I'm thinking of basic furniture, towels/linens, storage/organizers, essential oil/candles, etc.
couch/futon (you could use a futon for couch and bed but more comfy to have one for each purpose)
table and chairs to sit and eat/write/do projects
table/shelf to put things on like key, mail, etc
shelves/drawers to keep important things in (bills, etc)
plate/bowl/spoon/fork per person
mug/glass per pers
2 sets of sheets so one can be dirty while the other is being laundered
1-2 towels per person
1 washcloth per person
drawers/shelves/hanging rod for clothing storage
hooks or hanging rod for coats/hats
shoe rack (but I am the no-shoes in the house type)
kitchen mats (in front of sink and stove)
first aid kit
For me it was putting photo's of my family in cheap but nice frames and putting them on shelves or walls. The best or most interesting pictures my children have drawn/painted in frames. Real plants in strategic places.
Frames can be picked up from thrift stores or Craigs List for very little. You can bunch together different frames or make them look more uniform by spray painting them all the same colour.
Comfy chairs like a sofa or armchair! Something that makes you want to sitdown and stay.
Last year I knitted some blankets (2 balls of cheap yarn each knitted on large needles) and now I hardly get to use them cause everyone else grabs them. They really make cuddling on our sofa a lovely experience.
I filled four large stumpy circular vases with stones and placed a scented votive candle in each. When they are lit they give off a lovely warm glow, and when they aren't in use they make a nice natural decoration.
I don't have anything in my home that cost a lot. Most everything has been bought on sale, from Craigs List, from discount shops like Tuesday Morning or from yard sales.
I know there are many things I could write but my first thought is- lamps. Nice cozy lighting is so important. When I walk by someone's house and they have overhead lights on, I cringe. I recently got 2 adorable lamps for $4 each at a thrift store.
I like framed sentimental sorts of things.
Frames are cheap at thrift stores and dollar stores. If you don't like the color, a can of spray paint can do wonders. If the item you are framing is bulky, you can just remove the glass (things like spoons or baby shoes or your grandma's reading glasses). If you need something to back the item, you can use scrapbook paper from somewhere like Michael's/Hobby Lobby for like a quarter. So, for less than $5, you can have framed art that also tells a story.
I second throw blankets, there is nothing like curling up on the couch.
I think that really good bedding makes a difference. It not only looks great but feels comfortable. And I agree with a PP about lamps. I hate overhead lighting and use it sparingly.
To me, a bare house doesn't feel comfy. In the early, seriously broke years, I shopped the thrift stores for pictures for the walls (actually, I got some great stuff that's still with us even though we could afford something different now) and other decorative things. Fabrics, too, are important: something pretty on the windows, decorative pillows, and throw blankets make a home feel cozy. If you're readers, books make a personal statement, too. I'm also a fan of candles, potpourri, and plants, but that's a little trickier when your children are very young!
Books - whole walls full of book shelves. Comfy couch and chairs to sit in. A nice dining table for eating and working. Musical instruments hanging around waiting to be played. Cat. I agree with the table lamps. So nice and cozy. Framed pictures are nice. I bought yard sale frames and framed some wonderful prints I got from a calendar. They are reproduced from original paintings and I absolutely love them. I framed some in a set of four matching square frames I got for $10 at a yard sale and they looked perfect. I bought another very large framed photograph of birch trees at another yard sale and that hangs over my thrift store loveseat. Definitely keep your eyes open. I also like antiques. Much of my furniture is antique (but from yard sales mostly) and it adds such a nice touch. And I like quilts, too, but I make them so they don't cost too much...
When we bought our house, we moved our furniture in slowly, over a month's time. We were painting and doing work and honestly, I didn't feel like our house was really homey
until we had our living room set up with a couch and computer. We were really
lacking a comfortable space to unwind at the end of the day.
Also, warmth. Whether it comes in the form of cranking your heat up, having throw blankets to cuddle with, pillows on couch, slippers, whatever. In October we had gutted a portion of our house just before the first snowfall. Being cold = being miserable.
For adding coziness: lamps instead of just overhead lighting, books, a couple pretty things that mean something to you, some simple throw rugs near door, in front of kitchen sink etc. If you have kids, a couple baskets of toys.
It doesn't have to cost much, you can find plenty of great deals at thrift shops.
thank you ladies! these are great ideas, i wouldnt have thought of the lamps and frames
houseplants! and animals! Life in general. Some good food cooking in the oven. But on to more practical stuff: I second good bedding, a comfy couch, pillows and throw blankets, family photos, the things you love (for me that's books and art and plants and animals)
I second the houseplants, maybe an aquarium or some other form of low-maintenance "life". A cat or two will work as well.
I'm big on using all the senses - smell (candles, or simmering orange peels or something baking) and sound (I love windchimes, even in the house, and those little gurgle fountains). Quilts and a general atmosphere of warmth in the house are also big with me.
So much I want to say has been mentioned :]
For me it's candles candles candles. On bookshelves, on ledges, on tables, lit all day letting off musky cozy smells. I'm kind of obsessed with candles or just even some cinnamon sticks and oils lit on the stove for a few hours.
House plants! Tons! And a sunny window ledge for herbs that can grow in the winter [we just planted some cinnamon basil, put it on a sunny window and it's already sprouted which is so exciting for me..]
Fish, dogs, cats, whatever. I've got cats and dogs and while sometimes it gets annoying to sweep up fur every day, the house is just fill of whimsy/chaos all the time.
BOOKS! And cozy places to read
Yummy things baking, always. In the winter I find we bake like, every few days. Which is why A: I'm chubby and B: the house smells so yummy and feels so warm and snug.