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How to Design a Bedroom On a Budget From Scratch in 5 Steps

Jennifer Nielsen.
  • This article has been compiled, researched, and reviewed by Jennifer Nielsen (a professional interior designer) for uniqueness and factual accuracy.

There are plenty of articles out there that give you random tips and ideas for designing your bedroom on a budget, but very few that actually walk you through the design, planning, and execution process step-by-step from scratch.

So how do you design a bedroom on a budget?

To design a bedroom on a budget from scratch, build a concept mood board, digitally select high-quality/low-cost furniture ideas, choose specific furniture items and your overall décor, create a floor plan, calculate costs, and DIY the design, painting, and construction process.

The rest of this article shows you in detail how to design and build your ideal bedroom on a budget in 5 steps.

Related: these 6 colors go with cherry wood bedroom furniture.

How to Design a Bedroom On a Budget in 5 Steps

Here’s a quick summary of how to design your bedroom on a budget (see the individual steps below for a detailed explanation of each element):

  • Create a concept mood board – collating visual images taken from inspirational places like Pinterest and design websites helps to give you ideas, visualize the completed project, and avoid costly design mistakes.
  • Digitally select furniture – creating a visual presentation page (much like a mood board) of the items that you want to include in your bedroom helps you to find high-quality items that fit your needs and keeps you focused on the end goal.
  • Choose specific items of furniture and overall décor – listing the exact items to be included in your bedroom along with the color scheme and overall décor helps you to create and design your perfect bedroom without spending too much.
  • Create a floor plan – creating a floor plan allows you to make sure that everything will fit in your room and avoid costly spatial and functional errors.
  • Calculate costs – listing the cost of each item to be bought for your bedroom allows you to stay within your budget and avoid overspending.

1: Create a Concept Mood Board to Avoid Costly Mistakes

Using concept images to create a mood board is critical when designing a bedroom on a budget from scratch because it allows you to plan ahead, avoid costly mistakes, and have a better understanding of how your bedroom is going to turn out.

To create a concept mood board, visit your favorite websites for inspiration.

This could be a social media platform like Pinterest, a celebrity designer’s website, or even retailers that have beautifully staged product shots.

Images can be of nature, lifestyle photography, or other interests, but make sure to include at least a couple of interior shots.

After gathering the images, open up a presentation document like Google Slides, and arrange the images on a page.

Below is an example of a concept mood board that I created myself for visual inspiration:

Mood Board for Bedroom Décor Design
Mood Board for Bedroom Décor Design Example (Custom Image By JenniferNielsenDesign.com)

You have now created your concept mood board!

Not only does this help to create an idea of the desired ambiance, but it helps you to see different design avenues.

By having this road map, you will be able to create your own custom style.

Whilst you may not be able to recreate an entire bedroom from one of your images, or even find a certain table lamp, for example, you will still be able to reference the photos for finishes, colors, patterns, and shapes that you may want to include in your bedroom design.

Make sure to print out, or have close by, your mood board when you start the next step below. 

2: Digitally Select Furniture and Create a Presentation Page

With your mood board close by, you should begin your digital furniture selection presentation.

This is a presentation page – similar to the mood board – except that it includes furniture, art, accessories, etc. that when arranged, can create your custom bedroom design and include pieces that are available for you to purchase.

To create your inspirational furniture presentation page, visit the websites of your favorite retailers or reputable furniture manufacturers and start to gather and save images of furniture that will work in your bedroom.

Place the images in a folder that you will easily remember, and rename the photo file to “Manufacturer_Collection_Color”.

For example: ‘Furniture Store_Manhattan Headboard_Honey Oak’.

You will be grateful that you did this when you go to purchase the piece later on!

Below is a visual example of how I save images of furniture for future reference when working on projects:

How to Save Furniture Images
How to Save Furniture Images Example by Jennifer Nielsen

Check the Product Details to Ensure the Item is High Quality

The next step is to perform some quality checks to ensure that the products that you like are of high quality and the vendor is reputable.

To do this, pay attention to the imagery quality, and make sure there are photos of the furniture details from several angles.

