9 Things Designers Never Spend More Than $10 On

updated Oct 15, 2020
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(Image credit: Carina Romano)

When it comes to design, throwing money at a project never hurts. But I’m far more impressed when people actually don’t spend a small fortune on a room. I love hearing when high-end decorators have used IKEA and you’d never know it. Or where they found a piece on the side of a road and rehabbed it. I mean, you can’t buy a storied past for a designer piece, am I right? But don’t get me wrong—I’m all for a splurge. But lately I’ve found myself wondering what designers really don’t find it at all worthwhile spending dough on, even if they or their clients have it by the boatload. And so I bring you a designer-approved laundry list of stuff not to go for broke on, because, well, there’s no reason to.

1. Candles

Yeah, I know. You want those pretty Diptyque and Le Labo vessels in your shelfies. But if you light candles a lot or want to put a bunch throughout your home, you probably have no business spending $60+ on every one that you buy. Maybe splurge on a designer candle for your coffee table (or your bathtub area), and everywhere else, stick to sub-$10 ones. “Candles are the perfect accent to instantly change the mood of any room,” says designer Lauren Martin. “Some of our favorites are from World Market and Pier 1. Even the vanilla-scented candles from IKEA do wonders!”

2. Plants

So you’re not getting a fiddle leaf fig or a big fern for a ten spot. But a couple of small succulents for your desk or windowsill? Definitely. “Plants make a huge impact for not a ton of money,” says designer Sarah Sherman Samuel. Noted. I’ll listen to anything Mandy Moore’s interior designer has to say.

3. Wine glasses

(Image credit: CB2)

They always inevitably get broken, and I don’t want to feel precious about expensive ones when I’m entertaining,” says designer and blogger Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar. “Plus, the great thing is, you don’t need to splurge in order to get ones that feel and look great.” So maybe rethink the crystal and head straight to your nearest CB2 instead, where you can get a set of stemless guys for less than $3 per glass. If you break one, it’s not a huge deal to replace it.

4. Simple vases

Come to think of it, why bother buying expensive basic vases either? “I never spend more than $10 on super simple vases for flowers,” says designer Jennifer Carter of Studio Envie. “Statement vases are a different story, but when I’m really just showcasing flowers or some nice greenery, I love a clear vase that doesn’t draw attention or take away from the foliage.” You can hoard a few of these from floral arrangements you’ve been sent, if you have the space. Otherwise, hit up your local flower market, craft store or even dollar store for these.

5. Fresh flowers

Don’t break the bank for bouquets either. “I love nothing more than having fresh flowers in my home,” says Decorist Creative Director and designer Jessica McCarthy. “Rather than going to a florist where the markup is high, I always go to my local supermarket and get a fresh bouquet of flowers for less than $10 a week.” During the summer, you can also get gorgeous cut flowers at farmers markets on the cheap.

6. Dinner napkins

Yep, you heard it here. The king of tablescaping, designer and author of Modern Mix, Eddie Ross, likes to buy his patterned cloth dinner napkins for less than $10, predominantly at flea markets and tag sales. That’s how he has such a vast array to keep churning out such inspired table settings, folks. Learn it, live it, love it.

7. Table linens

(Image credit: World Market)

Designer Simone Howell feels the same way Eddie Ross does, but she’s unwilling to go over $10 for anything she puts on her table. “There are so many amazing, affordable options, I just don’t see the need to spend a lot on table linens or glassware,” says Howell. “I personally love to set a pretty table when we entertain. I get bored with ‘the same old, same old,’ so having a few coordinating sets of glasses, cloth napkins, placemats, and chargers gives me options to mix-and-match and keep things fun.” Her shopping pick? World Market, where sets are usually less than $10 per piece.

8. Hardware

Credit: Wayfair

Okay, if unlacquered brass pulls that will patina over time are the only part of your dream kitchen you can actually afford, go for it. But if you’re making over a dated bathroom vanity or a hand-me-down dresser, Martin says you can absolutely find fun, funky and unique hardware to add personality for less than $10 a pop. Try a home center or an online big box store. You’ll be surprised at how stylish and affordable some of what they offer can be.

9. Pillow Inserts

“Personally, I’m constantly swapping out my pillows, and if I bought new down fillers for them every time, I’d be broke,” says Donna Garlough, author of Your Home, Your Style and Style Director at Joss & Main. “So instead, I just buy or make pretty new pillow covers and reuse old inserts. I also keep my eyes peeled for deeply discounted down pillows in the right sizes (think: holiday-themed pillow clearance!) and buy them just for the fluffy fillers.” H&M Home is also a great resource—the only pillow inserts over $10 are for Euro-size shams, and those are only $13!

So there you have it—definitely heeding this pro advice. What decor buys are you unwilling to spend more than $10 on?