How to Carefully Invest in Home Furnishings without Blowing Your Budget

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A lady came into the Shoppe recently, excited to discover all the wonderful furniture collections we have. She lamented that she wished she had known about us before, because she had just remodeled her home and purchased new furniture. Outside I smiled, but inside, I wished she had come to us, too!

But the worst part was when she told me that her sofa — under a year old — was already wearing down and was uncomfortable from the start. Since she paid a pretty penny for it, she wasn’t happy.

However, she had come into the Shoppe looking for an area rug, and I was happy to help her. The difficult part was trying to find a rug that she liked to go with her “new” furniture.

We always suggest that you plan out your whole space first, before you purchase anything. Does this sound harsh? I don’t mean to be “mean,” but so many times I get called after clients have purchased a few things and are stuck or unhappy with their purchases. This can all be avoided with some thoughtful and careful planning.

Today, I’m sharing some important points about why you need a furniture design first, along with several tips for investing wisely in your furnishings.

Creating a Plan for Your Furnishings First Guarantees…

1. It will all fit and is the proper scale.

2. Each piece will complement the other.

3. You won’t make impulse purchases and blow your budget.

4. You have a comprehensive list of all the elements needed so the rooms feel finished and curated, instead of a mix of incongruent afterthoughts.

5. And most importantly, it works for your family and the way you live.

Below, I’m sharing several tips for finding furnishings you can trust, but first…

Make a Plan

When we first meet with our new clients, we provide you with the “Good, Better, Best” budget outline. This helps you determine:

1. What you will need exactly (e.g. sofa, two chairs, cocktail table, two side tables, one lamp, artwork,  window coverings, and decor)

2. Where each element falls in the categories of Good, Better, Best

3. Where to splurge and where to save by strategically balancing all the elements.


Invest in High-Traffic Items

The next step is to walk through your space and honestly ask: “How do you use the space?”

It’s important to think about traffic patterns, who sits where, what type of seat to you want, the height and weight of each person.

What about pets? 

What about children?

What about entertaining? 

Our philosophy follows the “buy once” rule. Get quality elements where you need them most. If your sofa is uncomfortable and that is important to you, think about investing wisely. Look for cushions with coils, foam, and Dacron atop kiln-dried frames and 8-way hand tied suspension. 

If you have pets and children (or just like to eat dinner in the living room), you will want to get high-performance fabrics that resist stains and spills.

On the other hand, you could opt for a synthetic rug like polypropylene for a fraction of the cost of a wool rug. We have MANY synthetic rugs that are soft, stylish, and will hold up to spills and high traffic.

Splurge on the Details that Matter

No matter how fabulous your sofa and chairs are, if you don’t finish the room with all the other details that pull the whole design together it will never “look right.”

This is the most common problem we discover when our prospective clients call and say, try as they might, they just can’t get it right. Getting it to look “right” means making sure you allocate some of your budget to items like artwork, lighting, and drapery. 

You can find great artwork with the vendors we deal with in our showroom, or you can shop local artists to find the piece of artwork that speaks to you. But whichever way you go, you must make sure it coordinates with your space as to color, media, and theme (and no signs with cutesy sayings, please).

The next most neglected area is lighting. Without proper lighting, you will fail. Get table lamps, floor lamps, lighted fans, or canned downlights.

The most showstopping detail that is forgotten is window coverings. Shutters and blinds do not count. You must properly dress your windows. Yes, it can be expensive, but it is extremely important. I can help you figure out what is smart to spend and find a solution to maximize your budget in this area.


Save on Literally Everything Else

All the decorative elements are equally important, but this is the one area you can save on. We often haunt local thrift stores, estate sales, dollar stores (a great place to find hard-back books for $1), craft stores, and other chain stores. But oftentimes, we find all the decor we need for a client by rummaging through their closets and garages, finding all sorts of nick-knacks to incorporate into the design.

One time, we found an old camera in a box and brought it out. Our client was so happy because it had been her father’s and she didn’t want to get rid of it but didn’t know what to do with it. It looked perfect on the shelf next to a vintage frame and a black and white photo (something we also scavenged).

If you’re stumped on how to style that bookcase or coffee table, we can help you lay out each item you’ll need.

Get items for decor include:

  • baskets

  • books

  • trays

  • bowls

  • vases

  • coasters

  • pots and plants (real or otherwise)

  • frames and photos

  • throw blankets

During our Remodel Clarity Session, we help you drill down to the essential elements one by one. We create a list of all the things you need and the sizes that will fit your space. Armed with a dimensioned, to scale furniture plan sketch, we unpack that list to determine what amount you are comfortable spending on each element. Once this is tallied and you feel confident with the budget, we can begin the process of curating the perfect design to fit your lifestyle.

Many times, clients tell me they want their home to look like a model home. Model homes look so pulled together because a designer did it. But more important than looking like a model home, you have to be able to live in it.

This means selecting furniture that will perform and continue to last and look good for many years (yes, we are back to the “buy once” philosophy).

Have some questions about how to develop a thoughtful budget for your design project? Download our Furnishings Budgeting Guide HERE to get started.

Until next time,



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