This ensures the manufacturers have nothing to hide.

Ensure the Furniture Meets Your Requirements

It’s critical to review and make a note of the furniture details to ensure that they meet your requirements.

For example:

  • Does the sizing work for you?
  • Does the nightstand height work with your bed height?

Avoid Unclear Specifications

A key example of a poor quality piece of furniture is unclear specifications.

Avoid furniture that has vague descriptions like “Solid + Manufactured Wood”.

Because by leaving out the details of what materials are actually used in the piece, manufacturers can get away with selling poor quality goods.

Instead, look for details such as, “Solid Mahogany + Walnut Veneer”.

By ensuring the quality of the piece ahead of time, you avoid spending the time and money to return the item or throwing it away entirely and having to replace it.

Search Antique and Thrift Stores for High-Quality/Low-Cost Bedroom Furniture

If your budget is really tight, search antique stores, thrift stores, or online marketplaces for high-quality bedroom furniture that won’t break the bank.

These outlets have interesting vintage pieces or newer pieces for discounted costs.

Don’t disregard this as an option!

You can always replace the hardware, refinish, or paint on to a second-hand piece of furniture and make it your own, new design!

Create Your Digital Presentation Board With Your Favorite Furniture Pieces

As you search, make sure that you pull the images from the folder and place them on a presentation page (like you did for the mood board in step 1).

Use the digital media to your advantage and create a few design options.

You may shock yourself by what you create when you push yourself to think past the first option!

If you’re taking the thrift store option, then proceed with saving images from retailers that you can use as inspiration and references for materials.

For example, if you can’t afford the headboard that you selected but really love the rattan material, search the online market places or thrift stores for a similar item that costs less.

If you are still struggling to find the right product, make sure to keep an eye out for an affordable headboard that you can embellish with rattan and re-construct yourself to create a custom headboard of your own!

Focus on the Vision

The biggest challenge in any do-it-yourself project is to be able to see the end product before you get there.

Flex your creative muscles to think of how you may be able to reinvent some of your favorite pieces to get a high-end look on a budget.

Remember to include floor plans and elevations in the planning process.

If you need a refresher or information on how to create a floor plan, see the article: How to Space Plan a Square Bedroom.

3: Choose Specific Items of Furniture and Overall Decor

With your furniture digitally selected, you should now focus on the exact details of the furniture for your bedroom as follows:

Headboards and Nightstands

The best way to start designing your bedroom is with the headboard and nightstands because they are the focal point of your bedroom and act as an anchor point.

Looking at options for these two pieces at the same time creates a balance right from the start.

A jump start on solely the headboard will likely sway you to start with a busy and uncoordinated headboard to fill the space.

Since you can’t see the design through at this point, many people’s first furniture or focal piece usually includes a lot of design elements, and will later conflict with other elements you have in the room.

Headboards don’t need to be fancy and I’m sure when you review your budget you are wondering if this is even necessary.

The need for a headboard can be a difficult thing to accept when comparing cost and benefits.

While there are helpful headboards out there, most fall short of their purpose.

However visually, a headboard, or a large focal point installed above the bed, is essential in creating an anchor and character definition of a room.

Below, the concept image I’ve created illustrates how a headboard with a lower height paired with two adjacent nightstands draws the eye laterally to emphasize the width of the room – which can be useful in high ceiling rooms if you want to draw the eye downwards to avoid a ‘cavernous’ feeling:

Bed and Nightstand Concept
Bed and Nightstand Concept (Custom Image By JenniferNielsenDesign.com)

Since this is the bedroom, you want to strive towards a calming vibe.

Try to avoid overly saturated, bright colors in the room.

If you love color, the headboard is a great place to include it, but make sure that it isn’t too bold.

Also, try including a solid, uni-material headboard in one of your design options, such as a solid color, upholstered headboard, or solid wood.

Pair it with a nightstand that may incorporate mixed materials such as wood and metal hardware.  

Include a nice, light-neutral duvet bedding for a freshly clean and organic look.

