Real People Reveal the Home Purchases That Make Them the Happiest

published Apr 5, 2017
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(Image credit: Liz Calka)

When you’re on a tight budget, it can be difficult to decide what to spend your hard-earned cash on. Do you splurge on the fun stuff? Be responsible and renovate? There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone. But, reading what’s been worth the money to other people might help you figure out what’s most important to you. Below, eight people (who know a thing or two about making a home) share the purchases that had the biggest impact on their happiness at home.

Sink money into where you sit (and sleep)

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

“I think I joked about this in my house tour, but it’s probably my sectional sofa. I love that couch. It’s not just a couch, but it’s a guest bed (two guest beds actually), and a secondary bed for me! It looks great and it’s so comfortable! It’s the perfect place to have a nap with the dog, and I’ve woken up there many a time after falling asleep watching a movie…”

Tim Tripp has a passion for the history of decor and design that’s present throughout his Toronto loft we toured.

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

“Good quality down cushions for sofas or chairs are a MUST!! The best cushions consist of a small foam center with a generous down feather surround.

Good quality rugs are always worth it. They last forever!! I’m living with beautiful rugs from my husband’s grandmother…they are still stunning.

Refinishing wood floors can totally transform a room, unless the floors are gorgeously and naturally aged.

Invest (if you can) in good quality wooden doors. Hollow core doors hurt my soul. A beautiful wooden door can change your life.

Last but not least… great art, and guess what? You are the judge. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can take time and effort to find treasures. Look to emerging artists, students, and flea markets. Trust your judgement, unless you have absolutely hideous taste then ask a creative type!! I’m sure you have some creative friends.”

Judith Bigham (also find her on Instagram) is a painter and an interior designer, and her home in Seattle is layered with furniture, art, and treasures that she has spent decades lovingly collecting and creating.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

“Always have a decent table to eat at and a good mattress to sleep on. Isn’t that what home is for? Cowhide rugs are easy to keep clean and wear well. They add an interesting shape to the room.”

Eva isn’t afraid of color or breaking a few of the usual design rules. She shows this philosophy off in the bold Chicago home we toured.

Spend money on storage for less stress

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

“Storage! This is a small house and it’s quickly cluttered. Our biggest problem is lack of storage. We recently incorporated an outdoor access closet into the house and soon will have cabinets— we can’t wait for that extra space. Clutter is a major subliminal stressor and storage is the antidote!”

Carol Stall is an artist and jewelry designer, and we toured her and her husband Phil’s charming 1930s Austin home.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

“Storage is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine, so when people ask about spending money on home decor, I ALWAYS recommend buying beautiful storage options. That includes furniture if necessary, or sturdy storage boxes/baskets/containers/buckets/jars. (For me, beautiful usually means simple, and therefore not too expensive). Having a place for everything makes it SO much easier and less stressful to manage home life. I have noticed that my children are happier when the home is tidy and organised. We are a family of eight, and life is hectic enough without also having unnecessary clutter and mess.

I make sure that are storage and organisation systems work for the children so that they are able to tidy up for themselves. For example, we have a set of metal school lockers in the mudroom, and as soon as we come home from school in the afternoon, the kids are expected to put their lunch boxes on the kitchen sink, take out any school notes and homework and then put their schoolbag ready in their locker for the next day. That was a fairly significant investment, but has been SO worthwhile.

All the toys and craft supplies have a place inside a cupboard or on a shelf, and at 5pm everyday, everyone does a quick tidy up of the whole living area (including playroom) so that everything is back in its place before we have dinner. The children are able to put everything away themselves and are able to see the results of their efforts — having suitable storage makes that so much easier! I regularly review where things are kept, and make changes if necessary, particularly when I notice that we are using some things more than before and therefore need to make them more accessible.”

Ruth de Vos (find her on Facebook and Instagram) is a textile artist living in Western Australia with her husband and six kids. We toured their beautiful family home.

If you’re a reader, make room for books

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

“My recommendation would be to spend your money on what is going to bring you the most joy!! I am an avid reader but I also love to be surrounded by my books. So the built-in book cases in my den were definitely a priority.”

A. J. Berne has a passion for architecture and interior design that is evident in her 645 square foot home in Toronto.

(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

“Since I live in an apartment, I added an entire wall of bookshelves. Books, decorative objects and souvenirs make me happy.

When I had a house, I renovated the kitchen, of course everyone says that kitchen and bathrooms are really the most important rooms to renovate and I think so too.

I also renovated the basement, but I don’t think it was that important. A real estate agent once told me ”I sell homes I don’t sell basements.'”

Suzanne of Decogirl Montreal is an interior decorator working in Montreal who excels at creating luxurious decor. We toured her Downtown Montreal home.

Kitchens (and bathrooms) are king

(Image credit: William Strawser)

“Kitchen and bathrooms. We spend so much time time in the kitchen cooking, baking and talking. It’s the hub of the house. Bathrooms are where you start and finish your days. It makes sense to make it as lovely as possible to start off on the right foot.”

Christine Alcalay is a fashion designer and boutique owner of KIWI in NYC. In 2011, she introduced a “ready-to-wear” line. We toured her “Mid-Century Zen” home in Brooklyn.

Splurge on circulation and simple solutions

(Image credit: Liz Calka)

“Since I live in a studio, I had to decide what architectural gesture would have the greatest impact when I renovated. I was originally going to keep the walls intact and just renovate the kitchen. After numerous sketches, I found that removing one wall would have the greatest impact.

(Image credit: Irwin Gueco)

Removing the existing wall that separated the original kitchen and dressing room greatly improved the circulation around my Studio making it feel larger than 495 square feet. The combined rooms now allowed me to create a Galley Wall that consolidated the kitchen, dressing and home office functions along one long cabinet. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best without doing a complete gut.”

Irwin Gueco, an accomplished architect and interior designer, works at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. We toured his 495 square foot home.

(Image credit: Liz Calka)

Read more wise advice about making a home below:

More home truths worth remembering.

Things that will make you happy.