Save vs. Splurge | Furniture Buying on a Budget

A Designer’s Guide to Saving & Splurging – Q&A with Tori Alexander

Just like every wardrobe needs a classic black dress and timeless handbag, your home needs well-crafted, elegant pieces that will uphold wear and tear and endure fads and fluctuations. The secret to having a great looking home without completely breaking the bank is mixing top-of-the-line items with less expensive pieces.

So, what makes one expensive furniture piece worth the splurge and another a candidate for saving? We spoke with designer Tori Alexander about how she considers form, function, and delight when advising clients about what furniture is worth the spend, and what’s better left to Instagram.

Expensive Furniture to Splurge On

Q: How do you advise clients about why to invest in certain expensive furniture pieces?

First and foremost, the piece should bring you joy. Then I consider whether or not an item is multi-functional. For instance, let’s say you purchase an item that you to serve as an entry console table right now, but down the road, it could also function as a bedside table. These are the items that have lasting value, and you should feel confident in spending a little extra money on.

Tori paired this gorgeous antique console with the Gayle Bench for a welcoming entrance to this home.

Casegoods are usually a wise investment as well because they can work in multiple spaces. A splurge-worthy case good should satisfy a number of demands: be functional, versatile, and have a timeless finish and style. Any piece intended for storage must be easily operable (especially drawers on older pieces), so it’s important to test for function as you shop or have your designer verify with the vendor.

Q: Upholstery Furniture is expensive. How do you know if you’re making a smart choice?

The smartest thing you can do as a consumer is to educate yourself on materials and their performance. The “affordable stuff” still costs a pretty penny, and buying expensive upholstery furniture is not something you want to do frequently. That is why I love Gabby so much, not only do they have beautiful, high-quality fabrics, but they also offer a number of performance fabrics. High-quality upholstery should maintain its comfort and appearance over time. A knowledgeable designer or sales associate should always be able to explain how to care for and clean your furniture to maintain it properly.

{Insiders Tip: Check out our guide stain-proof fabrics. }

Expensive Furniture worth splurging on

Upholstered pieces rooted in tradition, like the Reese Sofa and Gable Wingback Chair shown here, ground more modern choices like a pink Waverly Chair and Kendall Ottoman.

Q: What about dining spaces? A good table and chairs can absorb a budget.

A good dining table is worth the investment. You can change the feel of the space by trading out or re-upholstering the chairs, but the table itself will always be the anchor and provide a place for special occasions and memories over the years.

In a more casual setting, I recommend a good breakfast table. I am particularly fond of classic round breakfast tables, between 48 and 60″ in diameter. The Adam’s Dining Table comes to mind when thinking about a versatile piece that works in a wide range of settings. For families with young children, wipe-able dining chairs and easy-to-clean surfaces where the family dines are also good choices.

{Insiders Tip: Learn how to mix & match dining chairs for a transitional dining space}

Worth the splurge: The Adam’s Dining Table

Q: Good lighting makes such a difference, but the choices can be overwhelming and expensive. How do you determine where to splurge?

Appropriate lighting is essential for creating the right energy in a space, and you need a balance between functional and sensational. I often use recessed warm white LED lights in open spaces. But defined areas like dining rooms, foyers, and powder rooms benefit from the drama of a hanging light fixture, like the so it is worth investing in expensive fixtures for these key spots.

Shape and finish are most important in selecting an expensive light fixture. I prefer over-scale open fixtures with clean lines and rich finishes that can easily work in a multitude of spaces. I particularly love the Adler Chandelier as it comes in a wide arrange of sizes making it worth the investment!

{Designers Tip: You can take it with you if you move. Just make sure to tell the real estate agent first! And when installing LED lighting, check out these tips for LED lighting in the home. }

Q: When or where is it ok to fill rooms or areas with more trend-driven, budget-friendly furniture pieces?

It’s tempting to purchase the trendy piece with a low price tag, especially when it flashes on your feed and it looks just like the one you saw on Instagram. But try to limit these quick-buys to smaller items that have a short shelf life, like a fun throw rug for your kitchen.

Side tables are another easy place to save some money! These fun accents can be found just about anywhere, so if you find some that suit your décor for a cheap price snatch them up! The Lucinda bunching table and the Gloria Table and a couple of my favorite Gabby side tables!

expensive furniture

Bookshelves and coffee tables are great places to rotate out inexpensive impulse buys. Pictured here is the Lucinda Bunching Table & Stevens Coffee Table.

Pictured here is the Gloria Side Table.

Q: If you can only invest in a few expensive furniture items this year, what should be top of the list?

An elegant table lamp, petite wood chest or commode (bonus points for burl wood), and a classic and versatile mirror elevate any room. I am seeing a lot of statement lamps that really add value to a space. Good hardware is also an easy upgrade for your kitchen, bath or furniture. And if you need to reupholster your sofa or dining chairs, reconsider performance fabric. Technology has had a tremendous impact on textiles, changing the game for investment-worthy options.  

For more photos & updates on Tori Alexander’s latest projects, follow @alexanderinteriorsnashville on Instagram or visit

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