Refrain from looking at accent pillows at this phase.

Creating a strong base design is crucial and accessories can often throw off the flow of the design process if included too early in the game.

If you are on an extremely tight budget, try these cost saving ideas:

  • Art headboard: try a large piece of art such as carved wood panels or a framed print.
  • DIY upholstered headboard: with some low-cost particleboard (or similar), adhere some batting material to the board and cover with fabric. Depending on the quality and how much contact you have with it, the fabric and construction might not last as long as a store-bought option, but this will certainly be less expensive.
  • Using a dresser or console table as a nightstand: maximizes storage in the bedroom, alleviating the need to purchase additional pieces.
  • Installing wall mounted shelves: can also provide a unique touch to your bedroom wall without breaking the bank.

Walls and Color Selection

After nailing down some initial headboard and nightstand ideas, let’s move on to the walls.

Since the bedroom is a sanctuary space, the most successful wall colors in here should typically be subdued, with far less saturation.

Think of colors on a “greyed out” spectrum.

If you love the color green, go for a “sage” or “olive” since these colors are very serene and less bold.

This will help to maintain the calming mood and transition into a good night’s rest.

Paint is going to be the most cost-effective wall application.

If you love color, try adding two-tones on the wall in a wainscot fashion either with two colors right on top of each other, or installing a chair rail one-third up the wall from the floor.

Here are some other decorating tips and tricks:

  • Avoid wallpapering the entire room: if you really love patterns, instead think about installing wallpaper on a small accent wall or frame the pattern and hang it as artwork!
  • Paint your own design: for larger-scale patterns, or a mural-like art installation, try painting your own design on the wall! A projector or stencils will come in handy for this project, but the results can be stunning.

Doors and Trim

Traditionally, doors, trim and the wall base are painted a nice bright cream, or white.

Do you need new door ideas?

If so, this would be the point to include those designs.

A budget-friendly option, if you are looking to jazz up the appearance, would be to adhere some molding to a flat panel door.

There are so many pattern options that you could create from half-round trim that will give your door a vintage and unique character feel.

Rugs

After feeling comfortable with the headboard, nightstand, and wall options, transition to the floor with rugs.

Luckily, rugs are great for quick and easy flooring.

Although it’s less costly than replacing a worn-out floor, rugs can be expensive.

If you are looking to spruce up the aesthetic of the floor, the most cost-effective rug options are flat-woven rugs.

This rug type is low-cost, highly durable, and makes a lovely statement in a room.

Be careful when looking for less expensive rug options.

If you are looking for a comfortable foot-feel, avoid rugs that are made of 100% jute or sisal, although these rugs can bring a stunning texture to a room.

Make sure to read through rug details and review the photos very closely, just like furniture, to make sure that the specifications align with everything you are looking for.

Rugs are the number one item that usually don’t align with the purchaser’s expectations due to low quality.

Be very careful of “printed” rugs, which are often the cheapest rugs on the market, but have a disappointing visual. 

Area rugs can have a major effect on a room.

Depending on the existing floor and room design progress, it can create a nice balance by bringing in pattern to boost up the design, or a subtle texture to even out strong elements.

If you are leaning towards a pattern, stay within the neutral colors.

Bringing in strong colors with a patterned rug can throw the whole design off-kilter.

A subtle texture always creates a stunning appearance and helps to bring the eye up, more towards that headboard anchor.

Bedside Lamps

Bedside lamps can really pack a punch and make a headboard wall really stand out.

The budget-friendly option for bedside lighting and floor lighting is a plug-in, freestanding fixture.

An easy option that will cost less than purchasing a new fixture is restoring a second-hand light by utilizing the existing base and replacing the lampshade.

Other options for restoration include repainting/refinishing with a new color or metal finish, though this may be more of an involved process than you make like.

Make sure to investigate this option before settling on it.

