The 7 Products that Pro Decorators Say Aren’t Worth Spending Your Money On

published Jan 23, 2020
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It may seem like professionally designed spaces feature only the finest, priciest pieces of furniture and decorative accessories—a sculptural lounge chair that looks like it belongs in a museum, a wall hanging made by hand using ancient weaving techniques. And wait, that decorative tray on the coffee table cost how much?

But in reality, there are plenty of affordable designer-approved items that will add function and sophistication to your home. And on the flip side, there are plenty of seemingly “must have” products that designers say aren’t worth the hype. So where can you cut corners? Four designers weighed in on things that aren’t worth spending tons of money on—and the budget buys you should consider for these categories instead.


Good lighting is essential in any home, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. “Although there are many beautiful, high end lamps, I have found many fantastic lamps for under $100 online and at local stores,” says Molly Kay Johns of MK Interiors. Many look just as nice as the expensive ones, and you can save hundreds of dollars this way.” If you really want to save big, check out your neighborhood thrift store—we’ve found some great pieces at amazing prices.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Decorative Accents

Step away from that museum-worthy trinket dish—you can likely find something just as gorgeous for a fraction of the price if you do a bit of digging! “Vases, books, and other pieces for shelves and coffee tables can be found at local stores and some online marketplace for a lot less than big brand names,” Johns explains. “You don’t need to spend $900 on a vase for it to be pretty.” Heck, the next time someone sends you flowers, hold onto the plain glass vase. Cut flowers really shine in something that’s simple.

Credit: Etsy


“You can also find some amazing art at estate sales, on Everything But The House, and on Etsy,” notes Elizabeth Stamos, owner and principal at Elizabeth Stamos Design. “This artist has beautiful Paris prints that are really well priced.” You can also create your own art or frame swatches of wallpaper, magazine tear sheets, or blown up vacation photos. As long as you like what’s hanging on your walls, the price doesn’t matter.

Buy: “Paris Apartment” Print, Starting at $18 from Etsy

Credit: Bazaar

Side Tables

Don’t be afraid to add less expensive furniture pieces to the mix when you’re looking to cut back on decorating expenses. A good place to go cheaper is with occasional furniture like side and end tables. As Johns notes, “When paired with a larger, more substantial, high quality table elsewhere in the space, you can use a less expensive side table, and it will blend in nicely.” Same goes for nightstands in the bedroom—splurge on a headboard or bed, since it’s the focal point but don’t sweat the small stuff. Check out Apartment Therapy’s Bazaar for some viable options. This eclectic side table is available for only $135.


“For young families, I always recommend the Williams-Sonoma Apilco white plates,” says Shannon Crain of Shannon Crain Design. “They are easy to clean, pretty, and don’t chip! Buying fancy china means some hand-washing is involved, so save money and time with a set of porcelain for everyday.” This particular collection is also microwave-safe and designed for restaurant use, so you know it’s going to stand up to wear and tear.

Buy: Apilco Tradition Porcelain Dinnerware Collection, Starting at $12.00 $9.60 from Williams-Sonoma

Entertaining Accessories

As much as we wish every day was a party, you’re likely not hosting seven days a week. So keep your entertaining items budget-friendly, designer Marika Meyer advises. “You can find fabulous home accessories at retail shops like West Elm and CB2 that look great for less,” says Meyer. “I love these CB2 faux cut crystal tea light holders and snapped up a bunch of these for a party I hosted over the holidays. I also love these West Elm drink glasses.  They come in multiple sizes, and the glass feels really refined, so you can use it just as easily for water as you can for cocktails.” If either of these options seem a little too pricey, know that your local dollar store is probably another good destination for basic glassware and candle holders.

Credit: CB2

Coffee Table Tchotchkes

No vignette is complete without a candle or sculptural piece, but these items don’t need to cost hundreds. Stamos is partial to this CB2 match striker. Similar pieces are popping up on coffee tables across the country, and it just might be the cheapest way to bring a Goop-endorsed piece into your place.

Buy: Curve Ball Match Striker, $49.95 from CB2