The Saver’s Guide to Interior Design: Where to Save and Where to Splurge

An unlimited budget would be a wonderful thing, but chances are when it comes to improving their space, most home owners will need to choose where, what and even when to spend their hard earned money to get the best result.


When improving a bathroom there are a few things to not scrimp on. For example, tapware can be to a bathroom what a statement earring is to a little black dress. In other words, you can take something simple and elevate it to something special and memorable with a smaller investment that creates a larger impact. Spend and choose wisely on these pieces, and make sure you pick the most appropriate shapes and metallic finishes to really liven up your bathroom. 

Inversely, tiles can be a great place to shave dollars from your budget. A simple matte white 600x300 tile can retail for under $20 per square meter and, if you limit your quantity and tile to a set height of around 1.1m (for example), you can save on both labour and materials. Labour is one of the most unpredictable and easily blown-out costs associated with home improvements.  


With kitchens, you have plenty of opportunities to spend, spend, spend! From up-speccing benchtops to marble, real timber cabinets and splurging on feature lighting.

The best return on your investment in your kitchen comes in design and functionality. Making sure you cross-check the usability and flow of your kitchen when working on your plans can save you expensive mistakes and add years of happy use to your kitchen. Ultimately, this will save you the cost of a premature upgrade.

If your kitchen functions well in its current form and only requires a cosmetic upgrade, you stand to save valuable funds. Replacing cupboard fronts, benchtops and/or splashbacks can give your kitchens an instant lift and save on the cost of trades and internal carcasses, freeing up funds and time for works required elsewhere.

Lastly, using a design professional to help you plan your kitchen is money well spent. They will assist with selecting classic and enduring materials to make sure your kitchen stands the test of time. 


If you're furnishing your home, go for quality and authentic designs over fast fashion solutions. In the short term, you might save a dollar or two getting a replica piece, but the quality of the furniture you invest in will dictate its life span. The longer the piece is in your home, the more value for money you will get from it. For example, good quality sofas made from sturdy constructions can live several lives. You can invest in upholstery when the trend changes, when you grow tired of the look or when the fabric ages. You'll also be doing something good for the environment by keeping product out of landfill. 


Flooring can be a place to either splurge or save depending on your plans for your home and the way your family interacts with it. A good quality vinyl plank can look and feel like timber boards at a fraction of the cost, should you need a good DIY or short term solution. The other end of the spectrum is occupied by the likes of engineered boards or real timber veneer flooring. This will give an irreplaceable real feel and the investment in them returns dividends to the value and perception of the quality of your home. Both ends of the spectrum have exceptionally beautiful products to choose from, so whether you’re splurging or saving, you’re sure to find an option that elevates the look and feel of your home.

Darren Palmer has a broad portfolio, having studied fine art & graphic design, originally working in advertising and owning his own graphic design company. After succumbing to his true passion, Darren now operates his own interior design studio and has been a judge on numerous seasons of The Block.