The concept image that I’ve created below using the product images that I’ve saved illustrates how you can really start to see how the color palette is beginning to develop:

Bed Nightstand Lamp Rug Floor and Wall Concept
Bed, Nightstand, Lamp, Rug, Floor, and Wall Concept (Custom Image By JenniferNielsenDesign.com)

Storage

You may also need storage options, such as a dresser with drawers, a tall wardrobe, or even a Murphy bed with a bookcase.

Since these can be larger in nature and heavily impact the feel of a room, try incorporating storage options with finishes that either match existing pieces, or ones that help to fade out of view.

Since you want to maintain a focus on the bed and not create an additional, strongly competitive piece, experiment with pieces that are the same wood color as your nightstand or headboard.

Perhaps an oversized wardrobe is what works best for you.

With a piece that is taller, and possibly installed or fastened to the wall, a white finish that matches the trim would be a great option to create a truly installed look.

Again, with dressers and wardrobes, take a look at second-hand options that may need a little refinishing.

Putting in the time to rejuvenate an older piece of furniture is well worth it for the cost savings!

Seating

Seating is also very common in bedrooms.

Often a bench at the end of a bed or a small lounge chair is a nice addition to the bedroom and creates a truly cozy feel.

The “second hand” route in the case of seating can be more difficult to find, especially in the cost-saving realm.

If you decide to go the second hand route, try acquiring something that does not have upholstery or that would require a full refurbishing.

A nice, solid wood chair, for example, is a great thrift item that can easily be warmed up with a brand new, loose seat cushion or decorative throw pillow.

Similar to the chair, a solid material bench for the foot of your bed can be easily refurbished with a new seat cushion.

As far as colors, materials, and finishes for seating, try out a completely new option that hasn’t yet appeared in your design, or may have been included in a small amount.

Introducing new finishes in a small amount, like in a petite lounge chair, adds depth.

Try looking at seating that may have rattan, woven cane, or upholstery with a subtle pattern.

Take advantage of the “soft good” and incorporate materials that are softer in nature.

Aside from the upholstered headboard, if you decided to go that route, gentle and natural materials may not have made sense to include up to this point.

Bedroom Furniture Design Concept
Bedroom Furniture Design Concept (Custom Image By JenniferNielsenDesign.com)

Throw Pillows

When you feel that the soft seating selection is in a good place, start to think about throw pillows throughout the room.

Again, the design of the room should not rely on the throw pillows to complete it, but these accessories certainly add dimension and character to the space.

Experiment with a totally obscure pattern or color.

You may be surprised at the results!

What colors do you have included in the design thus far?

Try adding either a complementary or adjacent colored accent.

For example, if you have a lot of warm wood tones that have a somewhat orange hue, try bringing in some different blues, such as a pillow with a nice denim colored print.

If green appears in the current design, try out a throw with some salmon pink fringes.

Or maybe you have too much pattern and nothing is working for you.

Open up your mind to the possibility of texture or small, geometric patterns!

Adding a series of intricate plaids, check, or stripes can create a naturally interesting pattern along your bed.

Instead of splurging for that expensive, embroidered pillow cover, explore the idea of mixing up some modest designs to create a unique arrangement.

There are so many different options here and no wrong answer.

Save a few options and play around to see which result you like.

A cost hack for throw pillows would be to purchase new pillow covers versus an entirely new pillow.

You can find low-price coverings for just about any size of pillow.

Take a worn out or fashionably outdated pillow that you are contemplating donating and give it a facelift by re-wrapping.

Throw pillows add so much to a room but there are certainly more accessory avenues that you can take or additionally include.

Art

You may have included art in your wall/wall paint designs, but if you have not, now is a great time to see what options are out there.

Prints are notably the least expensive art options that exist.

Find a few smaller prints or one large option with an inexpensive frame or poster hangers to place over your bed.

Another art option, that is a little more do-it-yourself focused, is creating your own art from old windows or architecturally interesting objects.

Get creative and think about your interests and what fits your room and personal aesthetic.

Add some painted designs to these objects or refinish to add character and intention.

Art can be added anywhere you think is necessary in a room and has no boundaries.

However, try to keep art and accessories minimal and somewhat serene, to maintain a tranquil environment.

