Splurge vs. Save

Whether you’re jumping into a major home renovation or simply updating a room, the first thing to consider is your budget. Without a firm grasp on what you have to spend, your project can quickly spiral out of control.

“Whenever you are putting together a design budget, you have to be honest about how much you have to spend,” says Cold Spring Harbor-based interior designer Diane Guariglia of Dyfari Interiors. “It’s the best way for a designer to tailor the project’s expenses according to what areas need the most attention. As a designer, it’s my job to create the most perfect environment that I can for my clients and guide them to make sure their money is well spent.”

Allocating money correctly can be a tough call. Do you splurge on decorative details or spend money on the more practical nuts and bolts of a room, such as a new stove or mattress? While a designer can certainly offer his or her best advice, in the end, it is up to you, Guariglia says.

“I always go through a checklist with my clients of what’s most important to them,” she says. “We base it on their lifestyle and decide what has to take priority over what may be more aspirational. That way, when I know their needs versus wants, I can offer my best advice to give them the solutions they are seeking.”

For example, in the kitchen, Guariglia suggests splurging on details such as a gorgeous backsplash and wall or ceiling treatment, as those areas are more protected than countertops, which see a lot of action in the kitchen.

“I would stay away from an expensive countertop, such as marble or granite, since they are exposed to food elements,” she says. “Instead, I would choose butcher block or another more practical material.”

Patti Johnston of Patti Johnston Designs in Centerport agrees. When she and her husband decided to renovate their kitchen they followed this logic, analyzing what they wanted most out of the renovation and how it would work with their new lifestyle as empty-nesters.


“Renovating a kitchen is a huge expense,” says Johnston. “So, when you’re ready to move forward, you have to have a strict budget and a plan. For us, our children are grown and have moved out, so it was time to reevaluate our use of the space and set up our budget accordingly.”

Johnston, like many LI homeowners, wanted her kitchen to be more efficient, yet the footprint wasn’t very large. As an avid home cook and baker, it was important for her to have a comfortable and functional kitchen. Johnston decided to splurge on details to support her passions and came up with a few creative solutions, giving her more space without spending a ton of money. Out went the kitchen table (she prefers eating everyday meals at a multipurpose game table in another room), making room for her prized kitchen island, customized with storage for baking equipment, such as a KitchenAid stand mixer and other tools.

“My husband and I were ready for a more casual set-up,” Johnston says. “Because of that, we were able to rearrange how we used our kitchen. In addition to the kitchen island, we also decided to purchase a larger induction gas oven, which is so important when you’re constantly baking like I am.”

Splurging on her passion for baking worked in this case, but Johnston cautioned that sometimes passions need to be put on hold for more practical solutions. She and her husband are also wine enthusiasts and a built-in storage cooler was on the kitchen wish list, but they already have a storage system in the basement, so they decided to put their money towards a recycling center, which made their daily routine a little easier.

Guariglia suggests taking a practical approach in the bedroom, as well. She recommends putting the bulk of your bedroom makeover budget into the bed.

image“We spend so much time in our bed, comfort is so important,” she says. “I would splurge on the bed itself, the mattress, mattress cover, sheets—everything that you’ll need for a comfortable night’s rest. Put your budget towards it and go for it.”

After that, Guariglia suggests putting a nice amount of your budget toward window treatments. “Choosing the right treatments for your windows is crucial, much more so than most people realize,” she explains. “It is especially important if you are someone who is sensitive to light while sleeping. Blackout treatments are a great solution for that and it’s always good to buy the best quality treatments you can afford.”

Both designers agree that no matter what room you are working on, accessories, while necessary to finish off a room, are often a great place to save money. There has been such an explosion of good design at affordable pricing, that there really isn’t a need to spend a lot on accessories.

“One of my favorite cost-saving ideas is to use leftover wallpaper to cover hardcover books or empty boxes and use those to fill in bookshelves or other sparse spaces,” says Guariglia. “I’m a big matchy-matchy girl, so I love when everything coordinates, and this is an affordable way to pull it off.”

If you’re shopping for accessories, head to discount stores like HomeGoods, recommends Johnston. “It is one of my favorite places to shop, because it is well edited and if something you purchased doesn’t work in your home, you can easily return it,” she says. “When you order custom designs, they cannot be returned and if you’re unhappy with it, you lose money on the purchase.”

One popular accessory Guariglia suggests you do splurge on is the family photo. “I feel that if you’re going to put your family photos on display, they should be professional photographs, properly framed,” she says. “Photography sessions and custom framing can be expensive, but I just think the end product is worth it. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”

lauren debellis

A former magazine editor, Lauren DeBellis has been writing and producing stories about home decorating and design for nearly ten years. She resides in East Northport with her husband.