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7 Items Our Experts Think Are Worth the Splurge (And Where They Save Instead)

Words by Laura Dahlgren

Investing in your home is a decision you’ll never regret.

After all, furnishings and finishes crafted from the finest materials are meant to live with you for years to come. However, it’s rare to have an unlimited wealth of resources at your disposal, and knowing how to best maximize your interior design budget is a puzzle that can stump even the most seasoned pros.

No strangers to working within client constraints, our Experts are known for their ability to combine splurge-worthy pieces with wallet-friendly finds to create one-of-a-kind, layered spaces. “I’m all about mixing high and low,” says Brandon Schubert. “There’s no hard and fast rule to it because it depends on the character and energy of the room.”

From ambiance-inducing lighting to fine fabrics and upholstery, our designers reveal the 7 areas they always splurge on in a home and the items they save on instead.

a bathroom with a tub and a large window

Photography by Justin Thomason; Design by West of Main

Where Experts Splurge

Crown Jewels

Essential to dictating a room’s overall vibe, quality lighting is an investment you can count on to make a lasting impact. “I like to splurge on light fixtures,” says Christina Cole. “It’s the difference between costume jewelry and precious stones. I always appreciate the better quality and never regret the decision to invest in this category.”

Sascha Lafleur of West of Main agrees, “Lighting, we like to say, is the jewelry of the space. We put everything on dimmers so that you can create the atmosphere you want. It feeds into functionality, too.”

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Philip Durrant; Design by Studio Ashby

Start With Art

Always an advocate for filling spaces with one-of-a-kind pieces, it should come as no surprise that Sophie Ashby of Studio Ashby recommends investing in works for your walls. “​​Always splurge on one piece of art that will move you,” she says.

a bathroom with a claw foot tub and a toilet
a bathroom with a black bathtub and a white rug

Photography by Paul Massey; Design by Lonika Chande

Photography by Chris Snook; Design by Imperfect Interiors

The Finer Fixtures

Maybe not at the top of everyone’s list, bathroom hardware is something Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors implores her clients to consider when it comes to making a long-term investment in their space. “With plumbing fixtures like taps, showerheads, and all those things you touch, you don’t want to replace them every five years time because they're broken or leaking,” she notes. “It's worth spending money and getting quality pieces in a nice finish.

Lonika Chande agrees, “I always splurge on good quality bathroom fittings that stand the test of time.”

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place
a living room with a couch and a table

Photography courtesy of Rita Konig

Photography courtesy of Park & Oak

Go Couch Surfing

A sofa can make or break your living space. Expert Rita Konig swears on spending the money and time on quality seating that can last you for years to come. “I always buy a good sofa,” she says. “You don't want to buy too many of them because even cheap seating is expensive. Sofas are also hard to get rid of because they have no resale value. So you want to try and get it as right as possible the first time.

Christina Samatas of Park & Oak agrees: “Hands down, we tell clients that if there’s anything worth splurging on, it should be to invest in a great sofa with clean lines and good bones. A well-made sofa, when cared for properly, can last you forever.”

Royal Treatments

Investing in high-quality textiles is not just going to guarantee you top-notch materials and craftsmanship, it’s a choice that you’ll continue to benefit from for years to come. “I splurge on window treatments, always. Good window treatments will last you 20+ years,” says Cameron Ruppert.

Josh Greene agrees though he favors saving money on neutral fabrics to make room in the budget for statement-making textiles: “I save on plain linens. I splurge on brocades. (Please put this on my tombstone.) I love something that has a really interesting print or embroidery or texture.”

Materials Matter

Touchability is an ever-important factor when it comes to making long-term decisions for your home. Expert Martin Brudnizki urges his clients to consider the spaces they spend the most time in and the surfaces they’ll be interacting with on a daily basis. “Always spend on materials. Floors, kitchens, bathrooms—you can’t replace the serene feeling of solid materiality,” he says.

a dining room with a table and a bench

Photography by Haris Kenjar; Design by Meghan Eisenberg

Quality Over Quantity

As a general rule, Meghan Eisenberg urges her clients to focus on fewer but finer pieces when it comes to outfitting their homes, ensuring quality at the center of every room she touches. “There aren’t many places to cheap out when buying fabric, finishes, and furnishings,” she says. “I always encourage my clients to buy less but invest in great quality pieces that will last a lifetime.

a living room filled with furniture and a lamp

Photography by Tim Lenz; Design by Nicholas Obeid

Where Experts Save

Side Pieces

Accent tables are living room staples. In just about every size, style, and price point you can imagine—they’re a breeze to thrift. “Layered pieces like side tables can be found vintage, at flea markets or online auctions, and add much-appreciated character,” says Nicholas Obeid.

Lauren Liess agrees, “I save on anything I can get at a second-hand store or flea market and fix up. End tables are a favorite.”

a living room filled with furniture and a large window

Photography by Shade Degges; Design by Josh Greene Design

Neutral Zone

While Josh may go all-in on statement fabrics, he urges clients to save when it comes to simplicity: “There's so much plain fabric out there, so if you're going in that direction, you have a way bigger opportunity to find a material that isn't crazy expensive.”

Beth agrees, “If you hunt around you can find nice linens for less. You don’t have to spend a fortune.”

a room with a table and two chairs

Photography by Tim Lenz; Design by Hadley Wiggins

Save on Smalls

Known for rooms that radiate a subtle, lived-in elegance, one of Hadley Wiggins’ favorite ways to save is by incorporating pieces collected over time: “It’s the smalls, the accoutrements, that humanize a space, makes it feel like a real home. These elements don’t have to cost much.”

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography courtesy of Lauren Liess

Go Au Naturel

Natural rugs are one of our Experts’ favorite ways to save on costs without sacrificing style. Durable, affordable, and effortlessly chic, these textured staples are an easy way to incorporate warmth into your home. “Rugs can go either way but you can save by going with natural fibers like jute or seagrass,” says Lauren.

Cameron agrees: “I always save on rugs. Kids will trash them and they are easily swapped out.”

a bedroom with a bed, two chairs and a window

Photography by Lindsay Brown; Design by Christina Cole and Co.

Put it to Bed

Christina Cole is a fan of investing in your rest, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot on a bed. She recommends saving on the frame in favor of splurging on the areas that matter most. “Beds (not to be confused with mattresses) can give wiggle room in the budget without compromising the design. If I had to choose, I would always splurge on the bedding and mattress over the bed itself.”

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Kensington Leverne; Design by Studio Ashby

Looking Up(cycle)

Effortlessly enduring, pre-loved vintage furniture finds are a great way to incorporate a touch of timelessness into your space. Silhouettes proven to stand the test of time can be reupholstered in the fabric of your choice. “Save your pennies by reupholstering or upcycling vintage pieces,” recommends Sophie.

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Douglas Friedman; Design by Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Light The Money

Renowned for his statement-making interiors, designer to the stars Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s budget-saving advice comes straight out of Hollywood: “When deciding where to save, look to the lesser-used or seen areas of the room and pull back on those pieces. As they say in the movies, ‘light the money’ which, loosely translated, means make your biggest investment in the main and most visible pieces—the ones that ground the space and bring the most decorative impact.”

Sandra Weingort agrees, “I save on kids’ and guest bedrooms so that I can splurge on public spaces.”

a living room filled with furniture and a large window

Photography by William Jess Laird; Design by Sandra Weingort