Author Topic: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian  (Read 11089 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« on: June 11, 2014, 07:12:34 AM »
This is my first post, but I am a long time blog and forum reader hoping for advice.  My husband and I are about to close on our first "family" house for ourselves, our daughter and players TBD down the road.  We currently have very little furniture to fill the house. My husband and our families seem to expect that we'll head to the nearest furniture warehouse and plunk down some cash (or credit - gah!!) for something new, but this doesn't appeal to me financially or environmentally.  My idea is to rent a U-Haul, drive it to a fancy-schmanzy town nearby and spend a weekend going to estate sales.  We live in FL so these are plentiful.  Of course, we don't need to buy everything right away, but it would be nice to get some basics quickly.  Does this sound like a good plan?  Do you have any recommendations for buying quality furniture on the cheap?  Any advice would be welcomed.  Thank you.


  • Bristles
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2014, 07:17:30 AM »

This may only be relevant to the UK but there's the awesome freeshare/freecycle websites. They work pretty well in my area - some friends of mine furnished quite a big apartment with things they got for free (they just had to be able to pick up items, so a van was needed). Obviously this doesn't make it easy to stick to your own tastes, but as a stop-gap may be handy. Good luck!


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2014, 07:23:55 AM »
Depending on what you're looking for you can use garage sales, estate sales, Craigslist, and second-hand stores.  Good deals can be found at certain outlet-style stores with large selections.  If you're looking for beds feel free to spend a little more on quality mattresses (not fancypants, but don't buy used and just remember a third of your life is spent there).  Do not feel obligated to fill every corner of your home with furniture just because you have the square footage.  We had a large empty spot that my wife thought was distracting (we went from a 2br apartment to a 4br house) and found two decent looking chairs, curtains, and an end table at a garage sale.

I haven't rented a UHaul in a while, but I would recommend you have something specific in mind before spending money on a truck just to go browsing.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2014, 08:07:40 AM by Travis »

Fred Tracy

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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2014, 08:05:40 AM »
Just leave it empty. I recently got some stuff for free from a friend and I miss all the minimalistic goodness.

On other note, I had a friend who got an apartment after high school and refused to buy furniture for it, mostly out of principle. We had a great time sitting on the floor. If I didn't have hard wood floors I'd probably do the same.


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2014, 08:26:58 AM »
I suggest you start with hand-me-downs or inexpensive yard sale or Craigslist purchases -- but consider those temporary items.  If you "put the word out", you might be surprised at how many relatives will give you old furniture.  Accept whatever's given to you and use it for the time being. 

Slowly, as time and circumstances allow, replace them with the things you actually want.  And as you buy those nicer pieces (whether they're new or used), focus on QUALITY and think of those things as "forever items".  Don't skimp on quality just to get a low price. Think value not price. 

For example, when my husband first moved out of his dad's house, he purchased a solid oak kitchen table at an unfinished wood place.  He used it for meals and studying in his apartment, and today we still use it in our house.  That table probably cost $200, which was a lot for him back then, but it has been used MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY for around three decades.  That's less than a penny per day, and we will probably continue to eat off this table for the rest of our lives.  That's real value for your dollar! 

Similarly, when we were first married, we had a hand-me-down sofa, but it was very, very old and worn.  We chose a nice-looking sofa/love seat as our Christmas gift to one another.  It was low quality, and within a year it looked ratty.  Though it was low in price, it was a poor choice.  We lived with it for more years than I care to remember, and then we bought a leather Broyhill set.  It was very expensive, but now -- a decade later -- it still looks new.  Again, think quality, not cost. 

In contrast, we're still sleeping on a hand-me-down family bed, which I hate.  It is ugly, ugly, ugly . . . but no one ever sees it except me and my husband.  At some point we'll buy a lovely antique bed, but it just hasn't been a top priority yet.  We've replaced the mattress but not the bed.

I agree with the person who advises that you splurge on a good mattress.  We had a hand-me-down mattress for years, and we reached the point that we weren't sleeping well and our backs hurt.  What a difference a good mattress has made!

I also would not buy a used mattress (in fact, it is illegal to sell one -- in my state anyway).  A friend of mine's college son picked up a used mattress somewhere, and it brought in bedbugs.  She says it ended up costing them more than $1000 to get rid of those things.  No bargain in the long run! 

