Interior design is all about balancing splurges and savings. “Splurge” statement pieces elevate the look, while “save” pieces fill out your design and rescue the budget (and often secretly do a lot of the heavy lifting). To help you know how to best spend your design dollar, here are five ways to splurge and five ways to save your way to a beautiful home.
1. Splurge: Statement Pendant Light
When renovating for resale, lighting is often seen as a place to save. Style preferences vary, so for-sale homes often stick to simple and functional lighting where possible. But when it comes to beautifying and personalizing your own space, a dazzling chandelier or pendant goes a long way toward elevating the look of everything else in the room.
Whether you prefer a cool modernist creation or a grand traditional chandelier, an eye-catching light fixture can be enjoyed from many angles, and it becomes a natural focal point that really makes a statement, even when the rest of the furnishings are kept simple.
Plus, a fixture with multiple bulbs enriches your lighting scheme, helping to eliminate harsh shadows in the rest of the room. Overall, it’s a worthy splurge.
Save: Functional Dining Table
A dining table is an important piece of furniture, but that doesn’t mean it has to be ridiculously pricey to do its job and look great doing it.
For a modern home, a white melamine or fiberglass table (like this Saarinen-style staple piece) will look sharp while letting elegant chairs or your statement light fixture bring the personal style. Tables can be an investment — depending on the brand, authenticity and originality of the piece — but versions can be found for under $500.
or a more traditional or earthy look, a sleek and simple wood table can be found at a reasonable price and can last for years, adding a little warmth in a neutral style you can accessorize in any way. Try a humble Parsons style with square lines or a similarly elegant form with uncomplicated legs that won’t compete with your seats.
Tip: Skip the super-low-end laminated tabletops that will need to be replaced in a year.
2. Splurge: Quality Countertops
How much you’ll want splurge here will depend on your tastes and budget. However, if you’re replacing or installing countertops, it makes sense to invest in a quality material that will stand the test of time so you can recoup some of that investment in the future. Select a durable stone like granite or quartz, a hardwood that has been properly treated or a mix of materials.
Again, while laminate may be tempting, it won’t likely last long enough for that short-term save to make long-term sense.
Save: Classic Tile
I won’t pretend that I haven’t designed homes with high-end tile. This can be a splurge area at times, with gorgeous results. But it’s also possible to get incredible looks with humble, classic subway tile, leaving plenty of your budget left over to put into other areas.
Whether in a kitchen or a bathroom, timeless porcelain tile can cost as little $1 per square foot to buy and install if you’re a handy DIYer. A classic brick layout like the one shown here always works, but you can also change up the installation pattern or the hue at little to no extra cost to make a personal statement.
3. Splurge: Splashy Faucet
An eye-catching faucet doesn’t have to be an outrageous splurge, but spending a little extra to get something above off-the-shelf grade will make the whole bathroom feel more special. Plus, a good rule of thumb is that it makes sense to splurge on things that you touch or interact with the most.
For extra style points, coordinate the faucet with a metal-edged mirror and a handsome light fixture to tie everything together.
Save: Minimalist Vanity
My client and I splurged on the tile shown here, then we looked at balancing the budget through our vanity choice.
In bathrooms, I often use relatively inexpensive vanities. Units with clean contemporary styling like this one work well in virtually any space, and they don’t have to cost much while delivering sleek style. Porcelain is a go-to, making a functional vanity top that coordinates with the other bathroom fixtures.
4. Splurge: Investment Sofa
A great sofa needs to be a lot of things: comfortable, stylish, and able to hold up to serious wear and tear. Getting all these things usually means investing a little, but it can be well worth it. If you spend a fair amount of time unwinding or entertaining on your sofa, it makes more sense to invest in one that will last.
Do you spend more time working at your home desk or entertaining at the dining table? Maybe a fabulous chair is a better fit for your life. Think about what piece of seating you use the most, and splurge a bit on quality construction and fabric.
Save: Fun Side Chair
Once you have a great sofa anchoring your living room, you can add oodles of interest by mixing in inexpensive side chairs and accent tables. Look to vintage and secondhand shops for pieces that will work with your sofa without exactly “matching” for a relaxed but sophisticated look.
You can also use classic midcentury modern designs to get timeless style at a reasonable cost, especially if you use contemporary reproductions instead of originals. Introducing metal, wood or fiberglass will diversify your texture palette while generally costing less than upholstered pieces.
5. Splurge: Elegant Drapery
Some items in the home come in standard sizes (such as bedding). Unfortunately, windows are not one of these things, which means getting a perfect window treatment will require at least a little tailoring.
Embrace elegant drapery as an area in which to splurge, and get properly sized panels (which add a strong sense of polish) in a sumptuous fabric. Whether you prefer a simple solid or a wild pattern, the indulgence of a custom-selected fabric makes the entire room feel high-end.
Save: Discount Linens
While window treatments demand some customization, basics like bed linens and towels come in standard sizes and rarely need to be purchased at full price. Keep an eye out for sales, nabbing basics whenever you can.
The same can be said for pillows and other small accents. Often, terrific styles will be discounted at season’s end or through online specials.
Pick up pieces as you go, and you can achieve a personal style without investing too much in these little details — even though they can really make a big difference.