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Mixing High and Low-End Furnishings

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)


Many years ago, I read an interesting piece of advice. I don’t remember the magazine or the circumstances but it suggested that one will always look put together and stylish with a high-end haircut and high-end shoes. With that, it didn’t matter if the clothes worn in between came from Saks or a bottom-basement catalog. What do you think? At times, I think it’s true.


When it comes to home furnishings, I know it’s true. That is, investing in select pieces, while holding back on others, can create a well-put together, stylized home. Which furnishings should be the haircut and shoes? In living and family rooms, spend what you can afford on major upholstery pieces. Sofas and club chairs need to be comfortable and long-lasting. Inexpensive ones will be neither. They are also large and noticeable so their style and fabric should be reflected in their purchase price. Splurge on one large, eye-catching showpiece such as an armoire, antique, rug, or original art. Nice upholstery and an investment showpiece will dominate and define the character of these rooms. Fill in with inexpensive accent chairs, tables, and accessories that support the style you want to create.


In a dining room or a foyer, indulge in a dramatic chandelier. This will create a favorable initial impression and captivate audiences – while the rest of the furnishings take a back seat. I also like chandeliers in bathrooms but often times, ceiling heights won’t accommodate a magnificent fixture. In these cases, stunning and artful wall sconces will do the same trick. I also opt for luxurious towels in a bathroom. If everything else is otherwise budget-friendly, luscious towels will bring the ambiance up several notches.


Who wouldn’t prefer original art to posters? But, this is a category where mixing high and low-end pieces can easily blend. The originals will stand out and be fully admired but mass-produced images can still fill in empty spaces and reflect one’s taste, style, humor, or message. Mixing the two worlds can be an art, in itself. This same concept applies to other types of collections. Glassware, pottery, baskets, and the like can become an interesting blend of high-end, handcrafted works, inexpensive tourist souvenirs, and great flea-market finds. If you are a collector, devote time to the way you display your objects. Grouping them together can make a favorable impact, but scattering them haphazardly can just make a mess.

Here’s a tip for book collectors. Do you have first-editions, or author-signed, or otherwise beautiful hardbacks mixed with those less attractive or treasured? Take the latter and cover them with solid-color, gift-wrap paper (or wallpaper). The color of the paper should coordinate with the color scheme of the room. Group and mix these two categories of books to create a dynamic display. I like to keep all books in one room and organize them in a thoughtful and attractive way. They become part of the room’s décor.


If you’re a book collector, I’ll assume you have built-in shelves. To use my suggestion, group your high-end books, that are all the same height, about two-thirds of the length of one shelf. Next take a group of paper-covered books and stack them horizontally (on their side) to fill in the last third of the shelf. Let the next shelf be all high-end books. On the third shelf, flank a series of high-end books with horizontally-stacked, paper-covered books. Change this configuration based on the number of books you have in each category. This is a little difficult to follow but I hope you get the idea. With the right amount of balancing and tweaking, these high and low-end books can marry and create an interesting focal point.


Even when one’s budget is limitless, there’s no practical or aesthetic reason to purchase all high-end furnishings and accessories. Mixing and layering is more fun and creative. And, all the savings can go towards chicest of haircuts and shoes.

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