How To: Mix Higher and Lower End Furniture Pieces


Yesterday’s side-trip to Ikea while in Northern Virginia made me realize the importance of aesthetically pleasing affordable pieces.  Quite frankly I’m surprised that in Southern Virginia we don’t have an Ikea.  Perhaps the Swedes are underestimating us here.  But with the income demographic and young families that are starting out, I would certainly be an ideal ‘big box’ store to have.  As much as I would like to have beautiful, high quality furniture throughout my home it’s financially unrealistic.  While I do recognize the importance of pieces that will last a lifetime, I believe in a mix of both because let’s face it you’re not going to live with the same décor for the rest of your life.  So how does one find the balance? 

EVALUATE your furniture in terms of usage.  Is it for function or for looks?  If it’s for function what type?  For example a couch goes through a lot of wear, it has to be both comfortable and durable—this would be a higher end piece.  An example of a lower end piece would be shelving for a makeshift library.  This works because of the fact that it has one function—holding books—and chances are you will have multiple book cases next to each other to achieve that look.  No one will be looking at the quality of your shelving; they’ll be admiring your love for the written word.

KEY PIECES should be more of an investment such as a bed or a dining table.  Such would be the case in your wardrobe: black suit, white dress shirt, black heels etc.—they are staples.  These types of furniture will grow with you home to home.  The best thing to do when choosing a style is to go with something “timeless”.  You don’t want it to be too trendy because it decreases its lifespan.        

AVOID THE GLOSSY LOOK.  Sure it’s tempting to go with the “perfect bedroom” in the Pottery Barn catalogue, but this look can be achieved and can probably turn out better with your own personal touch.    

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.  Don’t underestimate thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and even Craigslist for quality items.  Chances are, if the person is willing to exude the effort of posting an ad the item deserves a second chance.  When I first moved here, estate sales were where I turned to first.  Not only would I get an idea of functionality for the piece, I would sometimes find a better use for it.        

FINISHING TOUCHES should always be done at a bargain.  If done correctly, even a Dollar Store vase can look good on a mantle.  As I said earlier, if the piece is there to just look pretty and bat its eyes, it doesn’t need a big investment from you.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO DIY.  This goes for higher and lower end pieces.  You may find a solid oak dining table a thrift store that may need a little work—go for it!  Chances are the refinishing of the piece still works out to be less than buying the piece brand new.  If you have a lower end piece, like those bookshelves we were talking about earlier, give it a high end finish by adding a little hardware, like chrome legs, or a wooden trim.

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