One of the major dilemmas that home owners and renters come across when decorating their space is deciding what they should spend money on and what they should save on. If you are talking reno's, the obvious are the kitchen and bathrooms, which will always be where you spend the most money. You can save in both areas though.
Tile: As for either the kitchen or bath a great way to save money is with the tile. Tile can range anywhere from a few dollars a square foot to hundreds. A no-brainer choice, and one that will always be timeless is white subway tile. It can be inexpensive depending on what material you choose and it lends itself to providing a great neutral backdrop. You don't have to worry about matching counter tops, shower curtain, bath mat or towels to your new tile. And in the long run you will open yourself to more potential buyers if you decide to sell.
Kitchen Cabinets: I am definitely all for custom cabinets for their quality and overall best result and that they will fit to your space. Custom means anything you want basically, but you will have to pay for it. It's worth it in a kitchen if its your "forever home" or you plan to stay there awhile, and if you are looking to do a complete gut. But most people have a limited budget and can't afford to go that route so in that case there are great affordable options out there at places like Home Depot (the Martha Stewart line has many options) and IKEA. Little House Blog redid their kitchen with IKEA cabinets and made them look custom
If you just want a facelift there are other affordable choices. In many kitchens, the layout is great and the cabinets are in really good shape so all you may need to do is paint them. It's a long and tedious process, but in the end it is worth it, at least it was for us. Another option is if you have a great layout, the cabinet boxes are in good shape and/or you don't want to go through the whole gutting process but the cabinets are out dated, is to find a local carpenter/cabinet maker and have them just make you new drawer fronts and door fronts to fit to your existing cabinets, which we also did. I do not however recommend using the facelift service at home depot. I investigated that route once and it wasn't worth the price, for almost the same amount I could have just bought all new cabinets.
Counter tops: This is where I would splurge. Get a great counter top that you are going to love! Cause if you don't you will regret it. The only choice to save on counters I would recommend would be butcher block.
Hardware and Fixtures: I don't think you need to spend a huge amount of money on these, but I don't think you should go on the cheap either, cause you should still go for quality. And a lot of the time you do have to pay for good style. If you are looking for brass hardware or fixtures I without a doubt would spend a little more money than you normally would. Our kitchen still doesn't have cabinet pulls yet because I needed to save up for them. You don't have to go crazy expensive considering you can find cabinet hardware that ranges from $50 to a couple hundred per piece, but the 12-20 dollar range is pretty good. I know it adds up fast, but you can tell the difference. If you end up saving on kitchen cabinets by going with IKEA, one of the best ways to make them look expensive is to add good hardware. And just because you got cabinets from Home Depot or IKEA doesn't mean you need to buy the hardware they offer! Look online or go to a specialty store where you can find better quality and better looking pieces.
A fabulous looking faucet or fixture can make a kitchen or bath look amazing. Again you don't have to go crazy but try and stay away from the generic builder grade stuff.
And All The Rest....
I believe in investing in a good sofa, whether it be a vintage or designer sofa found on Craigslist on the cheap that you have reupholstered or a new good quality piece. A well built sofa will last you a long while and will be well worth it then spending still sorta a lot of money on a poor quality sofa that just doesn't last. Pick one for the lines and in a neutral color. If you choose one with classic lines, down the line if you really want to change it up you can always invest in having it reupholstered. A bold fabric is good too but just be prepared to style around it. I would definitely not get a pattern, make it easy on yourself and give yourself the flexibility to change it up with accessories as our styles are always evolving. If you have pets or children a sofa with washable slipcovers is a huge plus! One of the better places to buy a good quality and not over the top expensive is at Restoration Hardware. I'm a fan of these two, the track arm and the collins. The Belgian Track Arm is available with the option of down cushions, which you can't go wrong with for the price. They are so comfortable! If you are lucky enough to be near one, check out a Restoration Hardware Outlet for sofas at great prices. Both the outlet and the regular store always tend to have promotions so sign up for their emails to get updates, sometimes they offer 100.00 off every 500.00 spent, that's an amazing discount when you are making a big purchase.
If you are unable to invest in a good quality sofa just yet my honest recommendation is to just do IKEA. They are cheap and there are some good options that you can include in a well decorated space with out people looking at it and saying, well everything looks great, except that cheap sofa. Just stick to the fabric sofas. When you go to big box furniture stores, you are most likely still going to spend some good money and quite frankly the options just don't look good. Most of Ikea's sofas have removable slipcovers that can be thrown in the wash and they really have an option for any kind of decor style. The top one below has cushions that are even memory foam which = super comfy.
|KIVIK SOFA / KARLSTAD SOFA|
Most everything else in the living room as far as accent chairs and accessories you can try and save on. Go to a vintage or flea market to find accessories. Search Craigslist for accent chairs that you can reupholster or give a facelift by refinishing or painting. Remember you don't want everything in your home to look brand new, it should looked loved and lived in. Etsy and West Elm are great places to find throw pillows. IKEA, West Elm, Rugsusa.com all have good selections for rugs and you don't have to necessarily spend a lot of money.
Lighting: I love some great lighting! A beautiful fixture can make such an impact in a room. In the main living rooms you should spend some money on good fixtures, again to avoid the builder grade look. With that said, I personally would rather spend more money on sconces, and chandelier or pendants.
Table lamps and floor lamps for some reason I don't get as excited about. These two though you can always find affordable options, West Elm especially has great affordable lighting, Target always has something good and Home Goods is another great choice for table lamps. So save on the table and floor lamps but splurge on the sconces, chandeliers, pendants.
BOTTOM LINE: First off you need to know your budget in order to figure out where your money should be spent. If you have an unlimited budget, well then you can do whatever you want and build your dream home and then come over and build mine. But like most of us you do have a budget whether big or small. If you need to save in the kitchen I would rather see you find a way to save on the cabinets, just because there are so many ways to do so, as I shared above, and then dress them up with great counters, fixtures, hardware and appliances. Tile you can still save on, as long as it looks good, don't just get something cause its cheap, there's probably a reason it's on clearance - cause its ugly. If you need to save money there go for subway. Everywhere else, most specifically talked about today, the living room, in the end you should invest in a quality sofa and try to save everywhere else. If your budget doesn't allow you to invest in that sofa just yet, like I said before get something neutral and cleaned lined from IKEA and then maybe spend a little more on a fabulous rug or a couple amazing Schumacher pillows until you can make that big purchase. Spend more on good chandeliers, pendants and sconces, but save with table and floor lamps because it's easier to find an inexpensive good looking floor or table lamp than an inexpensive good looking sconce/chandelier/pendant. Basically its not cut and dry, there are always exceptions and these are just my opinions. And sometimes you do have to have "temporaries" like I do, of things that will do "for now" as you save for the really quality piece that you want.
I really could go on but I won't torture you and I'll leave it at this for now.
I was not financially compensated for mentioning any of the companies in this post, I just happen to like them