Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comIt’s time for another Designer Trick post and this is one of my favorites! When it comes to renovating, decorating, and styling my own home- I don’t have an endless budget. That means I have to get creative with designing a space that looks sophisticated, comfortable, and representative of our personal style on a budget. I’m a big fan of mixing high-end pieces with budget-friendly options for a curated look that feels like it cost much more than it actually did. In this Designer Trick post, I’m sharing my best tips for mixing high & low. Click through for my philosophy and tricks of the trade! 

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comThe most expensive piece of furniture we own is our fully upholstered leather bed. I designed it and had it custom made (find dupes in this post though). Around seven years ago, it cost over $8k and it felt like a HUGE purchase. I was working for a design firm, got a discount, and without getting into too many details- I’m required to withdraw a certain amount of money from a retirement account my father left behind when he passed away. Just a year after losing him, it felt like that money should go toward something we could love and cherish in our home… a bed, that felt like a gift from my dad. I justified the purchase and it’s still such a special piece that Emmett & I adore. Long story short- that was the splurge in our bedroom. After spending that kind of money on the bed frame alone, that didn’t leave a lot of funds left for other furnishings and textiles. I ended up scoring a vintage pair of nightstands, pictured above, for under $100. I gave them a fresh coat of paint and they looked lovely alongside our high-end bed. The point of this story? Choose the items that mean a lot, make a statement, or you really love- and find ways to save on other things that fill a space.

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comIn our basement, I have a similar story… our sofa and area rug are the more expensive items in the room, while the media credenza was rescued from a dumpster. Am I suggesting pulling furniture from dumpsters? I probably wouldn’t advise that, although I have been known to do this on the occasion, haha! Again- this is a lesson of splurging, saving, and mixing high & low furniture that feels cohesive.

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comIn our formal living room, the curved sofa is the star of the show (and the most expensive item in the room), whereas we saved on the swivel chairs and area rug. Ready for some tips on sourcing your own budget-friendly pieces?

Tips For Sourcing Budget-Friendly Pieces
  1. Check the material. Stick to natural materials for a higher end look (cotton, linen, marble, wood, etc). All too often I see synthetic materials or cheap looking fake brass that is an instant giveaway that something is cheap and lightweight.
  2. Check stores that carry budget designer pieces.I frequently check Overstock, HomeGoods, Tuesday Morning, Ebay for designer fabric remnants, etc.
  3. Get thrifty and buy secondhand or vintage. I’m constantly looking at Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, yard sales, etc. You never know what you’ll find!
  4. Avoid trendy objects. Objects that look too trendy are another giveaway that something has been quickly and cheaply made… I immediately think of the faux brass objects at Hobby Lobby, for some reason.
  5. DIY and get creative. Can you repurpose or recycle a marble tabletop you already have by switching the base? We’re always experimenting and playing around with what we already have.

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comIn our guest bathroom, I found a way to make inexpensive subway tile look classic, instead of boring & basic. That allowed room in the budget to splurge on a vintage area rug and a custom burl wood vanity table! I also secured nero marble slabs for our countertops from a remnant yard (basically they were scraps and I was able to get them for MUCH less).

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comReady for tips on spending more for those statement, designer pieces (as if you needed an excuse, ha):

Tips for Splurging On Designer Pieces
  1. Stick to timeless and classic pieces rather than trends. To ensure you’ll love it for years to come, it’s safer to stick to styles that are timeless and classic.
  2. Keep large items neutral. If your palette or aesthetic changes, you can rest assured knowing your beloved designer piece will still look cohesive.
  3. Double check the specs. Make sure the item PERFECTLY fits your space… basically, do your research. Check the material, size, weight, etc.
  4. Don’t impulse buy high ticket items. Take the extra time to order a swatch and weigh your options.
  5. Invest in QUALITY. Just because something is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s nice. Invest in something that is well constructed. Think of pieces made of solid wood, that have intricate craftsmanship, soft close drawers, upgraded features, premium down cushions, etc.

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comIn the dining room of our first home, I found a set of beautiful, vintage Breuer chairs. They desperately needed reupholstered, and I splurged for fancy French designer fabric. I also spent quite a bit for large-scale art in the dining room. That meant the budget for the dining table was lower. I landed on this clean, modern table from IKEA. It allows the statement pieces to shine without competing.

Give yourself permission to find room in the budget to incorporate high-end or statement making pieces, and know how to supplement lower priced items, so they feel cohesive, intentional, and designerly as a family.

Designer Trick : Mixing High & Low - roomfortuesday.comDo you also enjoy mixing high & low pieces throughout your home? I’d love to hear your tips or learn about a piece you splurged on and why! I’m also all ears for more topics I can include in the Designer Trick series. If you’ve missed any, I’ll copy them below:

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  1. Kerri Hansen says:

    Love this post Sarah and how you have highlighted the “spend and save” items in each room. I think in light of all that is going on with the economy, this is going to be a VERY relevant topic for many. I live in Vancouver, which is the most expensive city in Canada and in our part of the city, just the lot alone starts around 1.5 million….we use the term “housebroke” around here a lot and we are not referring to the potty-training of our pets, lol! When we bought our first home, I didn’t have much left over for furniture and decorating. We invested in classic basics where we could, mixed in with our fair share of IKEA. My strategy has always been “the look for less” so I am really good at copying styles of brands I adore like Studio Mcgee and Pottery Barn. I am lucky to live close to the border and I can be at a Target store (under normal circumstances, not during this pandemic) in an hour and 20 minutes (yep, I have it timed down to the minute!) which is my fave place for accessories.

