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Style might come naturally to Lauren Conrad, but even she needs a second opinion every once in a while. In a recent episode of her advice-driven podcast, Lauren Conrad: Asking for a Friend, the former reality-TV star–turned–best-selling author invited her designer and stylist, Kate Martindale, to share her no-fail decorating tips. Along the way, the expert addressed a bunch of design pain points, including one we all struggle with: When should you splurge and when should you save? Martindale didn’t hesitate.

“You should always, always, always invest in a sofa,” she tells Conrad. “Your sofa is the number one piece you should invest in. Most people I know look for a sofa [that will] last them at least five years.” A coffee table, rug, and bookshelf are also at the top of Martindale’s splurge list, but it was her “saves” that we were really interested in.

Martindale’s process for identifying budget buys is fairly simple: She asks herself if the product is trendy. “Flowerpots, vases, magazine racks—all that stuff goes in and out [of style],” she explains. “Those are the pieces you pick up at Kohl’s or Target.”

What else do a flowerpot, vase, and magazine rack have in common? For one, their size makes them easy to swap out (you might not feel the same way about terrazzo and Lucite in 2025 as you do right now). Also, while each object serves a distinct function, these smaller storage vessels tend to have less visual impact on a room, ideal for when you’re playing around with new finds. Not everyone will notice the ceramic vase sitting on your mantel—but everyone will notice whether or not your sofa is stiff.

Our inner deal hunters will definitely be taking Martindale’s advice to heart. In fact, we’ve already got our eye on these affordable decor picks:

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