And some obvious thoughts:

- Stick to simple, classic items that won't appear "dated" in a short time.

- Choose items that could work in other houses in the future; for example, a simple bookcase or a medium-sized TV stand will be useful in any house, whereas not all houses have a large wall appropriate for an extra-large entertainment center.  For example, I have a set of small chests that I bought in college for $5 each.  At first I used them in their original butterscotch yellow color in a couple apartments, but when my husband and I married and bought our house, I painted them white /added some then-popular country florals to the drawers, and called them oversized nightstands.  Then for a while they were in my kids' rooms.  And today they're stacked on top of one another inside my closet. 
- Stick with neutral colors for your large, expensive-to-replace items.  Bring in your favorite color through throw pillows and other accessories . . . so you can change them easily, if you choose in the future.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2014, 08:33:51 AM by MrsPete »


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2014, 09:06:41 AM »
MrsPete that was a great post.  I have had trouble in the past trying to get past the stubbornness of buying value and not price with my better half.  Unfortunately it is a learned behavior, and it can seem more frugal to buy the cheapest thing...until it breaks or fails, and another item is bought.  Then another to replace that broken one.  It can be a vicious cycle to buy cheap vs. quality and maybe using some points in your post will help my side of the conversation.

That said, expensive doesn't necessarily mean quality!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2014, 09:10:37 AM »
We have a pieced-together collection of furniture and are perfectly happy with it. We picked up each piece slowly and deliberately and sold items that didn't work (often for the same price we got them on Craigslist). Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:

- If you see an item on Craigslist, go check it out and if you like it, offer to put down a significant "deposit" of about half the price to hold the item till you have a few items and then rent the truck and pick them up in one trip or until you can get cost-effective (ie. borrowed) transportation.
- College towns have great move-out sales May-June
- Ikea has a "imperfect" section. We bought our dining table; the exact one I wanted for about 40% of the price because it was an open item
- If you have an item that you are replacing by selling on craigslist, you can offer in your post that you can exchange transport for help with the new item and share the truck rental cost. (That really helped me once when I wanted to replace a futon with a couch on my own. I found someone who bought by futon and helped me move my couch. I rented the truck and delivered the futon to their place.)

Good luck!

Mrs. Frugalwoods

  • Bristles
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2014, 09:11:03 AM »
When we bought our house two years ago, we had basically no furniture. To give you an idea, I'd made my previous dresser out of cardboard boxes--so, we were looking at a totally blank slate :). Solution? Craigslist, garage sales, and the side of the road. I became a Craigslist maven--I stalked the furniture section early every single morning and I learned the going rates for each type of furnishing to ensure we weren't overpaying (possible to do even with used stuff!). The minute I saw an item I liked, I'd email the person and we'd arrange to pick it up as fast as humanly possible.

Here are my Craigslist tips:
--Don't search by the specific item you want: don't type in "dresser" as not everyone shares the same furniture nomenclature. The typos on Craiglist are disturbing & hilarious. So, tough it out and browse the entire furniture section daily.
--POUNCE asap! If you see a good deal, other people will to. Email the seller immediately, be friendly, and offer to come right away.
--Ask the seller for the dimensions. Don't rely on the photo--get the actual, factual measurements. We were burned by a gigantic couch and a micro-chair.
--After you arrive at the seller's house, offer less than the asking price and be prepared to pay cash. Don't haggle by email in advance.
--Once you're at their house, chances are they want that item outta there so badly, they'll be willing to haggle. I've never paid the full asking price. Even $20 off is a savings!
--Don't be squeamish about buying couches or beds: I've purchased both off of Craigslist. We did "vet" the people by entering their home and determining they were clean and didn't have bugs. If you get a bad feeling, just walk away. You're not obligated to buy it just because you came to look at it.
--Be open to furniture that's an ugly color: it's really easy to refinish/repaint yourself.
--Focus on quality: as others have noted, don't buy cheap Ikea stuff used. Buy "real" furniture :)
--Be patient: you're not going to find everything in a day. We slowly furnished over the course of a year, which I'm glad about. We spent very little money and were able to find free stuff on the side of the road too!

Good luck and have fun! We had a great time doing the Craigslist thing!


