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  • Dawn A Turner - Principal Designer

What to Invest In and What to Save On - Room by Room

As a designer, my goal is create gorgeous spaces for my clients but, more importantly, create spaces based on how my clients use the space.

The how is the first step in designing, closely followed by the aesthetics. It's important to know who is using the space and what the overall purpose of the space is in order to begin laying down drawings and plans or pulling materials. There has to be a starting point.

The ever-dreaded budget for designing and furnishing spaces is important to have been established first or well thought out plans cannot be made.

Here's a Room by Room guide that will help you make important financial decisions when it comes to your home that will help you avoid making costly mistakes.



The Kitchen tends to be the beating heart of every home. It tends to be the central gathering spot for guests and family alike. This space gets a lot of use therefore investing in certain areas is key to longevity but you don't have to break the bank on every nook and cranny of the kitchen to make it stunning and last a lifetime.



Invest - Appliances, Plumbing Fixtures, and Countertops.

First, set a budget based on your house value. It makes absolutely no sense to build out an over-the-top kitchen if the house doesn't match that level. The three items listed above get the most use therefore choosing mid to upper grades will last you a lifetime of use all while looking beautiful doing it. Search name brands that have strong reputations as quality brands with multi-tiered price point options that are just as well made and just as reliable. They just may lack some of the extra bells and whistles but are just as beautiful.


When looking at cabinetry I tend to look at how it's made. One tell-tale sign of good construction is the drawer test - pull out a drawer and look for dovetail jointing. Dovetail jointing has a history of being one of the strongest, long lasting and durable forms of construction insuring the lifespan of your kitchen that much longer. However, Dovetail jointing is not the end-all be-all when it comes to quality construction but I still highly recommend it. Fortunately there a lot of different lines of cabinetry that offer mid range pricing that are built to last making a consultation with a representative very important.


Countertops take a beating from everything being tossed on them to super hot cooking pots being set on them so it's very important in choosing a material that is durable. While natural stones such as granite and marble are all the rage there are drawbacks that could cost you. Marble is stunning but not the best use in a kitchen. It's a porous material which needs to be sealed upon installation and resealed every so often. If it's not properly sealed it can stain leaving unsightly marks over time. Both marble and granite can crack and chip if items that are too hot are set on them. In the event that these materials do crack or chip there is no ability to repair it. Instead, be prepared to replace the entire slab should this happen. Invest in a quartz product that ensures not only a gorgeous alternative to natural stone but in the event that a crack or chip happens it can be repaired on site rather than needing to be completely replaced.

Save - Light Fixtures - Hardware. Both are necessary, yes, but do not need to be overly expensive to create a beautiful design, nope. These are also areas considered to be trendy so if you ever get tired of your current kitchen a simple and less expensive way to update it would be to swap out your current lighting and hardware.


Let's talk about the backsplash. This is an area that could go either way, Invest or Save. Material type as well as the level of intricate designs and shapes will have the most impact on pricing. For example: a simple subway tile made of porcelain will be less expensive in price than one made of marble. If you're dead set on the look of marble without the price tag that tends to go with it then opt for a "marble like" porcelain tile instead. You'll still have a gorgeous backsplash without the heavy price tag. Another thing to consider is labor cost during installation. The more intricate the design and layout the more time and money it takes to install so choose wisely.



The Family Room is the next space that gets the most use that also requires durability in some areas. It's the place to relax, kick up your heels after a long day but it is also a potential money sucker if the furnishings do not stand up the the wear and tear costing you more money to continually replace items rather than making the initial investment up front therefore saving you money in the long run.



Invest - Upholstery. Area Rugs.

These are the two areas that take on the most use and wear and tear so invest wisely.


When choosing upholstery I tend to go straight for anything labeled Kid & Pet Friendly or Performance Fabric. These fabrics are tightly woven and thicker. Think of denim and how tight the weave is and the thickness of the material but softer. One of my favorite go-to's for sectionals and sofas that offer a vast amount of fabric options is #interiodefine. Not only do they have a great selection of Kid & Pet Friendly upholstery options but they also carry Oeko-Tex Certified fabrics. These particular fabrics have been carefully tested and are free of any harmful chemicals making your home safe for you and your loved ones. It's a win win.


When Searching for the appropriate area rug similar rules to choosing upholstery apply. Choose fibers that stand up to high traffic areas like the family room. Synthetic materials are a great idea for its durability however, be sure to check what the backing of the rug is made of. Most are made of a latex mix containing styrene, a possible human carcinogen. The strong "new rug" scent is the tip off that the rug is backed with this latex mix. That scent is the gases omitting off the rug that could cause certain allergic reactions to you or other members of your household.

What to look for when purchasing an area rug: The number of knots per square inch will tell you the level of the quality. The higher the number the more tightly woven the rug is making them more durable. This is also a strong indicator that these rugs are handmade which will also drive up the price.

