Ready to Redecorate? Home Items Worth the Splurge & Where to Save

Ready to Redecorate? Home Items Worth the Splurge & Where to Save

living room decor

After months of pinning pictures and poring over design magazines, you’re finally ready to redecorate your place. Now comes the hard part: finding pieces you love that also work with your budget. 

Luckily, you don’t need major bank to create a look that’s stylish, sophisticated, and totally you. Here, Sarah Coombs, a Bay Area–designer and principal of Sarah Coombs Design, explains where you should spend the extra money — and where it’s okay to scrimp.


Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City–based writer and editor who swapped her BlackBerry and MetroCard for playdates and PB&J sandwiches -- and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up.

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  • Splurge on a Sofa


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    Considering all the living that’s done on a couch, it's no place to cut corners. Expect to pay around $2,000-$3,000 for a decent one, which should last around a decade. Ready to invest more? Consider an heirloom-quality sofa — it will set you back several thousands of dollars, but it will last forever.

    Shopping advice: Look for a model that’s comfortable, will retain its shape, and is made of a material that will wear well and fits with your lifestyle. Coombs is a fan of leather for homes with children or dogs. “It’s more costly, but it will look better over time,” she says. If your current sofa has a decent frame but is showing signs of wear, consider having it reupholstered and re-stuffed. It can be pricey but may be cheaper than buying a brand-new sofa.

    Once you’ve settled on a short list of sofas, read customer reviews of the manufacturer and the models you’re eyeing up. If possible, try to time your purchase to a sale. “If you have time, it pays to wait a little bit,” she says. “There are usually sales around national holidays. Also, if you’re working with a decorator, they’re entitled to trade pricing on certain items and may be able to get you a better deal.”

  • Save on Area Rugs


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    Instead of spending money on a rug made of fancy materials, focus on finding one that’s the right size for your room. In general, align your rug with the shape of your room (run it length-wise in a long room, horizontally in wide room), and be sure there’s at least 6 to 10 inches of material on either side of your sofa.

    Coombs is a big fan of indoor/outdoor rugs. “They’re durable, make a room look more pulled together and expensive, and you can get a large one for around $300.” Have an extra-large or odd-sized room? Ask your local carpet store to cut and bind a rug to meet your specifications. “It’s often less costly than buying a really large rug,” she points out. And to score an in-store deal, sign up for promotional emails from the retailer that carries your dream rug, so you’ll know ahead of time when it will go on sale.

    More from The Stir: 12 Ways to Use a Rug to Pull a Room Together

  • Splurge on Dining & Coffee Tables


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    You’re paying for durability here, so first figure out what your needs are. Does your family use the table as a work surface? You may want to skip a tabletop with knots and grooves in favor or one made of a smooth material like marble or glass. (If you’re buying glass, be sure to attach it securely to the base.) Are you and your family rough on furniture? A rustic model that will look just fine with some dings and scratches could be a good fit. “You want something that’s going to stand up to the way you use that surface,” Coombs explains. “It’s no fun to have anything in your house you’re worried about. Generally, you will pay a bit more for quality tabletop — I’d say between $800 and $1,200 — but it’s worth it.”

    Shopping advice: Order a sample of the materials you’re considering for a table — many manufacturers provide them free of charge or for a small fee. Not only will you get a sense of how the color looks in your space, but you can also test its durability by rubbing a fingernail on it and seeing how easily it scratches.

  • Save on Window Treatments


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    Like with area rugs, it’s more important to find window coverings that are appropriately sized and hung than it is to have ones made of luxe fabrics. In general, curtains should hang half the distance or so to the ceiling, and the rod should extend 6 to 10 inches on either side of the window frame. Also, buy fabric that’s at least two times as wide as the window, so you can get the coveted, fully gathered look, Coombs says. “The more fabric, the more romantic the look.”

    If you have an extra-wide window, consider picking up double-wide panels. If none are available in the pattern you love, have a local seamstress sew single-wide panels together and hem them to the appropriately length. “It’s worth it to have something perfectly scaled to your house, plus it will look more expensive,” Coombs says.

  • Save on Lighting


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    Having enough lighting is much more important than having a room full of expensive lamps, Coombs says. “You want to allot enough money to light your space properly, but you don’t have to spend a lot,” she adds. That said, she does recommend spending a few dollars more on lightbulbs that provide flattering light that’s pleasant to sit in. (Pink lightbulbs are her go-to.)

  • Splurge on Pillows & Sheets


    Photo via Rancaño Otero

    “It’s pretty sad to not look forward to going to bed because you have scratchy sheets or uncomfortable pillows,” Coombs points out. So leave some extra room in your budget for your favorite versions of both.

    Shopping advice: Before you hit the stores, figure out what fabric you like the best. Some people, for instance, love the feel of sateen sheets, while others prefer the crispness of percale. And check out the thread count — the higher the number, the softer the fabric will feel and the better it will wear over time. Quality sheets fall somewhere between 200 to 800 and above.

    More from The Stir: How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?

  • Save on a Duvet & Shams


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    If you have to cut corners in the bedroom, put decorative items on the chopping block first. Duvets, shams and throw pillows look great but don’t touch your skin very much, so there’s no need to pay extra for softness. Plus, since you’re not washing them as often as you would sheets, you don’t have to spring for durable material.

  • Save on Accent Pieces


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    Yes, it’s tempting to drop a lot of cash on an adorable vase or a super cute throw pillow, but save your cash. There are so many well-priced options on the market that are fashionable to boot. “You don’t want to spend a ton here, because you can change the look of your room just by swapping these pieces out,” Coombs says “You want flexibility down the line and [to] not feel guilty about it.”

  • Splurge: Throw Pillow Inserts


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    While you don’t need to pay more for throw pillow covers, prepare to spend a few extra bucks on good pillow fillers that give a plump, full look. Oftentimes, that may involve going up a size. “If you have a 20-inch pillow, you may need to buy a 22-inch insert,” she says. “It costs a little bit more, but it will make the pillow look luxurious.”

    More from The Stir: 20 Homes With Curb Appeal & Gorgeous Details You Can Steal

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