Where to Splurge and Where to Save in the Dining Room

By: Sarah Beaumont

November 2, 2016

Image via Lonny. Photo by Joe Schmelzer.


The IKEA dining table you’ve had for the past seven years has seen better days. Those old chairs your mom passed on to you are starting to feel like they might collapse while you’re eating. You’re missing half of your silverware drawer. If any of this sounds like your dining room, then it might be time for a redesign. But when you’re in need of a total revamp, how do you budget wisely for furniture and décor?

We get it – most budgets are limited.  But if you’re committed to creating a beautiful room with a great ambiance, you’re going to have to forfeit some dollars on aesthetics. So we asked our designers what they recommend splurging on and where they think you should save when it comes to redesigning your dining room.


Essentials come first. Chances are, you don’t plan to dine on the floor with your pets. Every dining room needs a table and chairs, especially if you plan to host any dinner parties. “Dining rooms are important because so many special occasions are spent here,” says Laurel & Wolf designer Kate Engelhardt. “A sturdy table and chairs and an impressive buffet or hutch are most important to me because they create the biggest statement and are put to the most use.”

Lauren Donihue agrees – “In the dining room, it’s all about comfortable seating! You want everyone to feel comfortable enough to stay through dessert.” Furniture is expensive regardless so you want yours to last as long as possible. Be ready to splurge a little to make sure you get sturdy, high-quality dining pieces.

Don’t skimp on dinnerware. “Splurge on the dinnerware you intend to use every day,” says Amanda Margaret Friemel. “It is so nice to sit down to dinner with a dish set you really love – it can make any meal feel special. Also, spending more money on white plates is especially necessary since different silverware can leave marks!”

Premium designer Lori Evans suggests splurging on “decadent salad or dessert plates.” “They can easily stack and mix with your existing china, and they spruce up the table when set. Plus, they’re not too expensive in general so even the splurge is a low splurge,” she says. 

Add life to your walls. Ready for a wall renovation? Cathie Feldman of CF Interiors believes that it can make a big difference. “Installing wainscoting, a crown/tray ceiling, and wallpaper makes for a beautiful and timeless backdrop! This elegant look can be done inexpensively while still creating a fresh and classic design.”

Art lovers will agree that a room really isn’t complete without a vibrant painting or a statement-making photograph. Jennifer Handley says, “A wonderful piece of artwork will create a focal point in any room. When designing a space, splurge on the art and save in other areas!” 

Invest in utensils. As long as you take good care of it, silver can last a lifetime or longer. Plus, it’s the easiest piece of dining and kitchenware to transport if you move. Though it can be expensive, a solid set of silver can easily become an heirloom passed down from generation to generation. So really it’s kind of like you’re investing in your family’s dining rooms for many years to come.

Don’t blow your budget on linens and table décor. An elaborate (and expensive!) centerpiece by Kelly Wearstler catches your eye. You’re tempted by a beautiful set of linens you see browsing online. Whatever you do, don’t splurge on a whim. Remember, there are other attractive accessories out there at a much prettier price.  “Don’t be afraid to wait for a sale on your table linens and splurge on a statement piece like linens and art,” recommends Jenny Robbins.

Jamie Clugston says that “a great centerpiece is something that you can save on—especially if you do a little DIY and dig through your cabinets for unused bottles, vases, jars, etc.” For Kate Engelhardt, “Wall and table decor, such as mirrors, art, or place settings, are where I encourage clients to spend less, as these items “support” the main dining pieces. It’s also fun to be able to change up these items according to season.”

Upgrade your lighting. Nearly every interior designer will agree that great lighting is worth the price. Your lighting is the jewelry of your home, so just as you might spend a pretty penny on a set of diamond earrings, you should consider doing the same for your dining room.

Designers Farha Syed and Vivi Rosenberg agree that a fabulous chandelier is an item worth splurging on. “It’s one of the first things that guests will see since it hangs close to eye level,” says Rosenberg. “I love a great vintage piece in the dining room because it makes the space feel more unique,” she adds.

Lighting creates ambiance and makes a room shine. “If sconces are being installed, they should be of the same quality as the chandelier,” says Syed. Whether you’re installing a bold chandelier or a pair of statement-making sconces, lighting truly makes all the difference in the dining room.

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