5 High-End Details Home Designers Love—and How to Get Them for Less

published Nov 11, 2020
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Calming bedroom with white bedding and furniture from Marie Flanigan Design
Credit: Julie Soefer

Beautiful interior accents like custom built-ins and architectural moldings are the stuff that design dreams are made of, but often they come with steep price tags. Fortunately, with the right designer-approved hacks, you can fake the look of certain pricey details at home without breaking your bank account.

To prove my point, I asked a few interior designers to share their favorite expensive interior design details and how to get the look for less. From wainscoting to exposed wood beams and beyond, here’s how the pros stretch dollars—without it looking like they did—in their own homes and decorating projects.


Designer Melissa Warner Rothblum of Massucco Warner says few details elevate a room like wainscoting or painted wood paneling. Not all is lost, however, if you can’t afford the priciest, custom milled options, since you can fake the look with strategic “box” paneling.

“If you don’t have the budget for custom paneling, you can create your own by using applied molding from your local hardware store,” she says. “Just use a horizontal

chair rail

Often, the thinner the molding, the more elegant the box panels you’ll be nailing to the walls will look. Be meticulous about spacing, too, so the boxes are uniform and repeat at regular intervals. Don’t forget to paint your chair rail, “boxes,” and the wall surrounding these features in the same color to sell the setup as actual wooden wall panels.

Credit: Laura_Floyd

Custom built-ins

When you can’t afford to install custom built-in storage shelves at home, designer Tiffany Leigh of Tiffany Leigh Design says there are ways to recreate the look for less.

“Add trim and side panels to an IKEA base cabinet to give the fronts a built-in feel,” she explains, which you can see in the stylish setup above. “Install shelves and shiplap on the wall above the cabinet, and then paint everything in the same color to score a custom ‘built-in’ reading nook for a fraction of the price.” 

Exposed wood beams

Not only are authentic wood beams beautiful to look at, designer Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors says they add warmth, interest, and dimension to a room. The problem is that salvaged wood can be very expensive, and even newer styles can cost a pretty penny, too.

“If real wood beams aren’t in your budget, you can mimic the look by staining wood boards and creating a box to install on your ceiling,” she says. “The cost of your faux beam will be dictated by the type of wood you choose, stain color, and other miscellaneous materials, but if you’re up for a challenge, it’s a great DIY project.”

Statement lighting

Nothing makes a room look more glamorous than an eye-catching statement light, which is why designer Erriette Lenas recommends sourcing a secondhand one to create a similar look for less.

“A high-end statement chandelier is a focal point that can make a room look and feel expensive,” she explains. “You can find great deals on exquisite statement lights by scouring your local flea markets and antique shops as well as shopping online sites such as Chairish, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace.” 

Credit: Julie Soefer

Custom window treatments

Window treatments are a gorgeous way to create elegance and ambiance in a room, but designer Marie Flanigan says custom drapery can be incredibly expensive. 

“When custom window treatments are out of the budget, I recommend sourcing drapery from a reliable retailer and tailoring them to fit your space,” she says. “Consider buying drapes that are longer than you think you need and having them hemmed. That way, you avoid the dreaded high-water curtains.”