We all want our homes to be special, filled with hard-to-find pieces. But while antiquing might be great for sourcing an apothecary table, sometimes you should just buy your sheets at Pottery Barn. It’s all a balancing act, our 2022 Best Designers say. Traci Connell, for example, expertly incorporates accessible pieces like Ikea chairs among her finery.
Connell’s fellow designers weigh in on blending one-of-a-kind finds with off-the-shelf scores.
“Not everything must be ‘fine’—if everything is special, nothing is! Mixing in a variety of elements keeps a space feeling accessible and personal.” —Paul Duesing, Paul Duesing Partners
“I really do believe some of your more affordable pieces can rise up to your investment pieces. It’s how all the items in the room work together to create something layered and unique.” —Tori Rubinson, Tori Rubinson Interiors
“There is a misconception that more accessible pieces are always lower quality; price and quality are not always aligned. A well-designed space considers all of the elements and principles of good design first, and focuses on the actual ‘merchandise’ second.” —Abbey Ragsdale, Smith & Ragsdale Interior Design
“I design without the price in mind. I truly believe cost dampers creativity, so I design without limits and can always value engineer if need be.” —Juliana Oliveira, Beyond Interior Design
“I love to mix high and low because it makes a home look like it’s been collected over time and wasn’t all bought new from showrooms at one time.” —Alice Cottrell, Alice Cottrell Interior Design
“Fear not! Mix it up! Good design comes in all shapes and sizes. To quote Shakespeare, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ But in the ways in which we ‘mix it up,’ we can find fresh new perspective.” —Mary Elizabeth Canon & Hannah Dean, Canon & Dean Design
“It’s all about how you put it together. When it’s done right, you’ll have people guessing what you splurged on versus what you saved on.” —Shay Geyer, IBB Design Fine Furnishings
“We do it all the time! It’s like mixing a Target t-shirt with designer jeans!” —Liz Dauwe, Studio White Interiors
On the contrary …
“Wait until you can get something you love. Josie McCarthy taught me that if you buy the right thing, it only hurts once.” —Barry Williams, Williams Design, Inc.
“Have you ever been mad at yourself for buying too high-quality of anything? When people regret a purchase, it’s typically because it was something that was too cheaply made.” —Margaret Chambers, Chambers Interiors & Associates
When to Splurge vs. When to Save
Where should you invest and where can you afford to cut corners? Though there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer, we asked local designers to spell out where they typically recommend spending more of your money.
When to Splurge
“It costs more upfront, but getting a high-end, well-made sofa will last years and years.” —Mary Anne Smiley, Mary Anne Smiley Interiors LLC
“I call it investing in the price per sit.” —Carolina Gentry, Pulp Design Studios
“Buy good quality upholstered chairs and sofas. They last for years and can be reupholstered many times.” —Barbara Vessels, Barbara J. Vessels Interiors
“It’s just as important as the art you are selecting. If it’s framed on the cheap, it can really bring the piece down. But a $5 score at a thrift store can instantly look like a million bucks if it’s in a beautiful frame with thoughtful matting.” —Meredith Ellis, Meredith Ellis Design
“If I had to choose what we consistently ask our clients to splurge on, I would say we push our clients on lighting and plumbing. We feel that these are two key areas that make or break a home.” —Sam Sano and Joslyn Taylor, SWOON
“Always splurge on antiques! They give a room a soul and add credibility. Our love for antiques has a big influence on our design. We grew up with them, and slowly added more contemporary pieces over time to create a collected look.” —Corbin See and Ross See, Sees Design
“To set the tone and for a great first impression, splurge on everything in the entry.” —Linda Fritschy, Linda Fritschy Interior Design
“We focus our ‘splurge’ pieces for high-impact rooms—mostly downstairs where guests will be using. In high-use rooms, we dial up quality so we can make sure we get longevity out of the selections.” —Morgan Farrow, Morgan Farrow Interiors
Frequently Used Items
“I tell clients to splurge on things they use every day. Great towels, nice crystal glasses, a good mattress—anything you can enjoy.” —Gonzalo Bueno, Ten Plus Three
“Towels and bedding should always be a splurge for everyone. You use them every day, and those are the little luxuries that really make a difference in your everyday life.” —Carolina Gentry, Pulp Design Studios
“If you fall in love with something on vacation, buy it on the spot. You’ll regret passing it up if you return the next day and it’s gone.” —Bryan Yates, Yates Desygn
“Not gonna lie, the Casaluna bedding line from Target is amazing. I have one of the coverlets in my primary bedroom.” —Angeline Guido Hall, Angeline Guido Design LLC
When to Save
“Sisal rugs are affordable, work in most spaces, and are beautiful and hearty.” —Samantha Fisher, Samantha Fisher Interiors
“There are beautiful wool wall-to-wall carpets that, when trimmed in leather or hand-surged, give the look and feel of an expensive rug.” —Linda Fritschy, Linda Fritschy Interior Design
“Save on accent pieces. You’ll enjoy the freedom to update a room by changing out the small accessories periodically or seasonally (without breaking the budget).”—Javier Burkle, Burkle Creative
“Good drapery treatments are always expensive, but there are ways to cut corners. I often use non-functional decorative side panels for softness, color, and depth around a window—this cuts way down on required yardage and labor—and employ a less expensive flat privacy treatment such as solar shades, Roman shades, or wood blinds.” —John Bobbitt, Bobbitt & Company
“Upholstery will inevitably need to be redone. I’ll splurge on sumptuous fabrics for smaller items but keep large items like sofas and lounge chairs reasonable.” —Josh Pickering, Pickering House Interiors
“Game rooms and kids’ spaces we consider more disposable.” —Morgan Farrow, Morgan Farrow Interiors
This story has been updated.