5 Budget-Friendly Tips for Getting Luxe-Look Materials for Less

published May 18, 2023
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Luxurious building materials and interior finishes often come with an equally luxurious price tag. In fact, it’s usually the element of exclusivity that makes materials like marble, hardwood, glass, and metal so high-end. 

However, for most homeowners, these types of finishes can feel like a huge splurge, and if you’re renting, you may be limited even further by what you’re allowed to do. But just because you can’t afford to outfit your home in marble from floor to ceiling doesn’t mean you can’t create a “quiet luxury” space by using some smart tricks and cost-effective alternatives. 

These five expert-approved tips will help you score luxe-looking materials for less.

Credit: Joann Pai

Opt for fool-the-eye porcelain tiles in interesting sizes.

Porcelain tiles have come a long way in the past few decades. You can now find them in a range of different styles, sizes, and finishes that resemble marble and travertine. To give your space an instantly elevated feel, consider these kinds of porcelain tiles in rooms like your kitchen and bathroom. 

“You can choose between a large tile that looks like a gorgeous slab of real marble or earthy stone, or a mosaic that has interchanging pieces to create a totally custom luxury look without the luxury price tag,” says James Stanley, principal designer and founder of James StanleyNY.

In particular, using large-format porcelain tiles to create a backsplash is a great example of getting the luxe look for less. Slab backsplashes are a staple of luxury kitchens right now, but just like marble countertops, they come with a high-end price tag. “You can choose either a marble- or stone-look porcelain tile in 24-inch by 48-inch sizes to get that full slab luxury look at a third of the cost,” says Stanley. “Plus, they’re super-durable and easy to maintain,” he adds. Now that’s a win-win!

Frequent your local building surplus store.

If you have your heart set on featuring some luxurious materials in your home, a building surplus store should be your first shopping stop. 

“Building surplus stores can be a goldmine for discerning DIYers,” says Dylan Murray of NYC-based Murray Craft Builders. As general contractors, Murray says that he and his team frequently donate materials from high-end renovations to building surplus stores like Brooklyn-based BIG Reuse Center on behalf of their clients. 

“We are constantly ripping out new or near-new materials, especially for apartment renovations,” he says. 

Online forums like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are also great tools for finding luxe materials for less, advises Murray. “For a number of reasons, tile counts are often off, and people will try to get rid of the surplus on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist at a heavily discounted price,” he says. “These surpluses will likely be enough for smaller renovations, like those in an apartment.” The best part about sourcing this way? Not only can you save big, but you’ll also be keeping products from job sites out of landfills.

Trade your dream hardwood floors for engineered hardwood or laminate.

Hardwood floors are a staple in most luxury interiors, but you can easily get the look for less by choosing engineered hardwood rather than solid hardwood. 

“This is an easy way to give your entire home that luxury look and feel,” says Stanley. “Choosing engineered, wide-plank wood flooring should be at the top of your list. You can purchase good-quality, affordable engineered hardwood that will instantly elevate the look of your whole home.”

If engineered hardwood is still out of your price range, you can still find hardwood-style laminate flooring for a fraction of the cost. Plus, if you have pets or kids at home, laminate may be the best choice simply because it isn’t as easily damaged as real wood. Again, the fool-the-eye effect here is all in the sizing and details: Look for a wider plank to keep your space feeling luxurious.

Credit: Tim Hargett

Consider peel-and-stick tiles, vinyl, or contact paper features.

If you’re renting or don’t have the time and money to invest in a full-blown renovation, don’t be afraid to get resourceful for a more luxurious look. Peel-and-stick tiles, temporary wallpaper, and removable contact paper are all affordable options that can yield surprising results when applied properly. For example, “To elevate countertops, you can purchase peel-and-stick marble contact paper that can be wrapped around your existing countertops,” says designer Melissa Fields, founder and CEO of Shades of Gray Design. Similarly, “To create a stunning look for your backsplash, consider using vinyl wallpaper (for wet environments) or peel-and-stick (if you’re renting), with a gorgeous pattern or color that will be the star of the show,” says Fields. 

The same can also be done for flooring, with a range of different peel-and-stick or vinyl options. “You can even install the floor tiles to mimic a chevron or herringbone pattern,” Fields advises, which again, is a little trick to make these more budget-friendly materials look more expensive than they are. 

Choose marble alternatives for your countertops.

If you want the marble look on your countertops for less, consider opting for the more affordable options of quartz or porcelain, advises Stanley. Not only are these materials cheaper, but they are also more durable and easier to maintain. 

Sintered stone is another, newer type of countertop that is cheaper than marble, Stanley says, but can look equally stunning in a cook space. This is a man-made material (using natural stone) that is known for being super-durable, easy to maintain, non-porous, and highly resistant to stains — but it’s usually pricier than quartz or porcelain. Either way, you’ll get the luxe vibe you’re after!