In the living room, spend money where people sit.

The living room is all about the return on investment — or in designers’ terms, “seat time.” The more time someone is likely to sit there, the more you should invest in the piece, says McGaha.

So spend time and money picking out a great sofa that will last a long time, but go for less expensive pieces when it comes to to accent furniture. “Like a lounge chair that goes in the room with your really great sofa, you don’t have to spend nearly as much money on that. That way if you get tired of it, you can change it out,” McGaha notes.

“I wouldn’t spend tons of money there because people don’t sit in a lounge chair as long as they relax on a sofa.”

Watson agrees that a sofa is really worth investing in — a neutral sofa, in particular. Bargain accent pillows and throws can be incorporated to stay on trend.

A living space can also be a good choice for spending on lighting, wallpaper and custom upholstery. After all, this room is where we spend many of our waking hours.


“I love to splurge on upholstery,” McGaha shares. “By upholstery I mean getting a piece that’s custom for you, meaning it’s deeper or it’s got a different fill on the cushion, so that every time you sit down you say, ‘I just love this sofa.’”

Where can you save in a living room? Look under your feet. “Rugs are something trendy, so they can be replaced pretty often,” points out Watson.

“I wouldn’t say spend a lot of money, because that trend will change. I know we have faded antique rugs that have been the style for about three to four years now, but now geometrics are coming back in.”

Use lower-cost art prints in secondary spaces, such as a bathroom or guest bedroom. This bathroom is part of a home designed by Watson.(Courtesy The Design Quad)

Limit what you spend in your guest room.

It can be tempting to go big in the guest room to really make an impression on people who stay with you, but resist the urge, says McGaha. Your investment in a space should relate to how much time you, the homeowner, spend there.

“I love to use artist prints instead of originals in hallways or guest bedrooms or bathrooms. I’m always going to tell you not to spend all your dollars in those secondary spaces,” says McGaha. “And while I love my guest rooms to be luxurious and really elegant for guests, let’s not put something in there that only that one person gets to enjoy. They’re only there for a few nights.”

To save in a guest room, you could paint instead of doing high-end wallpaper. Your window coverings can be sale items; so can guest linens and bedding. When you look for deals, you can more easily change out those elements for a style update.


Go for cost-effective pieces in kids’ rooms.

You don’t have to spend a lot on a child’s room. Less-expensive, trendy pieces will create a space they’re happy with — and when their tastes change, you can more easily swap out the furnishings and accessories.(Getty Images)

Keep in mind that kids tend to be harder on furnishings, and their tastes will change as they grow up — so feel free to choose lower-cost, trendier pieces for their spaces. McGaha says the bed is a particular place you can save in a child’s room. Use a metal bed frame and score a fun and comfy upholstered headboard.

Don’t neglect your entryway.

You might not think about splurging on the entry to your home, but hear us out. It’s often the first thing you see when you return home and the last thing you see before you leave. And it’s the first and last impression of your home that guests have, too.


This is where you want to go for original art, amazing lighting and the wallpaper of your dreams. And best of all, it’s a small space compared to other areas in your home, so you can choose just a few things and still have a big impact.

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