A Buyer's Guide to Saving and Splurging on Furniture

You don't have to spend a fortune to have a stylish space

Luxury living room
Caiaimage/Martin Barraud / Getty Images

Decorating a home can cost a small fortune—but it doesn't have to. While it would be nice to go out and buy top-of-the-line items for every room in the house, for most people that just isn't feasible. Fortunately, you can still have a stylish space without declaring bankruptcy.

The secret to having a great-looking home without completely breaking the bank is mixing top-of-the-line items where it really matters with less expensive pieces where it doesn't. Don't know when to save and when to splurge? No problem, just check out some of the following furniture buying tips.

Splurge – Sofa

The sofa is one of the most important items in a living room and will likely be one of your most expensive purchases. Look for one made of high-quality materials like kiln-dried hardwood and eight-way hand-tied spring construction. Purchase a classic style so that over the years it can be recovered if you desire a different fabric without having to purchase a new sofa. Remember the rule that a high-quality sofa should last around 25 years while one of average quality should last about 10.

Save – Side Tables

It seems like side tables are a dime a dozen these days and they can be purchased just about anywhere. If you find some that suit your décor for a cheap price snatch them up. Side tables don't see much wear and tear so the quality isn't all that important.

Save – Lighting

Cheap and cheerful lamps are all over the place so there's no need to spend a fortune. Check out stores like Target and Lowes and you're sure to find some great deals. There's no need to spend a fortune on crystal lamps at a boutique store when you can find an acrylic version of the same thing for several hundred dollars less (they often look identical). Also check second-hand stores because with a paint job and some new wiring, an old $10 lamp can look like a million bucks.

Splurge – Mattress

People spend about a third of their lives in bed so it's worth it to splurge and get the best quality mattress you can afford. Try out several different options to find out what suits you best.

Save – Sheets

High thread counts are nice but not always necessary. When it comes to bed linens you can save money by mixing and matching sets. For example, purchase a duvet cover that you really like but then buy inexpensive plain sheets since they don't get seen. The key is to find some that are still comfortable against your skin (don't save money in exchange for comfort). The point is that you don't have to buy an expensive set in order to have a good-looking bed.

Splurge – Flooring

Investing in hardwood or stone floors (or any other high-quality material you desire) is a good idea. It's the foundation of the home and needs to look good and suit the space. It's not something you want to have done frequently so invest in the best materials you can afford. You also might want to think about investing in underfloor heating if it suits your climate and lifestyle.

Save – Area Rugs

Area rugs are great items on which to save money. They're always getting walked on, having stuff spilled on them, and generally taking a lot of abuse, so don't spend a lot of money on something that's bound to get damaged. Cheap, good-looking area rugs can be found at stores like Ikea and the Home Depot and they can also be made at carpet stores out of old remnants. If you don't spend a lot of money you'll be able to replace it when needed without ending up in the poor house.

Save – Artwork

There's absolutely no need to spend a lot of money on artwork. Art can be made out of just about anything so try framing photographs, fabrics, wallpaper, or anything else that has a nice image. For something truly unique pick up a few shadow boxes and mount anything from old costume jewelry to interesting buttons, to fishing lures, or any other small items. The sky's the limit when it comes to dressing up walls.

Splurge – Window Treatments

Windows are often focal points in rooms so it's worth spending whatever is required to make them look their best. Use good-quality fabrics for drapes or roman shades. While they can be found for cheap, the difference is quite noticeable. High-quality fabrics will also provide your home with adequate privacy.

Save – Window Hardware

Curtain rods are something you can really save money on. Most of them are hidden by the fabric anyway so it doesn't really matter what they look like. Many companies (such as Umbra) make inexpensive curtain rods that have decorative finials. They're very stylish and simple and don't draw attention away from the fabrics.

Save – Decorative Accents

Decorative accessories are the items that really give a home personality, but that doesn't mean they have to be expensive. Accessorize bookcases and mantels with items that have meaning rather than those that have expensive price tags.