Furnishing a home can be an extremely exciting and rewarding activity. But it can also be an incredibly challenging one. You have space constraints to consider. A consistent aesthetic to keep in mind. And perhaps most pertinently, you have a budget you need to pay attention to every step of the way.
Sure, many of us would love to splurge on every single thing in our homes. That’s a no-brainer. But the reality is, many of us can’t afford the most luxurious item in every category. Plus, scoring a deal on a piece of furniture is its own kind of rewarding. Everybody loves a table—or a chair, or a bed, or anything, really—that looks more expensive than it is.
The key, of course, is to strike some sort of balance. To splurge on the things that warrant splurging. And to save wherever a less expensive item will do. We have some sense of where that line is. (No amount of convincing could ever persuade me to scrimp on a mattress, for example. That thing is sacred—it’s where I spend one-third of my time. And no discount is worth a bad night’s sleep.) But it’s hard to know for sure. Where do rugs fall? Chairs? Tables? Couches?
Moments like these require expertise, which is why we turned to 19 interior designers and asked them which home items are actually worth the splurge.
“Original art makes any place unique. It doesn’t need to be famous or fancy. I suggest looking at online galleries, like Saatchi Art, where you can find a huge selection of pieces for every taste and budget. (And remember, when you buy art, you’re not only supporting artists, you’re also investing in pieces that increase in value over time.)” —Renata Carvalho, designer and owner of RGC Projects
“It’s easy to pick up mass produced prints to fill bare walls, but I always encourage my clients to use these as placeholders. Make finding that perfect piece of artwork a mission, and use that goal as an opportunity to get to know artists, both local and beyond.” —Amber Harris, decorator and owner of At Home DC
“I always think it’s important to incorporate artwork into your environment, and I realize that can be a daunting challenge for most of us. If you have any interest in art, you can familiarize yourself by visiting local galleries and asking the staff to tell you about featured artists and their work. You can also find a tremendous amount of work available online at every price point. I happen to like Alpha’a, a crowdsourced art platform full of affordable digital prints.” —Lisa Melone Cloughen, interior designer at Melone Cloughen Interiors, Inc.
“Bed sheets. Blankets. Mattresses. Pillow inserts. It’s hard to be grumpy when you’ve had an amazing sleep! My bedroom is my favorite place to end the day, and I personally recommend hotel linens from Castropor.” —Ana Cummings, principal designer and owner of ANA Interiors
“Custom bedding—especially in the primary bedroom. You won't be sorry when you crawl into custom bedding at the end of a long day. Totally worth the spend!” —Rainey Richardson, principal designer at Rainey Richardson Interiors, Inc.
The term “Primary Bedroom” is now widely used to describe the largest bedroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term “Master.” Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
“Sofas and chairs. Anything your body comes into contact with for more than an hour should always be comfortable, crafted from quality materials, and built to last.” —Ana Cummings, principal designer and owner of ANA Interiors
“There’s nothing worse than uncomfortable sofas and chairs, especially if you are going to spend any time in them. Usually, the most comfortable seating is made bespoke. Sitting on a sofa where the heights and depths are made to your exact specifications is pure heaven. (I love The Sofa & Chair Company, in particular, for luxury seating.)” —René Dekker, creative director at René Dekker Design London
“A sofa is something you use every day, so it’s not an item you should scrimp on. My personal favorite sofa brand—and one I really think works with most interiors—is B&B Italia. Whether it’s a vintage Mario Bellini sofa or a current Charles sectional, you can’t go wrong. These pieces are not only beautiful, but they’re also made to last.” —Christine Stucker, co-principal designer at Stewart-Schafer
“Anything that gets used regularly should be the best quality possible for that area. For instance, the family room sofa that is used daily should be a more expensive purchase than one in a less frequently used room (like a guest room). I recommend opting for a heavy duty (even commercial-use) frame, paired with commercial quality fabrics that are soft to the touch, easy to clean, and generally stain resistant.” —Claire E. Tamburro, principal designer at Tamburro Interiors, LLC
“When it comes to upholstered pieces like sofas and lounge chairs, we always suggest going for the highest quality your budget allows for. Better quality upholstery means better construction in the frame, more comfortable fill (foam and/or down), and better overall design. Less expensive upholstery might be enticing, but eventually, you’ll be disappointed with how it wears over time. (Verellen and Dmitriy & Co are a couple of our favorite sources for beautiful, comfortable upholstery.)” —Andrea DeRosa & Ashley Manhan, co-founders of Avenue Interior Design
“When I work out a budget for a client’s home, I always make sure to allot a substantial amount for the upholstery items—in particular, the sofa. As the item that generally gets the most use, the sofa tends to lose its shape more quickly than other furniture—an issue that can bring down the entire aesthetic of an otherwise well-designed home. For clients with a large budget, it’s hard to go wrong with the Michel by B&B Italia. For clients of more economical means, the Sven series by Article has become a go-to and held up fantastically for some of my clients.” —Tara Benet, designer director at Tara Benet Design
Dining Room Tables
“The dining room is a gathering spot for friends and family. And it’s part of what makes a space feel like home. We like the idea of investing in a table that extends when needed—either for large gatherings, or when you move into a larger space.” —Gideon Mendelson, founder of Mendelson Group Inc.
