Published on July 26, 2018

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Undertaking a home renovation is both an exciting and daunting task. And often, one of the most fraught subjects tends to be budget. Where do you decide to spend your money? Are some splurges worth the investment in the long run? Can you safely cut a few corners without skimping on style? Our experts give a resounding yes to all these questions and more. Ahead, they’ve outlined their best tips for what to spend on versus save—all so you can execute your dream look, at your dream cost. 


When allocating items for your budget there certainly are elements that are worth a bit more money because they’ll last longer, make a bigger design impact, and potentially give you a better return on your investment. Think of these bigger ticket items as big picture pieces that will have both staying power and design efficiency. They’re also what you’re going to want to spend your money on first.


You can never go wrong with a bold statement lighting, and believe or not, something as functional as a light fixture can really make a room. “I always say splurge on lighting and other fixtures that will have the most visual impact in a space,” says Shavonda Gardner of SG Style Blog. Designer  Jacquelyn Clark agrees. “Definitely splurge on lighting—it’s like the jewelry of your home!” she says. 


Nice wallpaper is expensive, and in larger rooms that require more paper (don’t forget installation, too), the cost can get overwhelming, and quick. But along with lighting, designer Sarah Whittenbraker recommends splurging on show-stopping wallpaper that will give areas of your home a unique twist. Splurging on the perfect paper for a tiny powder room is a great compromise. 

Kitchen Essentials

No, we’re not talking pots and pans here—we’re talking the bones of your kitchen, a place where you’re likely going to spend a lot of your time. “The hearth of the home is the place where you and friends and family will gather and you want to make sure that it reflects your personality and feels ‘warm and welcoming’,” says New York-based designer Robin Wilson. For that reason, she says go for the splurge when it comes to cabinetry and appliances that will last for years.

Stephanie Watkins of Casa Watkins Living agrees. She knows first-hand where she wants to spend her cash on her upcoming kitchen reno, and is looking to boho designer Dabito for inspiration (Editor’s note: Us, too). “Long term items like flooring and countertops are worth it. Everything else can be painted when you want to switch things up later on,” she says. 

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Is it crazy how some things are just meant to happen??!! Fun story about our new little #shoppepacificpalisades .I had a meeting scheduled for a Monday, that our client canceled and moved to a Tuesday. Mike and I actually had a meeting in Brentwood on that Tuesday, but we figured we could have our meeting first, and then I could meet my client in the Palisades afterwards. We were in one car so Mike could just drop me off and walk around the Pacific Palisades Village while I had my meeting…. He dropped me off and parked the car. HOWEVER, He happened to park the car right in front of “The cottage” which is now our new Shoppe! They had put the “For Lease” sign up that morning, and that day we called, that week met the owner, then got the space. Not only is the location perfect, but if our Calabasas store were to have a baby… it would look IDENTICAL to the Palisades store. Vaulted ceilings, interior windows, same exterior windows… it’s just so trippy. Anyways, I believe whole heartedly in fate and what you put into the universe you get back. If you made it though his LOOOOONg ass story, then you may as well give this pic a double tap ❤️❤️ // ? @jess_isaac #powerofdreams #destiny @shoppeamberinteriors //

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Expert Installation

Amber Lewis of Amber Lewis Interiors makes an excellent point. “Spend your money on the pros!” she says. “Splurge on a designer, duh! But in all seriousness… hire a painter and find the right contractors.” And as a designer herself, within the home, she’s a firm believer of investing in quality sofas and beds.

Key finishes

Designer Katrina Blair says that certain finishing touches can easily get overlooked when it comes creating that ever-important budget. “Finishes in a room, or items that aren’t easy or affordable to replace, like baseboards, molding, and interior doors have staying power in the long run,” she says. And Joy Cho of Oh Joy! agrees. The color-loving designer believes it’s the little details that can go a long way, so don’t skimp on the small stuff!


Mostly, it’s the little things that can be saved on, bought used, or curated over time. Since most of your renovation or redecorating project budget is going to go towards the big stuff, don’t sweat the smaller, more basic items and finishes. Because no matter how big your budget, not every piece needs to cost a chunk of cash.


After designing your space with all the necessary elements, accessorizing (while important) should come last. “I would save on accessories. You can find beautiful vases and knick knacks at Home Goods and Marshalls,” says designer Jacquelyn Clark, and Amber Lewis totally agrees. “You can cut corners on decorative items, like laundry baskets, waste baskets, etc. and still find some great options for less.”


Really chic tile surprisingly doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Sarah Whittenbraker says to save by opting to use using simple tiles like penny and subway shapes in bathrooms.


Paint comes in all kinds of finishes and textures, some more expensive than others. Our designers say you can still find what you want, without spending a fortune. Not to mention, paint is just about the easiest and most inexpensive way you can make an impact in your space.

In the end, we think Claire Zinnecker says it best, emphasizing that when it comes to a design budget, it’s all about balance. “I say divide it between rooms,” she says. “Spend on one thing (say, kitchen plumbing fixtures) and save on others, like more affordable hardware. The balance makes every space feel tasteful”.

More expert designer advice:

Experts Share Their Top Tips for Budget-Friendly Renovation
Where Interior Designers Shop for Affordable Decor
For Trendy Lighting You Can Afford, Shop These 6 Stores

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