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Ask A Philadelphia Expert: Decorating Your First Apartment On A Budget

"One of the things people are most curious about when they call me is the whole 'Divorce Lawyer turned Interior Designer' aspect," Lisa Furey of Lisa Furey - Barefoot Interiors told CBS in a recent phone interview. Lisa has always loved design, but she studied business at Villanova, which eventually transitioned into Law School. "I practiced law for 10 years and then I got a divorce and I didn't want to do it anymore!" she laughed. "So, I started an interior design business called Lisa Furey - Barefoot Interiors."

Lisa Furey
Lisa Furey - Barefoot Interiors
(610) 389-5231

"The three words that I would use to describe my style are simple, relaxed, and authentic," Lisa responded when asked about her design sense. Yet even though her work is beautifully crisp and wonderfully inviting, she noted that her tastes don't always line up with what her client is looking for or, sometimes, she will encounter a couple who can't agree on a look for their living space. "That's where the divorce lawyer thing comes in handy," she laughed. "I have to toggle between the husband and the wife or the mother and the daughter and I listen to both of their needs. Since I have those skills built-in from before, I frequently have to come up with a happy medium, something that truly pleases everyone."


"Whether it's a 600 square-foot apartment or a 6,000 square-foot home, you have to first determine your needs. How are you going to use the space? Which room are you going to spend the most time in? That's the room that should be the priority. When you're working with a confined budget, you really need to think the floor plan out, otherwise you are going to make some costly mistakes. Believe it or not, one of the most common mistakes is buying something that doesn't fit through the door, in the elevator, or through the hallways."

Think Before Buying That Armoire

"Only spend money on pieces that you are certain you can take with you to a new space. For instance, you might have a big overstuffed couch that fits in your current apartment, but it might not fit in the next space. If you're going to spend money, spend it on things like armchairs, nice works of art, a pretty mirror, and other pieces that you can move from apartment to apartment so you are not spending money repeatedly. For example, you are going to run into some really ugly light fixtures that the landlord puts in, so I would recommend taking them down and putting up ones that you like. Keep the old ones to put back up before you move out, then you can take the new ones with you. Good lighting will transform a room and it doesn't have to be expensive."

Focus On Function

"You can save money by focusing on pieces that serve a purpose instead of just scattering a bunch of little things all over to fill up the space. Everything I do has a purpose. We think about how we're going to use the space and then add in the pieces that serve the function that we need."

Related: Top Spots For Stylish Used Furniture In Philadelphia

Hard-Working Furniture

"With respect to furniture, in general, I like to use hard-working furniture. If you need an extra bed for company, try a daybed because it's a sofa by day and an extra bed at night. Garden stools are another example of furniture that does double-duty. They are like little side tables that can serve as additional seating. They are small so they can easily be moved around the room to suit your needs."

Buy Smart

"Be smart with the budget. You can buy things like coffee tables secondhand -- I wouldn't spend money on secondhand upholstered pieces, though, because you just don't know what the quality is. In general, you can save money by purchasing secondhand, shopping at your friends' or parents' homes to see what they might want to get rid of. Garage sales, estate sales, and auctions are all good places to look. Try shopping at lower-priced stores like T.J.Maxx, HomeGoods, and IKEA. Also, don't forget thrift and consignment shops, and even Craigslist. If you are on a budget, they would all be places to look in terms of saving money."

Related: Green Furniture Stores In Philadelphia

Allen Foster, a lifelong Greater Philadelphia resident, has been writing about all those wonderful things that make us feel so alive for over 20 years. He approaches each day as an adventure, eager to discover what new and vibrant surprises await just around life's corner. You can see his work on

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