Splurge or Save: 20 Tips for a Stylish Living Room

Mix high and low elements to create a stylish yet savvy living room under budget. Designers share their pro tips for making the most of your money: where to save and where to splurge.

By: Chelsey Bowen
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Save: Shop Your House

"Utilizing an existing piece of furniture in your home is a great way to save money in a living room. Before investing in something new, check for functional or statement pieces you have around the house that can be rearranged, refinished or repurposed to bring new life to your space and relief to your budget. Reupholstering our Newport Heights clients' demilune sofa with a rich navy velvet completely transformed the outdated piece into the luxurious focal point of the room without breaking the bank," says designer Wendy Blackband.

Splurge: Give In To Artistic Inspiration

"In this San Clemente living room, we splurged on an art gallery wall, and it made such a huge difference. This space had tall ceilings, so the art helped bridge the gap between the height of the ceiling and the furnishings. It makes a bold and interesting statement as soon as you walk into the room," says designer Wendy Blackband.

Save: Alternatives to Pricey Rugs

"Designing a living room can be stressful because it's generally a larger space where we spend a great deal of time. Between the furnishings, art, drapery and lighting, costs can add up quickly, and I've found that a safe place to save is through the selection of budget-friendly natural fiber rugs. Offered in a variety of colors and weaves, they serve up a durable, textural backdrop that suits every design style. I love that you can allow a natural fiber rug to lie solo or you can layer smaller hides and luxury rugs on top," says designer Marie Flanigan.

Splurge: Boost Window Style With High-End Fabric

Designer Marie Flanigan says, "The windows of a home frame our view of the outside world and control the amount of natural light that streams in throughout the day, making them an incredibly important element in any design. When I have the opportunity to splurge in a living space, I love adorning the windows with luxury treatments. Drapery doesn't have to be heavy or ornate to make an impact, but using high-quality fabric, incorporating a unique trim and customizing the length to fit your home's windows will quickly elevate your living space from good to great."

Save: Get Thrifty With Pillows

The key to perfect pillows are fine textiles and down inserts. Designer Shannon Wilkins suggest sourcing vintage fabrics from flea markets or eBay then finding an upholstery shop to sew covers for you. (If you can sew them yourself, even cheaper!) Then, head to Ikea which sells great down inserts for a low price.
From: Prairie

Splurge: Statement-Making Vases and Books

Coffee table books and handmade ceramic vases are designer Shannon Wilkins' favorite splurges because they help enrich your furniture pieces. "I love having a staple vase that looks great empty, but I can pop some greens from the market in from time to time."
From: Prairie

Save: Opt for a Basic Coffee Table

Streamlined coffee tables, like this chic option from CB2, fit into a multitude of styles without breaking the bank. Designer Regan Baker looks for great coffee tables at low price points to stay in budget.

Splurge: Bet on Rugs

Area rugs can either be a splurge or a save, but designer Regan Baker says to make an investment, "Rugs are like a piece of art and really set the tone for the rest of the room."

Save: Shop Smart for Finishing Touches

If your living space features built-ins, the cost of filling it with accessories can add up quickly. Designer Claire Paquin suggests saving money by heading to HomeGoods, West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Current Home. "These stores have everything from vases, objets d'art, decorative books and art at inexpensive price points. Another place to save is by buying faux flowers. Flower arrangements can be very expensive and only last for a few days. NDI has a large variety of flowers that are reasonably priced and will last a lifetime. No one will ever believe they're not real," says Paquin.

Splurge: Bring Luxury to Your Windows

Bring texture, color and pattern to your living room with eye-catching window treatments. Splurge on luxurious fabrics, suggests designer Claire Paquin, since the window treatments will make the biggest visual impact. "When selecting a fabric for window treatments, we recommend going outside your comfort zone and picking a colorful, vibrant fabric. Living rooms are often the spaces where you and your family spend most of your time, so you want the fabric to be fresh and reflect your personality."

Save: Add Budget-Savvy Style Underfoot

Designer Sarah Wittenbraker suggests cutting the rug budget especially if the living room has lots of foot traffic from kids, guests or pets. "A flat-weave rug with a plush rug pad or a natural fiber rug, such as sisal or seagrass, will give a polished look for less money."

Splurge: Find Fabric That Stands Out

"To elevate a living room, I recommend investing in scene-stealing accent fabric. Putting a chunk of the budget into custom pillows and drapery will notch-up the chic, unique look of the space," says designer Sarah Wittenbraker.

Save: Budget-Friendly Flooring

"I tend to think that spending lots of money on things that get beat up quickly is not a great plan for a happy and worry-free life. When dealing with a specific budget the first place I hold back is the rug. There are so many available well-priced options through large stores that it doesn't make sense to splurge on rugs when trying to save money," says designer Susana Simonpietri.

Splurge: Go Big on Smaller Elements

With retailers like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware offering reasonably priced sofas, designer Susana Simonpietri thinks your money is better spent on accents that set the space apart, like a great sculptural coffee table or an amazing fabric to use as pillows. Smaller accents also allow for more flexibility, and let a space evolve with you over time.

Save: Keep Cost Down Without Sacrificing Style

"Every little piece doesn't have to be museum quality. While I always encourage my clients to invest in good upholstery, occasional pieces like side tables, lamps and accessories can often be found at flea markets and consignment shops," says designer Mark Williams.

Splurge: Opt for Wow-Worthy Art

Nothing says high style more than a monumental pieces of art, which is one of designer Mark Williams' top splurges for living rooms. Not only does it become a beautiful focal point, but it also brings the homeowner's personality into the space.

Save: Embrace Your Inner Bibliophile

Designer Ashley Clark saves when finishing her living rooms by shopping for used books, since they're an inexpensive way to fill bookshelves and create height on the coffee table.
From: sKout

Splurge: Maximize With Pillows

A splurge doesn't always have to be a big element in the room. Designer Ashley Clark loves mixing price points on pillows. "Pillows are my weakness, and it's easy to get carried away buying them. They don't all have to be vintage or high end, so I select one or two that are splurge worthy then build the rest around them."
From: sKout

Save: Scrimp on End Tables

Designer Ryan Brown looks for inexpensive end tables to round out his living room designs and keep within budget. Spend more when finding the coffee table, since it's the focal point of a seating arrangement.

Splurge: Ground Your Space in Luxury

A rug sets the tone of the room, no matter the style, says designer Ryan Brown. "Hand weaving is a beautiful art you will pay more for initially; however, a quality rug can last for generations."