Case Study: Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


Home Style Compatibility Quiz


One of the many reasons I loved Project HGD Modern Rustic (see last week’s reveal post) was that it came out so well on such an approachable budget. We really honed in on how to maximize the homeowners’ resources — where to save & where to invest. (We could say “splurge,” but not it’s not really splurging. We should say, “investing the *appropriate* amount” for the quality of product desired.)  This was not million-dollar decorating; nor was it a shoestring. Yet it resulted in what I think is anything but cookie-cutter results.


(For more on the topic of budgets, see this example post, as well as my “Forever Home Decorating Budgets. 

PS — HUGE Caveat. In light of all the materials & labor cost increases of the last year, I need to add 25-30% to my budgets. It is just one of many unfortunate economic results of COVID.)


I want to revisit that project today as a case study for all of you who think that you can’t afford to create a similarly unique & comfortable Forever Home for yourselves — showing you how to balance your design budget for maximum results without having to resort to boring, too-safe “neutral-land.”


How to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


I’ll shoot straight with you — you get what you pay for. If you want interiors that have the quality, comfort, and character that are going to last for 10-20 years AND stand up to pets, pizza parties, and changing fads, you’re going to have view the INSIDE of your home  as a quality of life investment.


But that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to cost a lot!


In fact, I don’t think everything should! So, here’s a quick little primer with my advice for how to get a room that will be one you love, last a long time, and doesn’t break your bank.


4 Decor Items Where You Should “Splurge” (i.e. the Invest


1. Upholstery: Buy the best upholstery you can, preferably from an American manufacturer. A good sofa can last 20+ years and be WORTH recovering. Gold standard upholstery has: double-doweled joints, corner bracing, kiln-dried maple frame, 8-way hand-tied springs with soundproofing twine, spring-down seat cushions & down blend back cushions. Even if a sofa or chairs with ALL of these elements isn’t in your budget, try to get as many as you can.


In Project HGD Modern Rustic, we used a good American manufacturer with solid construction. We chose to invest in all sofas & chairs that were going to get a lot of use & needed maximum comfort.


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


So — the living room sofa, swivel chairs, and the library sofa — these babies will last a long time (and therefore also be a good financial investment) with the proper care. They are meant to live up to heavier use & provide maximum comfort.

3 Steps to Care for Your Sofa

(This post also shows how a sofa of mine has lasted 15 years, even though it wasn’t top-of-the-line.)


HOWEVER, for accent seating that wouldn’t get as much use — the sunroom chairs, the accent leather chair in the library — we economized more. They were for style and “occasional” seating, not for long hours in conversation, reading, or Netflix-binging.


2. Window treatments: Purchase custom window treatments MADE TO FIT your windows. Look at or for local workrooms. To save $, use a simple linen-blend plain with contrast trim or fabric banding. 


Here’s a magic trick. Want to see a window grow?????




Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


Properly fitting window treatments — ones that are hung so that they barely cover the window trim on the sides, have the proper “stack-back” (thickness of folds to be able to actually cover the window if necessary) and are hung appropriately higher than the top of the window trim  — add HUGE payback in creating a feeling of height, space, & light.

But you don’t have to have expensive fabric!!! In the living room above, we used a simple cotton print. In the sun room, a plain linen blend with a contrast banding on the edge.



3. High Use Case Goods (tables/cabinets): For high use items – coffee tables, TV cabinets, etc. – you want to make sure these are sturdy, have well-made doors/drawers, and have a really good finish on them.

Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


The TV cabinet in the living room was a higher-price ticket item, but it fit the space & has a wonderful finish & color that pops!


4. That spectacular “makes-the-room” piece: Whether it’s a light fixture, a wallpaper you’re craving, built-ins that will increase a space’s functionality, or a special piece of art, buying that THING YOU LOVE will have major payoffs in how much you love your space.


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


In the library, I found a beautiful, hand-knotted rug on major clearance sale, but it was still a big ticket item for our budget. I had a lower-ticket alternative, but the clients felt the soft, hand-knotted 100% wool rug would be an heirloom they would enjoy feeling underfoot in their coziest space for a couple of decades to come.

If you read the reveal post, you’d know that the husband built the bookshelves himself with our drawings as a guide. However, had he not been so talented, I would have advised the homeowners that having the built-ins constructed was worth the investment as that “makes-the-library” thing,  rather than the rug. Luckily, he’s super talented, and they could choose to do both.