For art ideas above the bed, try a series of small pieces or one large masterpiece.

Whatever avenue you take, make sure that the overall shape that the art or artworks create generally matches the shape of the wall.

For standard, shorter ceilings, maybe choose a skinnier, horizontal option – or line up your small frames in a horizontal line that keeps your eye at a landscape level with the bed.

Other art placement items include above a dresser, between windows, or next to a lounge chair in the corner of the room.

Paired with a floor lamp, artwork can turn this soft seating area into a cozy vignette.

A helpful tool is to create elevations for art, which is a great planning tool that utilizes your knowledge of the size and shape of the piece and helps to arrange or determine a place on the wall.

Perhaps you found a great artwork on an online marketplace and from the pictures, it looks like it may work above your bed.

Make sure to get the dimensions from the seller, or review them online, and place them in an elevation to make sure that it does indeed work.

Wall elevations help you to understand scale and shape coordination.

Window Treatments

Window treatments can be tricky and are not often low-priced.

Similar to the dressers, drapery or shades can make a bold statement in a room.

For your bedroom, contemplate adding in white, bamboo, or neutral linen shades to create less of a focal point.

With darker or bold patterns, this may create competing points of focus for your eyes and thus a room design with a lot of conflict.

Since window treatments do not have to withstand a lot of wear and tear, and just need a simple aesthetic, you can save some money here by opting for a bargain store or big-box store product.

Plants

In addition to providing clean air, natural greenery brings in a truly organic and peaceful feel.

Despite your color palette, there is always going to be a plant that works for you.

Look for plants that will thrive in the conditions of your bedroom or opt for some dried floral in a small vase.

You can always find cost-effective plants that are a great price for bringing such a game-changing vibe.

Final Bedroom Furniture Design Concept
Final Bedroom Furniture Design Concept (Custom Image By JenniferNielsenDesign.com)

4: Create a Floor Plan

If you have already started on the floor plan, you have nearly completed this step.

Now add tags to your furniture, rugs, lighting, accessories, window treatments, and artwork on the floor plan for reference.

For example, a great way to tag may be “BD-1” (for bedroom, item one).

Adding in a sequence naturally helps to calculate your costs accurately (next step).

For more information on how to create a floor plan see my step-by-step guide here.

5: Calculate Costs

With the tags in place on your plan, add these codes to a schedule, preferably in a spreadsheet.

Incorporate the costs of these items and don’t forget shipping and materials if you are doing a lot of do-it-yourself projects.

With the pricing information, you are able to add up everything and make sure that the total is under budget before you jump in and halfway through, realize you ran out of money.

This also helps to keep everything organized while purchasing and tracking shipments.

Add in a new column to your spreadsheet labelled “shipment tracking”.

Add in the estimated time to deliver at the point of purchase, and update as shipping information becomes available.

Before clicking the final purchase button, make sure to choose installation options that may reduce costs, including assembling and installing the items yourself.

Not all manufacturers have this as an option, but make sure to review with the shipping options.

If this is something that you feel you can manage on your own, spend the money elsewhere.

If this is something that you know you will need, make sure to budget accordingly.

Conclusion: Plan Ahead and DIY to Reduce Costs

To design and decorate your bedroom on a budget you should plan ahead and prepare to do a little of your own crafting or assembling to keep costs down.

Planning ahead avoids costly mistakes and allows for time to rework the design.

The best planning process includes developing concept images, design development, and documentation.

Truly thinking through the design will allow you to brainstorm cost-saving ideas, such as do-it-yourself options, and really envision your ideal space in its entirety.

The last step in designing your bedroom on a budget is to jump in to the painting, installation, and furniture refurbishment (ie: construction process) with your own hands.

Aside from furniture and artwork projects, doing the painting, assembling, and installation by yourself is the best avenue to take to save some money when designing your bedroom from scratch.

Related: how to use the rules of Feng Shui to design your bedroom.


Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Contemporary Bedroom Design’ by Peter_Visual (Getty Images) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.

All other images created and supplied by Jennifer Nielsen from JenniferNielsenDesign.com.

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