6 Ways to Save—Plus 9 Places to Splurge—When Decorating Your Home

living room in black and white
Photo: Brie Williams Photography, Inc.

Trends can be exciting and inspiring, but it can be hard to tell what's here to stay or a passing fad. Investing in timeless and well-constructed pieces will save you money down the road. We asked interior designers for their advice on where to save your money and when it's worth spending a little more. These tips will help you get the best value when decorating your home.

01 of 15

Save: Kitchen Cabinets

Dark green kitchen with white counters
Kitchen cabinets in Tarrytown Green by Benjamin Moore. Anthony Masterson

San Diego-based wellness design consultant Jamie Gold has your wellbeing in mind when it comes to cabinetry. “Elaborate or high gloss cabinet door styles will require more time to maintain (time you could be spending hiking, cycling or relaxing after dinner) and cost quite a bit more,” she says. You can also opt-out of customized interior organization: “You can add the organizers later if funds are tight.”

02 of 15

Save: Non-Upholstered Furniture

casual dining room with chandelier
Anthony Masterson Photography, Inc.

"End tables, nightstands, coffee tables, even dining room tables and chairs are good areas to save money," says Boston designer Abbey Koplovitz. Look for lightweight and easy-to-maneuver dining room chairs for maximum functionality. If necessary, take advantage of the concealing power of a pretty tablecloth to cover a make-do table.

03 of 15

Save: Curtains

den with patterned curtains and wall art
Nick Johnson

Unconventional fabric sources can lower the expense of window treatments. "I had my daughter's bedroom curtains sewn out of king-size quilts bought on sale at Garnet Hill," says Los Angeles designer Sasha Emerson. She also taps retail sources such as Urban Outfitters for inexpensive bedspreads to turn into draperies. Bedsheets are another way to dress a window for less. Though not as thick as bed covers, they’ll increase privacy while allowing ambient natural light into the room.

04 of 15

Save: Lighting

sconce lighting
Werner Straube Photography LTD

"Lighting has less to do with comfort and can always be replaced later," says Washington, D.C.-area designer Barry Dixon. He searches flea markets for good buys. Designer Abbey Koplovitz agrees, but suggests checking the lamp's wiring, on/off switch, shade attachment, and stability. "A desk light that tips over or a shade that wobbles at any price point is no bargain," she says.

05 of 15

Save: Accessories

black metal bookcase
David A Land

Hunt for unusual or personality-driven accents: they’ll look less like generic, mass-market items purchased at a discount. Hollywood designer Nadia Geller recommends some creative rearranging before hitting the stores. "Before I purchase new accessories for a client or myself, I collect all the accessories and artwork from the home in one room. I then re-accessorize using what's already there," she says. "Just by switching it up, a whole new look is created." That new look can help you identify what accessories to look out for.

Interior stylist Lindsay Emmenecker recommends saving on accessories as well. She likes used books as decorative space fillers: “Turn your books backward to add a nice neutral texture that won’t compete with the valued pieces you want front and center.”

06 of 15

Save: Secondhand Finds

living room with gold framed artwork
Paul Dyer

Thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales are brimming with budget-friendly finds. Stylist Evette Rios shares three tips she uses to score secondhand gems. “The first thing you want to think about is whether a piece can be transformed into exactly what you want,” she says. Her next tip: “Think about the style lines.” Will it fit (both physically and aesthetically) in the space you have? Finally, consider the constriction of the piece. Look out for furniture-like pieces that have some heft, and choose to see dents and scratches and character and charm (rather than a deterrent).

07 of 15

Splurge: Heavily Used Seating

living room in black and white
Brie Williams Photography, Inc.

Comfort should be the first priority when purchasing seating for a popular lounging area. "You can't sacrifice comfort,” designer Barry Dixon says. This means testing the depth of the seating, cushion bounce, and structural integrity; and don’t forget to check the tactile feel of the fabric as well. Style, on the other hand, is a bit of a secondary concern. "A good sofa is worth the money because it can be reupholstered," says Dixon.

08 of 15

Splurge: Mattresses

bedroom with wooden nightstand
Nathan Schroder Photography

“A good night's sleep is priceless, so get a good-quality, comfortable mattress,” says designer Abbey Koplovitz. Commit plenty of time searching for the right mattress, and when you’re ready to make a decision, sleep on it, literally. Many brands and retailers have trial periods so you can be confident in your selection. When the decision is made, inquire about the warranty and product, so you know just how to protect your investment.

09 of 15

Splurge: Home Office Chairs

Office area with dark blue walls and large artwork
Jay Wilde

Koplovitz is a proponent of the practical. “Choose a desk chair that is ergonomically designed,” she says. If you work at home, it pays to take care of yourself. The right desk chair will meet your specific needs. Splurging on a desk chair will also help you find one that offers a bit of style, too.

10 of 15

Splurge: Steam Shower

Bathroom with marble shower
Edward Gohlich

“If you’re remodeling, a steam shower is a very worthwhile splurge,” says wellness design consultant Jamie Gold. “Steam showers bring wellness benefits to your life and added value to your home.” Gold advises that planning for a steam shower is best done in the design phase, rather than retrofitting to a room later.

11 of 15

Splurge: Statement Fabrics

bedroom pillows
Anthony Masterson

Looking to reupholster a showstopping chaise lounge or pair decorative pillows to your bedding? "You consistently get what you pay for with fabric, so spend the most you can afford," says Nancy Sanford, a designer in Denver. "And remember, color is not the most important element of fabric; equally important are the fabric's texture, pattern, feel, and construction." Browse eBay for designer options, but note that many sellers measure in meters, so do the math to make sure you know what you're getting.

12 of 15

Splurge: A Hardworking Kitchen Sink

kitchen sink with aqua cabinets and window
Richard Leo Johnson

“A pro-style chef sink with built-in ledges and accessories is a great splurge that will help make your meal prep and cleanup easier,” Gold says. She recommends low-gauge stainless steel or a granite composite sink for durability and maintenance. A good time to incorporate a new under-mount or apron-front sink is when you’re also installing new countertops, says Gold.

13 of 15

Splurge: Tile

pastel gray cabinets in kitchen with gold accents
Jennifer Hughes

"Beautiful tile is the artwork of any kitchen or bathroom," says Seattle designer Amely Wurmbrand. It’s also a sensible, hardworking wallcovering. This splurge can make a huge impact, but the costs add up if you are trying to tile a large area. Consider using pricey tile just as a smaller focal-point or accent if you have a big space to cover.

14 of 15

Splurge: Paint

Living room with dark gray walls and pink rug
Annie Schlecther

“A good quality, mid- to high-end paint will have more longevity and durability,” says designer Lindsay Emmenecker. “A cheap paint will start to show wear from humidity and other environmental changes,” she says. Good paint covers everything from walls to cabinets and furniture makeovers, but she especially recommends it in high traffic areas.

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Splurge: Art

colorful wall art
David Tsay

"It's always worth it to spend money on art, whether it's buying an original piece or refurbishing and reframing something that's been in your home for years," says Janie Hirsch, an Atlanta-area designer. "Art is where you throw in color and personality." Don’t stop at the artwork or the framing; also invest in properly hanging or displaying a treasured piece.

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