    1. Thank you, Kerri! It’s crazy how the cost of living varies from region and city. Housebroke is a real thing! Classic basics are always smart, and supplementing with IKEA is also necessary. We do that too! I think your philosophy is wonderful :) Have a great day! xo

  2. Brilliant advice and beautiful examples! TBH, even though I’ve got alarmingly expensive desires, I am relentlessly frugal. For me, that means I wait to score quality vintage items, and I have a sparcely furnished home.🤣 I also change my mind…so I like to be really sure before I spend my money. I’m not going to lie though, you can’t beat the thrill of finding a high end piece for a steal! I think you can find great budget-friendly items like occasional tables or lamps, but your point about material is key. Money is a sensitive and subjective topic, but your tips are financially smart and could apply to anyone’s budget. Good stuff.💜 Happy Almost There Thursday! I hope you are enjoying your family time!💚

    1. Thank you, Peggi! I’m all about quality vintage items… it’s true they don’t make things like they used to. The thrill of the chase is also very exciting! I love that feeling scoring a high-end designer piece for a small price tag… that’s the beauty of thrifting. It just takes a keen eye and patience :) Happy almost there Thursday. ONE DAY OF SCHOOL LEFT FOR YOU!! Hope you’re celebrating this weekend. We’re headed up in the mountains to grill lunch today… so tomorrow’s blog post may or may not happen. TBD! :) xo

  3. I also loved your examples to highlight this concept of low/ high. I noticed that your “highs” were mostly the large pieces in the room, so that is an important takeaway for me. I also like your point that natural materials are both why an item is expensive and why it is so good.

    The only info I would add is about your tip to go “neutral” when investing in an expensive piece, as you can know it will stand the test of time. I would add that it should be the buyer’s neutral. Blush pink, olive green, denim blue… they can all be a person’s neutral, and so are bolder colors for some people. So, anyone reading this, who’s like, yeah but I really want that orange couch or whatever… maybe that’s a neutral to you. Or you can treat it like a neutral.

    The more I read you blog, the more I appreciate your skills , how you communicate, and your approach to designing. I’ve already learned a lot, and I plan on sticking around!

    1. Yes, exactly Sharon! The pieces that come with us from one house to another and last for years to come are the ones I’m willing to spend more on (heirloom quality furniture). Yes to your point of the “buyer’s neutral”… I also consider green and blue neutral in my personal palette. Such a good point, as it’s open to interpretation :) Thanks so much for your kind words! xox

  4. Great post and I love that you showed examples in your own home. You’ve really got the “trash” to “treasure” down!

    1. Thanks so much Liz :) xo

  5. I’m glad you shared this! Sometimes it feels like designers have so much “more” budget than the average person. This is my largest struggle with renovating, but when I look back at some of our previous renovations, I realize where we tend to splurge which can help plan for the future. Jeff will always splurge on the functional items in the room, and could care less about spending on the pretty things. I’m recalling the toilet in our previous home bathroom…lol. But looking at how that space turned out it helps me realize that our preferences tend to guide our renovations in a really purposeful way. My mind has been on tackling the master bedroom next; we’ve spent so much time there during this season, and honestly, it’s anything but relaxing. We’ll have tons of room in the budget for that, because our entire bedroom set was thrifted/found. It started with a long dresser/mirror with a matching nightstand that we bought from my sister for our first house. From there I was able to score one more matching nightstand and a high-boy for Jeff. I love them just the way they are, and they are solid oak construction. I may add soft close glides to the drawers and possibly sand down to re-stain, but I’m pretty sure they’ll stay. I definitely plan on splurging to replace the heinous ceiling fan, and some beautiful Roman shades. These tips are wonderful to keep in mind. I’m always impressed by your tips, thanks for sharing Sarah!

    1. Such a good point, Lauren! We definitely will spend more on pieces we know we’ll keep for years to come (like our bed). It comes with us from house to house. Your bedroom sounds beautiful! Vintage pieces have so much more character. Happy Thursday to you :) xo

  6. I was just looking through some old photos of our first living room and bedroom arrangements as broke newlyweds (we’re 10 years and 2 kids in now) and was surprised to see certain pieces still around! I didn’t realize how long I’d loved and used some of my things. My decorating budget is so tight but my home looks great because I can find what I need on craigslist/marketplace/in goodwill/secondhand, and mix in a few Ikea things as well. I was shocked to look around just now and realize practically everything is secondhand furniture with ikea or discount textiles mixed in, a bit of DIY, and the only moveable things we bought new were rugs and the sectional and our mattress. I did good :) Guess I’m more of the how to get champagne taste on the beer budget type of gal! To which the answer is time and elbow grease.

    1. That’s so fun, Julie! I also like seeing what pieces move with us from home to home. Some things I expected, while others I did not. It can be telling! Vintage and thrifted pieces have the most character. We also do the champagne taste on a beer budget for some spaces and you can totally make it work with a vision and some elbow grease :) Love that philosophy! xo