5 Things Decorators Never Spend Money on (and 3 Things They Splurge on)
When it comes to decorating an entire home, the cost of furniture, rugs, dishes, and throw pillows can quickly add up. But if you try to save some money by purchasing an inexpensive, low-quality couch, you could end up spending more money in the long run if it’s so uncomfortable you decide to replace it a few months later. To help determine which home decor essentials are worth the splurge because their quality counts, and which items are okay to buy cheap, we reached out to interior designers who make these choices every day as they decorate homes according to their clients’ budgets. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your home for $100 or are planning a $10,000 remodel, these guidelines will help you make the most of your money. Here are five items you’ll never regret buying cheap, and three investment pieces that are worth shelling out some cash for.
Save On: Rugs
When decorating a room, you don’t need to splurge on every single item in order to make the space look luxe—just make sure you’re saving on the right pieces. One of the best items to buy cheap is an area rug, says Gen Sohr, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Pencil & Paper Co., a Nashville-based interior design firm. “I think there are so many wonderful area rug options that are a complete steal. And really who wants to break the bank on something that's going to eventually get soiled and need to be replaced?” she says. For an option that’s both affordable and durable, she recommends a natural sisal rug, which also hides the appearance of dirt. A flatweave wool rug is another popular option, and Sohr recommends finding deals on Overstock.com or Rugs USA. To help your search, she’s even rounded up some favorite options over on the Pencil & Paper Co. blog.
Save On: Pillows and Throws
Textiles are not only one of the quickest ways to switch up a room’s style, but they’re also one of the cheapest. A few throw pillows can transform a couch, while the right blanket draped over an armchair can change its entire look. The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot on these little accents. “You can get beautiful linen pillows for less than $15 at places such as H&M Home, which means you don't have to feel so guilty if you decide to switch them out as the seasons or your taste changes,” says Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar. So go ahead, buy new throw pillows to warm up your home for fall. Look for covers in standard sizes that fit the pillow inserts you already own, and it’s possible to update your space for less than $50.
Save On: Glassware
If you have a family with young kids, glassware is one item you can afford to save money on, says Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom of Ishka Designs, a Brooklyn-based interior design firm that has decorated homes around the world. Buying inexpensive glasses is a smart way of preparing for the inevitable, especially when you have little ones running around. “If it breaks, which most times it will, the heartache is significantly less immense,” they explain. They recommend getting a set of stemless wine glasses for large dinner parties or anytime guests stop by, as the sturdy shape is more durable than a delicate stemmed option. Their favorite? CB2’s set of eight for $20, which makes each broken glass less than a $3 mistake.
Save On: Accent Tables
When you walk into a living room, what immediately catches your eye? Chances are the sofa and main coffee table steal the show, so these pieces are worthwhile investments. Accent tables demand less attention, so you can get away with spending less on them. “They are great for layering and there are lots of great affordable options out there,” says Shea McGee of Studio McGee. She recommends searching for side tables at Target, and has also spotted some steals at Pottery Barn. Whether your home is modern, eclectic, bohemian, or traditional, choose an inexpensive accent table that matches your signature style and no one will ever suspect it came from a big-box retailer.
Save On: Barstools
Sometimes, you simply have to let the available product selection determine which items are best to buy cheap. According to Studio McGee, it’s relatively easy to find barstools that look high-end at bargain prices, so it’s one area where they always plan to save money. To cut costs, look for metal or wood options that aren’t upholstered. Stools with adjustable seat heights are typically more expensive, so instead of splurging on an adjustable option, carefully measure the height of your counter and purchase stools to match. As a general rule, a stool seat should be about 10 inches below the counter. Measure carefully, and the most comfortable seat in the house won’t put you over budget.
Designer’s Pick: Tabouret 24-Inch White Metal Counter Stools
To buy: $84 for two; overstock.com.
Worth the Splurge: Lighting
Every single designer we talked to agreed—good lighting is worth investing in. “Beautiful lighting is our number one splurge. It really sets the tone for the entire room,” says Gen Sohr. “Quite often you are paying an electrician to install the lighting, so you want it to be something special,” she explains. Will Taylor also listed lighting fixtures as splurge-worthy pieces. “I think it's worthwhile investing in pieces that aren't easy to change on the quick,” he says. “When you do come to purchase and install these pieces, it's worth spending a little more to get something of high quality and that has a wow-factor that you'll love for years to come,” he explains. Besides wanting to invest in a piece you’ll likely have for many years, Shea McGee warns how cutting corners could destroy your home decor. “Cheap lighting is easy to spot and it can ruin a nice home very quickly!” she says. Splurge on timeless light fixtures, and you’ll never regret the extra money spent.
Worth the Splurge: Sofa
“Sofas are always worth the splurge!” says McGee. “A sofa is often the most commonly used piece of furniture, so it's important to invest so you get comfort, quality, and great design,” she explains. Because a sofa has to not only look good, but also feel comfortable enough for hours of Netflix binge-watching, and be durable enough to stand up to kids and pets, it’s worth spending a little more to find the perfect match. Sohr also notes that a sofa is something you typically live with for years, so avoid making a hasty decision. “Upholstered pieces are not the place to scrimp, especially since you'll likely be living with them a long time,” she says. How do you make sure you’re picking the best couch? Follow our tips for choosing the right fabric, seat depth, and style.
Worth the Splurge: Art
“We believe if you are going to splurge on anything, it should be art, particularly art you love,” says Clarke and Bascom of Ishka Designs. Unlike a rug that may get dirty in a couple years or a glass that could end up breaking at your next dinner party, the art you invest in is likely to stay with you for many years, or maybe even a lifetime. The key is to take your time finding art you love, that you’ll want to spend years living with, and that fits your style. The Ishka Designs team is currently fascinated by the artist Barkley Hendricks. To discover artists and styles you love, visit local galleries and museums, or take virtual tours online. Artsy.net is an online database of more than 70,000 artists, while Saatchi Art offers a large selection of original art at a range of prices.