Cheap Thrills: Where Top Designers Go to Score High Style on a Budget

Even high-end interior designers love a bargain. From online boutiques to secondhand scores, here's where they go to get great style for a steal

Cool doesn’t have to cost beaucoup bucks—or come from a fancy boutique. Here, top designers dish on where they go to find stylish home decor for less.

Home Accessories

Home Goods

When designers need something interesting and exciting to complete a room, they’ll often raid the shelves at Home Goods, known for stocking stylish rugs, lamps, throw pillows and glassware. “Plates, bowls, vases and large blown glass pieces are always plentiful here and look fabulous displayed around the house,” says HGTV’s Erinn Valencich. “Use them to bring in the accent color of your home and to add some texture and sparkle.”

Up your chances of a score by perfecting your timing. Designer and savvy shopper David Bromstad, also an HGTV staple, suggests hitting Home Goods (and other stores like it) first thing in the morning on weekdays, when brand-new items are put on the floor. “You have a chance to take a good look before the crowds come in,” he says. And don’t just shop your favorite location. “We have four Home Goods in the greater LA area, and each store is different,” says Valencich. “Sometimes I’ll hit up two in a day.”

Where to Score: Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls


Bed, Bath and Beyond

Luxe linens at low prices are everywhere, if you know where to look and what to look for. Bromstad likes Grandin Road’s stylish, affordable bedding, while Zig Furniture co-founder Cecilia Dupire shops for sheets at Century 21 and the Frette outlet. Thread count is important, but the type of cotton sheets are made of can be even more significant, says Jennifer Convy, star of Fine Living’s Mail Order Make Over. She suggests holding out for primo 100% Egyptian or pima/Supima cotton sheets that are bleached or lightly colored (coarse weaves are necessary to hold dark dye). "Bed Bath and Beyond has great sales on Egyptian cotton sateen. I've also bought 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet sets for around $100 at both Home Goods and at Tuesday Morning,” says Convy, adding that similar sets can fetch up to $500 full price. In other words, don’t just take home the first pretty sheet set you see.

Where to Score: Grandin Road, Century 21, Frette Outlet, Home Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Tuesday Morning,

Everyday Dishes

Cost plus world market

Keeping your table seasonal, fresh and fun is as easy as hitting the bullseye. "I love Target's melamine dishes, especially when they’re designed by some amazing designer or company—big bang for your buck," says interior designer Michelle Workman, who typically caters to the lavish tastes of Hollywood A-listers like Jennifer Lopez and John Travolta. And unlike staid and serious good china, affordable, low-commitment melamine lets your table setting reflect your evolving style.

Plastic not your thing? Workman picks up ironstone dish sets at estate sales -- the pieces are highly durable and casual enough for everyday use. Meanwhile, Brooks Atwood, principal of Brooklyn design studio POD, scours flea markets for amazing mismatched dishes and silver. (“One of anything is not a problem,” he says). For more utilitarian pieces, like simple white dishes, he shops Costco, IKEA, West Elm, Bed Bath and Beyond, and restaurant supply stores.

Of course, you can’t beat free and priceless. “We all love having a few standout pieces from our moms and grandmothers,” says Atwood, “so ask them for things they aren’t using and turn them into tabletop stars.”

Where to Score: Target, Home Goods, Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond, IKEA, Cost Plus World Market, Fishs Eddy, Pier 1, Kmart, West Elm, Crate and Barrel Outlet, Pottery Barn


Burnham Design Interior featuring west elm parson's desk

You don’t need to be flush to snag the perfect finishing touch. “We buy vintage accessories on Etsy and cabinet hardware from Anthropologie,” says Burnham Design’s Betsy Burnham and Max Humphrey, whose colorful, elegant yet cool interiors have been featured in the New York Times, House Beautiful, In Style Home and more. “Also, there are specific pieces we buy again and again from less expensive retailers, like the Parsons desks from West Elm, because it’s a classic shape and works into any type of decor; the Stairway bookcase from CB2, because of its clean lines, glossy finish, and super tall proportions; and the Stockholm Rand rug from IKEA, which is 100% wool and looks like a million bucks but really costs about $200.” Another IKEA standout? RIBBA picture frames, which Lori Dennis, star of HGTV’s The Real Designing Women, often mixes with higher-quality items.

When it comes to “filler pieces,” or simple accent pieces that give your eye a place to rest, Emily Henderson, designer blogger and host of HGTV’s Secrets from a Stylist, has a few go-to faves: Martini tables from West Elm ("Every stylist's best friend"), lacquer boxes from the Container Store ("Simple, nondescript, and graphic”) and Dwell Studio’s Gold Rhinos, which are sculptural and glamorous.

Where to Score: Etsy, Anthropologie, IKEA, West Elm, CB2, Container Store, Dwell Studio, CWonder

Designer Pieces

One King's Lane

When celebrity interior designer Kelly Wearstler isn’t traveling the world looking for the perfect piece, she snaps up well-priced designs at her favorite flash sale site One Kings Lane, which she touts as “constantly great. “They have well-curated sales for both vintage and modern goods,” says Wearstler. Can’t get enough great deals on high-end furniture and accessories? Check out Fab, MyHabit, Rue La La, Joss & Main and Gilt for more going, going, gone décor.

Where to Score: One Kings Lane, MyHabit, Joss & Main, Gilt, 1stdibs

Flatware, Fabric and Flowers


Just because you're not in the "biz" (any biz) doesn't mean you can’t access insider savings, too. In fact, Convy recommends stocking up where the professionals do. "Restaurant supply stores offer durable flatware and glasses at rock-bottom prices,” she says, as well as chic café tables, handsome bar stools and chef-worthy kitchen accoutrements. Mad for all things green? “Flower markets have the best deals on vases, flowers and plants," she says, though warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are often surprisingly good source for flora.

We also suggest scouring fabric stores in your town’s garment district—they’re a valuable resource for affordable fabric, tassels, trim, buttons and other design materials. Ask to see the “end runs” -- you can usually nab some expensive fabric at a fraction of the cost.

Where to Score Fabrics: Mood Designer Fabrics, Fabric Mart

Where to Score Restaurant Supplies: BARI, Bowery Kitchen Supplies, Restaurant Equipment World 

Where to Score Flowers: Jamali Floral & Garden Supplies, Costco, Michael’s, Terrain

One-of-a-Kind Pieces or Vintage Items


“I have found some of my favorite items at flea markets and estate sales for clients and myself,” says Amanda LeBlanc, professional organizer and Style Network star. Bromstad is also a fan. “It's amazing what you can find,” he says, adding that the key to successful flea-ing is to look at what an item could be, rather than what it is. “For example, a mid-century side table that looks beat-up and old can be revived easily with a nice coat of paint. Or, you can reupholster a hidden treasure and create a spectacular gem,” he says. “Finding vintage pieces and refinishing them is always fun.”

Looking for steal? Go for a stroll, suggests Atwood. “Walk around on garbage nights and you’ll find amazing pieces. Keep your eyes open! Go earlier before the good stuff gets swiped up.”

Where to Score: eBay, Freecycle, Craigslist, Etsy, scoutmob

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