Front Porch Design Ideas on a Budget: How to Create a Magazine-Worthy Look for Under $200

front porch design ideas, front porch design, wicker chairs, thrifted porch

As nicer weather rolls in, a style refresh can be just what the doctor ordered to shake off the winter blues. Giving an outdoor space a facelift is one of the best places to start -- but it can be costly.

Furnishing and decorating with thrifted and secondhand items is one of the best ways to update any room without breaking the bank. Knowing where [and how] to look for the perfect finds without sacrificing style points can be a challenge. Online estate sales, online auctions, goodwill and flea markets are great places to start, but can be overwhelming without a little direction.

That's why we've turned to creator and design influencer, CJ Swank of @cjswank_newyork and @preppyhippiestyle to share her best tips on designing a budget-friendly outdoor space your neighbors will envy and you'll never want to leave.

CJ's latest design project was the porch of her 100+ year old upstate NY farmhouse that she designed for less than $200. Yes -- you read that right!

We asked CJ about her process and some of her favorite finds currently available on the marketplace.


Start With a Plan

AN: What was your planning process like? Any tips on getting started?

CJ: I began by sitting on my front porch at different times of the day, absorbing my surroundings, searching for inspiration and letting nature speak to me. I was starting from scratch and knew only that I wanted an outdoor space with all the comforts of an indoor room. Luckily, I had a pretty view, so I decided that everything would be oriented and designed to take full advantage of it - flipping the normal furniture arrangement on its head in the process. 

Shopping my house first, I brought anything that might work out onto the front porch to take inventory: pillows, rugs, tables, lighting, plants, baskets, decorative objects, etc. I curated those things into a “works well together” pile and made a note of what I still needed to find: couch, chairs, plant stands, serving table, focal points, etc. Then I went online and shopped for those items, secondhand, of course. You have to be flexible and willing to pivot quickly, though. I had a budget of $200 and came in way under that! I didn’t even set foot in a store and only left my house to pick items up! 


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Photo courtesy of CJ Swank


AN: What are the most important finishing touches? 

CJ: It’s important to tell a story when you design a room, even an outdoor room. It’s also more inviting, people want to come in and explore the details. Layers are a key way to accomplish this: A soft, natural rug underfoot to define a seating area, a lightweight cotton quilt thrown over a chair for a chilly night, lighting - both a chandelier and a candle - is essential for nighttime romance, and don’t forget to add flowers, textures and patterns for maximum visual interest.

Get Your Search Strategy in Place

AN: What search strategy/keywords did you use to find items?

CJ: I started with very specific search terms, looking for exactly what I wanted with little expectation of finding it  (but interested to see where it would lead), then gradually broadened my search to include more generic terms. Here are a few of my initial searches:

  • brighton pavilion chair
  • vintage bamboo furniture
  • french campaign bed
  • anduze urn
  • chinoiserie garden stool
  • footbath
  • vintage Buddha
  • jardiniere
  • chippendale bench
  • kantha quilt
  • pagoda
  • chandelier, etc.

These were all wish list items - unicorns. Then I gradually switched to broader terms like garden, outdoor, porch, quilt, wicker, flower pot, etc.

Take Advice from Thrifting Pros

AN: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give about designing with thrifted/secondhand goods?

CJ: If you really love it, buy it when you see it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you’ll put it. You’ll probably never have the chance again, and you can always resell it and get your money back. If you love it, it will spark joy whenever you see it, and it can be moved from room to room (or house to house) as needed. A chest of drawers, for example, can anchor an entry, bathroom, or living room just as easily as a bedroom. The wicker table on my front porch may one day end up as a desk in my office.


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Photo courtesy of CJ Swank

AN: What are the best items to buy secondhand?

CJ: I buy virtually everything secondhand. I prefer the notion that my home is unique to me - and like the way mixing periods, patterns, styles, and colors reveals something important about who I am. My mother was an antique dealer with a fabulous eye, and she gave me some of my favorite pieces, so they each tell a sweet story. I also actually find secondhand to be more intrinsically beautiful and desirable than new. Secondhand furniture is especially appealing to me for its incredible value. Plus, the quality shows in the materials and details, if not the design itself.

AN: What items should you consider buying new?

CJ: Mattresses. Towels. Dog food.


Looking for some great finds to kickstart your next room refresh? Check out some of CJ's picks from across the marketplace, and keep your eyes peeled for similar items each day!


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  1. Pair of Brighton Pavillion Style Bamboo Chairs (Modern Day Auctions)

  2. Vintage from Italy Glazed Terracotta Decorative Urn (Clearing House Estate Sales)

  3. Vintage Trunk Style Wicker Storage Baskets (Clearing House Estate Sales)

  4. Stunning Brass and Milk Glass Five Candle Candelabra (Clearing House Estate Sales)

  5. Antique Chinese Porcelain Garden Stool (Americana Estates & Liquidation)

  6. Vintage Quilt (A Blue Bird - The Nest Marketplace)

  7. Shabby Chic Painted Metal Chandelier (Clearing House Estate Sales)

  8. Huge Vintage Metal Pot (Rehome Estate Sales)

  9. 3 Throw Pillows with Metal Basket (Rehome Estate Sales)


Other Picks Not to Miss:



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