We all struggle with the question of where to splurge and where to save when decorating our homes. Interior designers rarely work with unlimited budgets, making them experts at knowing when to embrace a “you only live once” ethos, and when to take some, albeit well-disguised, shortcuts. To figure out what design items are worth the splurge, and which aren’t, we asked thirteen design pros to weigh-in. Here, they take us through how to go high-low in two key spaces: the living room and the dining room.

Eclectic living room with colorful furniture and assorted pieces of artwork
Design by Nick Olsen / Photo by Reid Rolls

The Living Room

 Where to Splurge

“I always advise clients to go with good-quality upholstery, as it really makes a difference in the level of comfort and the durability of the piece.” – Paloma Contreras

“Expensive rugs. There’s nothing worse than a cheap rug.” – Pierce & Ward

“I always suggest custom pillows in trade fabrics. They dress up any store bought sofa or chair in the best way.” —Erin Gates

“I splurge the most on unique, statement pieces that will do some heavy lifting and elevate the design as a whole. To me, anything one-of-a-kind and impactful that you’ve really fallen for is worth the investment.” —Caitlin Murray

Traditional living room with green accents and framed bird paintings
Design by Sarah Bartholomew / Photo by David Hillegas

Where To Save

“Using more expensive fabrics in smaller applications is the perfect way to save. I like to use high-end, special fabrics for small accent pieces. ” – Sarah Bartholomew

“Inexpensive vintage lighting.” – Pierce & Ward

“I love to use inexpensive rattan furniture. It takes the edge off and make a room feel more comfortable and approachable, while retaining a certain elegance.” – Meg Braff

“Side tables and ancillary furniture don’t get the same kind of daily use as sofas and chairs, so I try to save money there.” – Tharon Anderson

Eclectic dining room with green floral wallpaper, green and white checkered floor, and floral dining chairs
Photo by John Bessler, courtesy of Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns

The Dining Room

Where to Splurge

“Beautiful hand-embroidered table linens.” – Cece Barfield

“I love the idea of splurging on a beautiful, vintage chandelier. If you have a fabulous chandelier, no one will notice what table you use!” – Barrie Benson

“We love to splurge on custom wallpaper. We are constantly switching things up, but custom wallpaper paper is an eternal constant.” – Madcap Cottage

Design by Nick Olsen / Photo by Ried Rolls

Where to Save

“An exquisite French armchair in patent leather always looks wonderful next to a humble Parsons table, even one of the Formica variety.” – Nick Olsen

“An inexpensive bar cart in a dining room can provide both utility and practicality.” –Celerie Kemble

“To save, keep things in a similar color. For instance, I collect white pottery – everything from 16th century antique pieces to Ikea. Because they’re all white, they all look good together.” – Young Huh

“Natural fiber rugs are a great way to add texture to a room and make an otherwise glamorous or traditional space feel more grounded. They’re also really cost-effective and go with just about anything!” – Paloma Contreras

Lead image by Lesley Unruh

August 9, 2018

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