"End tables, nightstands, coffee tables, even dining room tables and chairs are good areas to save money," Boston designer Abbey Koplovitz says. Look for lightweight and easy-to-maneuver dining room chairs, and take advantage of the concealing power of a pretty tablecloth to cover a make-do table.
Unconventional fabric sources can bring down the price of window treatments. "I had my daughter's bedroom curtains sewn out of king-size quilts bought on sale at Garnet Hill," Los Angeles designer Sasha Emerson says. She also taps retail sources such as Urban Outfitters for inexpensive bedspreads to turn into draperies.
"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. Boston designer Abbey Koplovitz agrees. She also 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.
Hunt for unusual or personality-driven accents -- they'll look less mass-marketed than generic items bought at 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 reaccessorize using what's already there," she says. "Just by switching it up, a whole new look is created."
Thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales are brimming with budget-friendly finds. Stylist Evette Rios shares how to score the gems.
Comfort is the first priority when considering furniture. "A good sofa is worth the money because it can be reupholstered," Washington, D.C.-area designer Barry Dixon says. "You can't sacrifice comfort." Boston designer Abbey Koplovitz is a proponent of the practical: "A good night's sleep is priceless, so get a good-quality, comfortable mattress. And choose a desk chair that is ergonomically designed."
"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.
"Beautiful tile is the artwork of any kitchen or bathroom," Seattle designer Amely Wurmbrand says. This investment can make a huge impact, but the costs can add up if you are trying to tile a large area. Consider using pricey tile as a smaller focal-point accent if you have a big space to cover.
"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."
Discover more secrets to success with these decorating ideas and how-tos.