Invest in rug that will suit the needs of the home but also within your means.


Save - Table Lamps. Accessories. Throw Pillows and Blankets.

Lighting in general can be very expensive and table lamps are no exception, but they don't have to be. Choose pieces from discount stores or simply update the look of an existing lamp by swapping out the current shade for something new. Keep the look classic for a more curated and streamlined feel.


When it comes to throw pillows just keep what you have and only swap out the covers. This will significantly cut down on cost when adding anything seasonal or for changing to current trends. The same can be said for throw blankets but remember the rules for area rugs and upholstery; materials that are tightly woven are less likely to snag or tear during heavy use, keep that in mind with kids and pets.


Accessories are what pull the space together. This is the best place to save money on simply by keeping it simple. Use what you have whether it's an old art piece or that funky jewelry box your Great Aunt three times removed gave you when you were 12. It's all on how it's presented so put that shabby-chic jewelry box on top of a small stack of books on a shelf and just like that, you have an instant curated look. Plants are also an excellent choice to fill in any empty spots plus give off health benefits such as purifying the air and they're not expensive to purchase, just be sure to remember to water them regularly.



The Bedroom is where we spend our down time, to recharge and rest. For those reasons there are areas that should absolutely be invested in. Making sure our surroundings are comfortable will lend a hand in ensuring we are that much more ready for the day so why not take the extra steps in making it the very best we can.



Invest - Mattress. Bedding.

The Invest portion of this section is a bit misleading so I'm going to break it down a bit further. Surprisingly, you don't need to break the bank to have a good night's sleep.


When researching for a bed for our home we were taught that when you lie down your body should be in the same position as if you were standing up meaning, your body's alignment should be the same. Your bed should wrap around your body, much like a cocoon, instead of your body laying on top in a stiff position forcing your limbs and joints to somewhat contort which then leaves you stiff.


The bed we ended purchasing was the lower tiered #sleepnumber mattress. It was a pricey investment but one we do not regret doing at all. There are plenty of similar and competitive mattress companies out there to Sleep Number so it's best to seek out a showroom and try them out for yourself.


Here's the misleading investment that isn't nearly as pricey...memory foam mattresses. Are you ready for this? While redesigning our two daughters' bedrooms I stumbled upon a memory foam mattress that not only rivaled my Sleep Number but was a fraction of the price by a long shot AND it can be delivered to your door.


The #wayfairsleep 12" Medium Firm Memory Foam Mattress is OUTSTANDING. Not only is the price out of this world but here are the added perks for piece of mind:

Low Motion Transfer - you move but your partner does not making everyone sleep comfortable without extra disturbances.

Beg Bug and Dust Mite Resistant - Don't think I need to elaborate further.

Breathable Construction - you won't overheat while sleeping like earlier versions of memory foam mattresses.

10 Year Warranty - Pretty self explanatory.

CPSC -16 CFR 1633 Compliant - CPSC - 16 CFR 1632 Compliant - NFPA Compliant - Yes. These are standard safety tests of flammability properties in mattresses and passed the credentials lead by the National Fire Protection Association. Fire Resistant - Yes

Non Toxic Foam Material - Made with Visco elastic memory foam and Polyurethane foam.

I'm telling you... I cannot speak highly enough of this mattress so while it's not a pricey item that would imply a heavy investment to make it does allow you to invest in a much needed good night's sleep at a much lower cost.


Bedding could also go either way on the investment to save scale. When sourcing bedding for myself or my clients I look for thread count as much as the type of material it is made from as well as it's sustainable properties.

We've all heard that Egyptian Cotton is THE bedding of choice for it's tight thread count making it one of the softest sheets around but have you ever tried bamboo or linen?

If you're a hot sleeper then you want to stay with natural fibers such as cotton and linen that is not too tightly woven making it more breathable so sweat can evaporate making your sleep more stable. Bamboo is sustainable, softer than cotton and linen, naturally hypoallergenic, and moisture absorbing. Aim for a 300 thread count and you're good to go.



Save - Accessories. Furniture.

Practically the same formula as above with other rooms. Keep the accessories a bit more personal and unique, possibly handmade by you or a loved one and showcase them. Give new life to an old chair with a fresh coat of paint and new upholstery giving you something completely brand new as well as a one-of-a-kind piece and conversation starter.

The same can be said for furnishings. Not everything has to be pricey to look good. It should add to the space by making it feel comfortable with Zen-like appeal.


Moral of the story - Set a firm budget first....ALWAYS. Minimalise costly mistakes by researching materials and fabrics for their intended use and apply the appropriate ones. Investments should be made in items that will see the most use. Save on items that are trendy or barely used. Always check fiber content for both natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers because they are different and have different uses.


I hope by reading this you find making your home a little cozier and a lot less stressful doing so. You know where to find me if you need any assistance, I'd be happy to help.


3D Renders created by yours truly... Adair Rox Interiors


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