“The dining room table is worth splurging on. Places of gathering, like dining rooms, are important, as everyone spends time there. (Plus, these areas of the home tend to endure a lot of wear and tear.) Opt for something durable, accordingly.” —Cortney Novogratz, co-founder of The Novogratz
“Having unique and beautiful lighting accents can transform an interior. I like buying antique pieces from the ‘30s—they have great designs and offer homes a certain warmth. In cases where I can't find what the space needs, I’ll have the lighting custom-made.” —Angie Socias Fernandez-Coppel, creative director and owner of Coppel Design
“A substantial yet beautiful ceramic lamp will never go out of style, and can dress up any room instantly. A few of my favorites: Robert Abbey’s Peacock Double Gourd Table Lamp, Paul Schneider’s Matagorda Lamp, and Chapman & Myers' Lambay Table Lamp from Circa Lighting.” —Maggie Griffin, principal designer and owner of Maggie Griffin Design
“There is nothing worse than a drawer that keeps coming off track, right? Seek quality in dressers and other pieces of furniture with moving parts that are used frequently. (Think: solid wood construction and dovetail joints.)” —Amber Harris, decorator and owner of At Home DC
“We tell our clients that antiques are always worth the splurge. They add instant warmth, richness, and sophistication to a room, giving it a sense of history. Whether it’s a French bleached buffet or a pair of vintage McGuire rattan chairs, antiques are a wonderful investment that will stand the test of time. We encourage our young clients to purchase one antique piece a year, and our more established clients to purchase one antique piece per room. And there’s no need to be intimidated by the ‘splurge’ factor—you can always start small with beautiful porcelain, inlaid boxes, and frames.” —Adrian Johnson and Bethany Vann, designers at Johnson Vann Interiors
“An antique, whether it be traditional or modern, is typically worth the splurge. Timeless pieces tend to hold value. And even if it doesn’t, if you love the piece and it works in your space, then the investment is worth it. (If you’re looking for antiques, I recommend 1stdibs and Sotheby’s Home (formerly Viyet).)” —Lonni Paul, founder of Lonni Paul Design
“When furnishing a room, I typically source the area rug first. I find it sets the tone for the space. Rug & Weave is one of my favorite places to find one-of-a-kind, vintage rugs that add a subtle pops of color to any room.” —Meghan Scott, interior designer at //3877
“Natural fibre area rugs. You will get your ROI (and more!) out of a wool area rug. They are indestructible, stain-resistant, water-repellant, fire-resistant, temperature-controlling, and sound-absorbing, and they’re the best way to ground a furniture grouping. A lot of designers will start with the area rug and build a space out from there.” —Ana Cummings, principal designer and owner of ANA Interiors
“Window treatments—there are no shortcuts here. Use quality fabric, blackout lining, and great hardware.” —Rainey Richardson, principal designer at Rainey Richardson Interiors, Inc.
“In terms of décor, one of the most versatile items you can buy is a book. Books always create and elevated and finished space. When purchasing books with interior design in mind, I tend to lean toward the following subjects: art, photography, and design. As far as aesthetics, hardbacks with thick spines always present well. With regard to color, I generally work within the color scheme of the room.” —Tara Benet, designer director at Tara Benet Design
Statement Pieces and Accessories
“Statement pieces (functional or otherwise) are worth splurging on. These are the items that make a home wonderfully unique, and they can turn into things you pass on to loved ones down the line. They can hold value, and they don’t tend to incur a ton of wear and tear.” —Justina Blakeney, designer, author, and entrepreneur
“Accessories warm up the space and give the home life. While you can find beautiful inexpensive accessories, there are some unique items that are worth splurging on.” —Mary Maydan, principal designer and founder of Maydan Architects