  • Bristles
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2014, 09:37:18 AM »
Don't be afraid of empty space... our house is only 1100 square feet and we still took almost 3 years to "furnish" it fully - and by fully I mean fully functionally, not that everything is a "permanent" piece.  One of the big benefits of doing this is that you learn your space and figure out what you need and what you don't need on a daily basis. 

Embrace "temporary" pieces.  5 years in, we're still sleeping on a metal frame instead of a fancy bed because we have yet to find one that we want to keep forever at a price we like.  I'm sure we'll eventually find one, and will love it when we do, but what's the rush?  Same goes for a lot of our furnishings and other "things" in the house. 

Try some DIY.  Ugly pieces that your neighbor or family friend is throwing out can look adorable with some elbow grease, sandpaper, wood glue, maybe paint or stain...  This works best with older pieces that are of solid bones and construction, but also works with kit furniture.  I found some amazing unfinished cedar Adirondack chair kits on super clearance at JoAnn fabrics once.  Staining and finishing them and building them myself, I have awesome lanai furniture that will probably last for decades for less than what the ugly plastic Adirondack chairs that Publix sells every summer.  DIY can also let you customize some built-ins to maximize space... but again, take your time to live in your house for a few years and figure out where you'll need extra space or storage before hopping into this. 

Don't worry about minimizing transportation costs by renting a big truck once and feeling the need to fill it.  Home Depot lets you rent trucks for $20 for the first 75 minutes.  This is usually enough time to pick up the truck, pick up the piece, drop the piece off at your house, and return the truck.  For the right piece, an extra $20 isn't a big deal.  And realistically, most pieces won't be big enough that you need this. 

You're probably planning on living in this house for a long time (forever?) so why rush anything when it comes to filling it?  You've got time. 


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2014, 12:25:43 PM »
Patience is definitely the key to accumulating high quality at low prices. (Reminds me of the saying, "Everyone wants things that are cheap, fast and good. You will need to pick two of the three.") Some folks are happy to live with whatever they happen into until the right thing comes along, which saves them a lot of energy! If you are like me, and more picky about your home, there are things you can do to make your home look coherent until you find the perfect thing. For instance, deciding whether you will look for wood or wood finishes in all light wood or dark wood; picking out photo and picture frames that are all the same color (my photo frames are all silver--if you pick black or silver they will always turn up at yard sales); using a slipcover (I bought one from a company called SureFit) to cover up an ugly upholstery pattern. And honestly, the cheapest thing you can do to make your house look nice (and it's free) is to keep the clutter under control. It amazes me on those home improvement shows what a difference it makes just to pick up, put away or dispose of stuff.


  • Bristles
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2014, 01:04:03 PM »
Furnished my entire 3br home (with the exception of the TV which I had, and the mattress which I insisted on new) for less than $800. They wanted $700+100/month to stage my home for sale, and $150/mo to store my old belongings. Instead, I furnished it myself.

That included the following:
$50 Dining room table + chairs
$300 Bedroom set (headboard,footboard,frame, 2 dressers, night stand)
$100 IKEA hightop table and stools
$100 lounge chair and ottoman
$100 couch and loveseat combo (alebit had seen better days)
$30 Rug
$20 coffee table
$20 TV table

$0 upstairs dresser: already had this for 15+ years
$0 upstairs coffee table: was $10 at garage sale 15+ yrs ago
$0 upstairs mattress: roomate left it behind
$0 downstairs single mattress: given to me by friend moving out of state

When the house was sold, I turned around and sold the bigger items at a profit.
You can see the photos here:


  • Stubble
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2014, 01:06:07 PM »
Build it


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2014, 01:53:01 PM »
Apply patience, and visit yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores. Keep an eye on curbs, too, at trash pickup time. I have a gorgeous 1925 Art Deco vanity in my bedroom from just such a find.

Even antique stores can have good prices sometimes if you skip the really fancy ones. Also, you can sell your delay to your spendy relatives as a love of antiques.

We bought nothing in our fully furnished house new. My husband built some pieces, and the rest are antiques except for the couches, which were my parents' but aren't (quite)old enough to be antiques. Those I love; my mother is even shorter than I am, so, unlike most couches I know, my feet touch the floor when sitting on these.


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2014, 01:58:18 PM »
I strongly recommend Craiglist, particularly in college towns at the end of a semester.

I wouldn't be afraid of having some empty floor space for awhile.  The "uncluttered" look is fine and buying furniture you don't need to fill the space can just end up being storage for more clutter.

