High-Low Decorating: Where to Splurge, Where to Save

The concept of “high-low”–or pairing expensive, designer pieces with ones from mass-market or lower-end retailers–has been popular in fashion for years. It’s a great way to invest in the pieces that will form the foundation of your wardrobe, while also keeping your closet feeling fresh. The best way to work the high-low look, in our opinion, is to splurge on basics that you’ll wear forever, and save on the on-trend clothes that’ll likely only see a season of wear before going out of style.

It’s a smart strategy, and one that you can also apply to your home decor. There are certain items that will always look amazing in a room no matter what the decade. These are the pieces you should invest in, because high quality versions can truly last a lifetime. It’s the trendy accent pieces–like those brass animal figurines and chevron throw pillows that were everywhere last year but now feel a bit passe–that should be thought of as temporary additions to your space, and therefore are better bought on the cheap. We outline the basics of high-low decorating, below.

Where to Splurge

So what, exactly, is worth a splurge? Here are a few qualities we watch out for when choosing our inventory on The Local Vault that tell us a piece is a keeper.

  1. Timeless silhouettes. Certain furniture silhouettes are considered timeless. You’ll always be able to find a spot in your house for items like Louis-style chairs, English roll-arm sofas, Parsons-style furniture, and pedestal dining room tables, so if you find a classic you love, you can be sure the investment will be worth it.
  2. Quality construction. In addition to simply looking timeless, it’s also important to make sure investment pieces are built that way, too. When choosing upholstery items, for example, look for sofas and chairs with 8-way hand-tied coils — a construction technique designed to last for decades. When it comes to rugs, hand-knotted is always best, and when choosing case goods, opt for hard or softwoods, and avoid anything made from particleboard or pressed wood, or pieces with a veneer covering (since you won’t be able to refinish it more that once or twice).
  3. Pieces with history. Antiques possess a charm, attention to detail, and patina that’s tough to replicate with a brand-new item, a quality in and of itself that makes an antique piece worth an investment (so long as it’s in good shape). Antiques also lend a unique quality to your space, since chances are good that you won’t find the same piece in a friend’s house (unlike that Pottery Barn armchair in your living room).

Where to Save:

As we mentioned above, not everything in your home warrants spending thousands of dollars on. Mixing your high-end furniture with finds from Etsy, Crate & Barrel, and heck, even Nate Berkus’s latest collection for Target, can keep your home feeling on trend year-after-year. Save on:

  1. Things that are easy to swap out. If you get sick of a throw pillow or duvet, for example, you can simply pick up a new cover for it. Easy, right? Light fixtures, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to change around, so you probably want to choose something a little more timeless here.
  2. Pieces that are super-trendy. We mentioned the brass animals and all-things chevron–if you spent a small fortune on them, you’ll probably be keeping them around for a while, even if you’re sick of them or they’re no longer in style. If you opt for the bargain versions, you’ll feel no guilt when you clear out last year’s trends for your latest obsessions.

What are your favorite strategies for decorating high-low?

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