Save or Splurge: Expert Tips for Decorating on a Budget


Danielle Arps is known as the go-to interior designer for some of the biggest names in the startup space — Sailthru, Codecademy, Venmo, Fueled, NewsCred, Contently, Kitchensurfing and Gilt, to name just a few. Clearly Arps knows a thing or two about designing on a budget. Given her extensive background in the design space, we asked the New York-based designer to share with us her tips on where we should save and where we should splurge when revamping our home.

Living Room Splurge

Buy the expensive sofa, I can’t stress this enough! A great sofa can last for many years and I especially recommend ones with slipcovers. You can change out the color and update the look of your entire living room very easily. Also invest in original artwork if you can. A statement painting and fab sofa can considerably upgrade the look of your living room.

Living Room Save

Save on accent tables and accessories. I like online shops like Urban Outfitters — they have surprisingly cool and inexpensive side and coffee tables. Etsy is also a well-known source, but you have to be willing to take the time to sort through them. In New York City, you can always go to great vintage shops like Furnish Green, Brooklyn Flea Market or The Demolition Depot up in Harlem, but big-box shops like HomeGoods and Target also have some really good-looking items.


Bedroom Splurge

Your bed and/or headboard should definitely be a splurge. This and a great shade of paint along with chic bedding are the staples for creating a lovely and cozy (and inviting!) room.

Bedroom Save

It’s really all about your bed, and I’m a big fan of minimal and striking furniture. Once you have a great bed or stunning headboard, you could purchase simple, clean-looking nightstands and bed lamps. You could then have personal and small framed artwork, photos and stacked books (styled beautifully, of course!) on your nightstands. It’s really all you need.


Foyer Splurge

Get a nice console that has a drawer, so you can have a place to put your mail and keys. It’s not only impressive, but very functional! I would also recommend finding a great-looking mirror. You could get a classic like Adnet or an antique glass, depending on the look you’re going for.

Foyer Save

Save on the accessories, like objet d’art and hooks. You can always find interesting items at vintage shops like Olde Good Things. Their furniture is pricey, but the objects surprisingly are not.

Kitchen/Bathroom Splurge

If you happen to own an apartment and are looking to do a full renovation, it’s pretty well-known that the kitchen and bath are the first items on the checklist and also happen to increase the value of the space. But you don’t actually need to break the bank on every item. In the kitchen, for example, spend on the countertops and hardware, such as faucets and pulls. The counter is one of the largest and closest materials you’ll be in contact with, and the design is in the details.

Kitchen/Bathroom Save

Save on cabinets, floor tiles and appliances. Simple and clean cabinets from IKEA and Home Depot can look well done if matched with great hardware. Even the appliances from those stores will look great.


Overall Things to Keep in Mind

  • No matter how big or small your home decor upgrade will be, it’s important to think through the overall idea before making purchases. A big concern of many clients is how to pull together a cohesive look. If you have an inspiration image like an industrial modern space and choose items with that idea in mind, you’ll have fewer mishaps like random accessories that don’t fit in with your living room.
  • DIY is great, but it all depends on how crafty and artistic you are. Repainting furniture is one of the best ways to make a $50 furniture item look like $500. However, certain tasks like painting an entire apartment aren’t as easy as they look. There’s patching, sanding, taping and priming involved all before putting on the first coat of paint!
  • Always turn to experts for major renovations. If you’re going to demo anything (i.e. break things and put them back together in a new and unique way), I’d recommend hiring a designer. A lot of people hire contractors before hiring a designer, and although I think it’s great that people know what they want, it’s really important to have a professional create a concept and plan of action before any walls are broken.