I appreciate the advice here given by those who recommend setting priorities.  In most rooms of our house we have less expensive furniture, but we invested good money in a beautiful cherry dining table and chairs and are about ready to pay the Amish to build us some pieces to our specifications.

Likewise, I found some outdoor furniture I really enjoy, but didn't want to pay retail.  I bought the plans and am paying a handy friend to build them for me to my specs.  He needs the money and I want the chairs.  Plus, I'm sentimental and like the fact that there's a face behind the people who built my stuff.

Numbers Man

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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2014, 02:01:19 PM »
The cool part about having your own house is that you can furnish it anyway that you see fit to furnish it.


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2014, 03:16:40 PM »
Definitely go with less furniture than you think. Nearly all of our rearranging in the house has been deleting pieces, not adding.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2014, 03:29:00 PM »
Patience is indeed the key. We spend $ on good pieces that will last forever.  Our antique dining room set was bought 34 years ago & still going strong (actually 100 yo). We bought some things at estates sales, antique shops, garage sales & furniture stores.   With the bed bug epidemic I will not buy couches, chairs, mattresses, etc because they are very difficult to get rid of & cost a fortune to do so as well as the unpleasantness. Prior to this issue we bought these items used sometimes.   I would rather have some empty space and eventually fill it with good pieces that I love versus filling it with something cheap that you will need to replace.  Have fun with the experience!


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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2014, 05:56:26 PM »
I started out with nothing but what was given to me by my family. It can serve three purposes

- reducing costs - already covered sufficiently

- reducing the amount you end up throwing out - already covered

- giving yourselves, your relatives, and your friends the message that you feel you cannot afford "luxuries". That you would prefer to save to own anything outright, and that you are prepared to do things slowly.


  • Bristles
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2014, 10:06:23 PM »
Yeah, patience like everyone says. 

If you get really comfortable with Craigslist then there will come a day when you have all furniture needs met. You'll see something amazing and wistfully wish you had a place to put it.

I still search "tansu" and "asian."


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2014, 05:03:35 AM »
Almost everything in my home is a hand-me-down from relatives. Bedroom set came from my parents' house. Kitchen table came after my parents remodeled their kitchen. Some den furniture from my uncle.

By far the biggest win-win was when I got the house, and needed to furnish an extra guest room and living room. Turns out my brother had been renting a storage unit, most of which was taken up by his old apartment furniture. I got a fully furnished bedroom, living room, and part of my den, and he was able to close out the storage unit and save all that rent.


  • Stubble
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Re: Furnishing a house like a Mustachian
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2014, 07:59:24 AM »
We bought our first house 2 years ago, after losing virtually all of our possessions in a natural disaster... so we literally moved in with a used mattress and a craigslist arm chair.  I can relate to feeling like you need to quickly amass a home full of stuff.

We pieced together a very eclectic home with what others have already mentioned:
1) Craigslist
2) Garage sales
3) Literally, side of the road pick ups (think small side tables, not gross moldy couches)
4) Receiving cast offs from friends/family (and subsequently selling those on Craigslist if they weren't in the 'style' we were going for, to fund new craigslist purchases)
5) IKEA for basics (think bookshelves - if you invest in substantial ones, I'm talking Hemnes rather than Billy; and basic kitchen items like plates, etc.)

We also ended up building several things, despite never having done it before.  Using Ana White's website ( we built a knock-off Anthropologie-style 9' long dining room table for about $200.  We also learned some valuable skills in the process.

Goodwill is also a great place to pick up decorative things if you commit to going often and hunting.  The thing with thrift stores if you have to go regularly and be prepared to leave empty handed 4 times out of 5.  But every once in a while you find a gem.  Things we've gotten at our Goodwill: 2 pottery barn clocks (for $2), baskets (toy storage), picture frames, real silver serving trays, and small side tables, etc.

I'd echo what everyone else says about not moving too fast too.  You're ideas for your house change after you've been in it for 6 months, 1 year, etc. and suddenly the piece you knew you had to have doesn't necessarily fit with your vision anymore. 

Stay away from all things Rooms'to'go/ Havertys/ department store style furniture places.  The last thing you want is for people to come over and think your matchy-matchy couch/ armchair/ end tables, etc. were all purchased at same time.