 1970s Mediterranean home for a family of three into a Tuscan staycation gem.
Low: “I love the deep, plush sectional. Comfort is always a must-have for me. It would probably cost $25,000 to furnish.”
Pigliacampo: “I would estimate the sofa is between $8,000 to $10,000 for a sectional of this size, but a custom piece this size could be $20,000 to $40,0000 depending on the vendor and fabric. The accent chairs look like they may be vintage; I would estimate $1,200 to $1,800 per chair. The range of cost varies depending on the material or if it was artisan made, so I’ll estimate $50,000.”
Swan: “I love the feeling in this room. It’s warm and welcoming and beautifully textural. I think those side chairs really make the room and tie together the textural note throughout the space. Overall it would take $40,000.”
Windy City Rehab
Season 3, Episode 4: “Family Ties”
Alison Victoria breathes life into one of Atlanta’s oldest buildings, revamping it into a luxurious and contemporary getaway.
Low: “I love to read and anything that is a nod to a library vibe has my heart, so for sure this bookshelf with the ladder is the standout piece and such a win in my book. I estimate that it would be $20,000 to furnish the room.”
Pigliacampo: “Shipping and taxes are also very important to be aware of; furniture is heavy and rarely returnable without a substantial penalty. I estimate about $50,00 for this space. The custom millwork alone could be $25,000.”
Swan: “The shape of the fabulous vintage sectional is perfect to ground the room and engage all the different zones (dining, kitchen, living). Speaking of zones, I think they did a great job of creating them in an open floor plan, which can be a challenge. Absolutely worth splurging on items like custom millwork and the centerpiece of the room—i.e., the sofa. It would be $150k for the living space and kitchen, including bookshelves.”
The Established Home
Season 2, Episode 8: “Stoffer Chicago Home”
Jean Stoffer steps into her son’s suburban home in Chicago to set the stage for a glorious sunroom and primary bedroom makeover.
Low: “I’m obsessed with the checked floors. They immediately set the tone for the entire space and are beautiful. It would be $10,000 to furnish.”
Pigliacampo: “The oval dining table can be $13,000, but the room in total is estimated at a little over $25,000. It’s important to be as clear as possible about their comfort level on price to be efficient with design fees and keep everyone on the same page.”
Swan: “I love this wonderfully eclectic sun/dining room. I imagine it being a fabulous environment in which to take breakfast and start the day surrounded by natural light and greenery. Those dining chairs are real showstoppers and absolutely add to the vibe of the room. I’d say those feel worth the splurge! Overall, this can be $40,000.”
“As a person who is always looking for new home products, I have to think this is above the cost of construction and renovation,” says Swanson. “Furnishing a dining room alone can be well over $5,000 for a relatively inexpensive set, and often that number is the cost of some problematic contingency that pops up and makes a homeowner cringe.”
Before you contact a team of experts to build your dream house or finish your basement, hit pause on sharing a budget you heard commonly on HGTV. For a realistic figure, arm yourself with the inside info these designers offered regarding how much you’d have to spend to furnish these as-seen-on-TV rooms IRL.
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Senior Market and Partnerships Editor
Medgina Saint-Elien covers everything your home needs. She writes about exciting new product launches, hands-on reviews, and the “lightbulb” moments in every maker’s story. In overseeing key HB editorial franchises, including the Live Better Awards, Saint-Elien champions the work of BIPOC entrepreneurs in the design and beauty industries. In addition to House Beautiful, her work has been published in Byrdie, Snapchat, and more. Outside of work, the writer and poet can be found documenting her travels on social media and saving memes for future use.