6 Decor Items Where You Can Save

(but Still Get Style Points!)


1. Brown furniture: A vintage wood piece or two for “supporting role” furnishings (side tables, sofa tables, display pieces) can be a real budget saver and often be of much better, heavier quality than similar pieces from a catalog store. You can also search auctions.


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


This server belonged to the homeowner already. It was a great, mission style piece that fit with the masculine lines of many of the more rustic pieces we’d chosen. Finding something like this second-hand or vintage is a great way to save some $$$ and add some patinaed soul to your decor!


2. Lighting: While the real McCoys usually have a heavier weight & nicer finishes (especially the metallic finishes like brass,  nickel, & oil-rubbed bronze), there are so many knockoffs of more expensive light fixtures and lamps that you can find from , catalog stores (this retail vendor has been upping its lighting game), and .


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget

The light fixture in the sun room had major modern rustic style points for a SUPER reasonable price. The one above is either backordered to eternity (or potentially discontinued altogether thanks to COVID), but here is something similar.


3. Rugs: Wool is by far THE most durable and cleanable fiber. But you don’t need to have a hand-knotted beauty (like in the libary) in every room. Go for flat-weaves OR bound carpet remnants from your local upscale carpeting store.


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


To optimize our budget across Project HGD Modern Rustic, we used a wool flat weave rug in the sun room and, in the living room (where we needed something very long and narrow to fit), bound carpet.


My 2 Favorite Ways to Use Carpet


4. Accent tables: You can have fun with so many inexpensive little martini tables or garden stools. A couple great options on the cheap .


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget

This adorable little hooved accent table scores major “quirk” points.


5. Mirrors: Again, a show-stopped mirror can MAKE a room. But sometimes you just need a supporting player. There are some fabulous options at places like , , & other retailers.


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget

Similar mirror here.


6. Pillows: Sometimes it’s worth splurging on a pillow in a fabric that brings the whole room together, but not every pillow needs to cost a bunch.

This retailer has . The & the are great options to fill up your sofa and support your pattern players. 


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


Honestly, we used a number of ready-made retail pillows in this project! Including these from Target. Just switch out any synthetic inserts with down inserts to get the proper, luxurious feel — and make sure that they are 2” bigger than your covers for a designer look! .


3 Easy Accents to Stretch Your Budget and Fill Your Space!


Is Investing in Neutral Decor “Safer?”


In preparation for this post, I did a big Google search to see what other design bloggers recommended when it came to balancing design budgets (splurge vs. save) to see where we shared opinions and where we differed. What I found was that there was a big disconnect between Home DIY bloggers and bona fide professional designers.

It wasn’t so much that these two groups disagreed on how much to spend or even on what types of items. The disconnect was that most of the Home DIY bloggers only felt “safe” investing in items  in neutral colors — beige sofas, white or ivory drapes, a wood-stained entertainment unit.

Whereas the pro designers had the confidence to splurge on those same types of items in much more creative palettes, shapes, & textures.


I have a feeling that, like my clients for Project HGD Modern Rustic, many other homeowners would like to branch out from neutral-land but are scared to make color & pattern mistakes. Hence they stick to beige, gray, and … blah.


DON’T Pin this image!!


Would you like to have the confidence to decorate your Forever Home like a professional designer?


Well, you’re in luck! In just a few weeks, I’ll be opening enrollment for the Fall 2021 session of The Home Glow Method! This is my signature course, where I teach students ALL THE THINGS I wish I’d known 10 years ago when I was a clueless new Forever Homeowner!


Yes, I may be a professional interior decorator now, but I was a Forever Homeowner FIRST. I understand the overwhelm and the fear!


In The Home Glow Method, I’m bring you my hard-earned lessons learned on the job. And next week, I’ll be sending out an early-bird special ONLY to those of you who are on my waitlist.


If you’re not on the list, well, you won’t get the special offer!



And here’s a pin to remember today’s post by! Save it to show to your spouse when you want new drapes. 🙂


Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget


See you next week!





2 thoughts on “Case Study: Where to Splurge & Where to Save to Maximize Your Decorating Budget”

  1. You are spot on with all your advice, Amy!
    I’d like to add seagrass rugs to the affordable floor covering category. They are relatively inexpensive, durable and go with almost anything! (My grandchildren and dog have had accidents on mine, and you’d never know!)
    Good luck with your business–you are so talented!!!

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Home Style Compatibility QUIZ!

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