Shopping Tips for Whole-House Furnishing

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When you’re working on a house, you spend a lot of time making decisions about items that are part of the construction: the kitchen cabinets, appliances, bathroom tiles, flooring… the list just doesn’t seem to stop. When you get to the softer stuff — the things you move around — sometimes your deciding muscles are completely worn out. You may also find your pocketbook tired as well.

While I’m someone who has made a career of perfecting the details of personalized, one-of-a-kind home designs, I’m going to tell you that you don’t always need that. You may have kids and big dogs and feel okay about holding off on the fine designer things. Or, like a current client in Arizona, you may be filling a second home, with a goal of making it useful and comfortable, but not making a day-to-day design statement.

The good news is that even with a limited time and expense budget, you can get a look that is your own — special and unique, and not just looking like the last magazine you looked through.

Here’s a guide to filling a house tastefully, without driving yourself crazy (or broke).

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1. Start big 

Start with the room-filling items like sofas, rugs, coffee tables, dining tables, and beds. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people can get fixated on a lamp. Getting the big item centered in a room is like buying the perfect black dress — you know it’s going to work no matter the occasion, but you’ve still got to accessorize. Also, there are a million perfect black dresses out there, so this isn’t something to stress over.

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2. Then go small

Here, I mean heading to great furniture shops with thoughtful and tasteful collections.

When I was in Scottsdale, my favorite shop was Willow Fine Goods and Design. It is a small curated shop with just the right look, a miracle of a little shop where the owner is really nice and helpful and you just know how much thought went into buying the inventory. This shop features clean lines that were a little contemporary, a little old world, and little bit of everything — but not too much of anything. I bought a truck load and it all looked great.

Another great shop is Davis Furniture. Granted, I heard the name and thought “no way,” but this was not your typical “furniture” store, full of oversized, overstuffed recliners. Their pieces are very clean-lined and simple, leaning towards contemporary but not toooo contemporary. They aren’t one-of-a-kind pieces but give a big bang for the buck, if you use your designer’s eye.

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3. Go mall

I’m not suggesting the strip-mall national-chain furniture store, but there are some wonderful occasional pieces on the shelves at upscale home design stores. You don’t want to fill a room with this stuff because you’ll end up with a house that looks like a trendy hotel, but this is my go-to for inexpensive solutions for holes in the design.

I know I'm probably the only person who had never stepped into a CB2 store before, but I’ll be going back. I bought a great lamp for an open-shelf iron piece that needed some light, and some pillows that were about the price as pillows from Pier I but of a much better quality. They also had some great accessories for coffee tables. The prices are such that you must be careful not to get carried away and buy the catalogue page, but carefully selected, the items can be really great and interesting.

I always head to World Market to get baskets, but I always make sure to take a good look around. This time, I found a great looking desk chair in woven grey faux leather to go in a very masculine guest bedroom. That is not the first time I have happened upon a good-looking occasional chair at World Market — you never know what they are going to have in stock there.

There’s a lot of fun to be had filling a house if you don’t let it break the bank or your spirit. What are your tricks for getting the look you want quickly and inexpensively?


Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

To shop Mary's collection, click here. To read more posts, click hereFor anything else, leave a note in the comment section.  

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