Essential Decorating Advice

If you are just starting out or it's time to refurnish, you are probably wondering how much it will cost.  Take your living room, for example.  One of your biggest expenses can be your sofa.
 At the medium cost range (for about $2000) is this Pottery Barn Carlisle Slipcovered Sofa.

It is similar in style to ours above that I had custom made.  Our first two love seats from Ethan Allan lasted 16 years (being reupholstered once).  Our six foot sofas that we have now are 12 years old…with new slipcovers made six years ago.

So, here is the advice:  
buy the best you can afford so it will last. 
Lauren really spells this out in her post: 
I have sent this post to clients when we are trying to get a feel for their budget.  Check it out.

Here is a case of higher end furnishings, made to last.
I miss sitting in this room, Debbie.

The room below is in a home that is being rented.  With an unusually small family room, a big investment for a sofa was not necessary (since it may not work in the next place).  This is the PB Comfort Sofa.
However, in their living room, their sofa by Drexel Heritage 
was worth the new slipcover investment.
I have clients right now trying to decide between a Crate and Barrel sofa and a higher grade Lee Industries sofa…I know what I think, but ultimately it's their family's decision…kids to send to college some day, I get it.  I'm here to make their budget work best for them.

If you have a small master bedroom 
(or even a small guest room)
 Emily A. Clark' post
has some great advice.

Cindy Hattersley of
 has a comprehensive post on
You will want to bookmark and/or pin this.

Right now, my decorating advice to me is to 
not spend anymore money.
Ah…but I see so many wonderful pillow fabrics EVERYDAY.
And a Lee Industries Settee like one of these would make our dining room more comfortable and multi-purpose (not just a place to eat)…a nice spot to blog, read a book, chat on the telephone.

Or this style,
but I don't think WS Home is making it anymore?
So, yeah perhaps when OUR kid is out of college.

I can't turn off the decorating dreaming
…can you?


  1. Good advice on both counts!!! Yes, the decorating brain is a hard one to turn off, that is for sure. I think we decorating types feel most alive when we are planning a project and sourcing!! have a wonderful weekend,

  2. Mary Ann this is all great advice and I also believe buy the best that you can, I have had a sofa slipcovered and another one reupholstered twice!

    The Arts by Karena

  3. Hmmm. I have to put in a different perspective here. I do generally agree that you should buy the best (expensive?) that you can afford. But, there are always exceptions. Case in point: we needed a new sofa, and yes, I guess we could have afforded a fairly high end one. But I just won't spend that kind of money! so we bought our 72" two cushion (seat and back) sofa at Jennifer Convertibles. I think it cost about $700 and that was twelve years ago. The cream color all cotton slipcovers have been washed several times. No new slipcovers and I have only had the cushions restuffed once, a year ago. No, it's not perfect now after years of a dog on top and I would say medium use. But it has held up very, very well and now I am hesitant to buy a new sofa. I may eventually have this one reupholstered as I don't want the skirt any more. I may have just lucked out, as I've heard many negative things about Jennifer…but for me it has worked beautifully!

    1. I don't know much about Jennifer Convertibles...but lately I have seen several worn out low priced brands that are not worth salvaging.

  4. Great advice Mary Ann! I really wish I'd gone more high end for my living room sofas. C'est la Vie! But I still love my room, just wish I could get rid of my rug! Loved seeing Debbie's room again, looks like some new pillow fabrics, "love"! I can't turn off the decorating dream either, just wish I had more energy and $$ to go through with those dreams! Happy Thursday! xo

  5. My Drexel Heritage chintz covered sofa and loveseat have lasted 27 years and are just now looking like they need to be reupholstered. I remember that at the time we bought them, I saw the exact pair, same fabric and everything, at a high end furniture store for almost $6,000 for both of them. I then saw them at a local dept. store who was selling out their furniture division and they were around $1,300 for both on final clearance. You can believe I snapped them up!

  6. I can't turn it off either. It's always there, hovering in my mind. I love the blues, and the painting above the love seat in the family room.

  7. Thank you for the resources. I'm always dreaming of a new or updated look too. My only negative experience with a designer was the one who told us our $30,000 budget was more than enough then came back to me with a plan that cost over $65,000. She did not want to revise her plan and tried to pressure us to spend the additional money or alternatively, just cut some pieces out (like go without a rug and lighting). Needless to say, I have not worked with her again. But I have also worked with some wonderful designers who have been very helpful.

  8. Thanks for the shout out and both of those posts are excellent I agree. Lauren Liess always has such informatve posts, as do you. I wish I could turn the decorating gene off as well....not possible!!

  9. Great post! It reminded me to live with what I have and save for what I really want, otherwise I will find myself in the same position a few years down the road. I can wait a year, right?!

  10. I definitely agree. I've always preferred buying quality-- even if I have to buy it used --rather than getting something new and poorly constructed. Interestingly, a lot of the older furniture is smaller in scale and when I had an older Henredon sofa slipcovered the upholsterer actually attached blocks (totally hidden) for added height. But it's still the most comfortable couch ever---way better than the Restoration Hardware sofa we bought last year. Boy, I really regret getting the 100% down seat cushion, it just doesn't have enough support. I sure wished I had asked your opinion on that one :)

    1. That is so true that the older sofas are smaller. We put bigger legs too, on the last sofa we redid for a client…and changed the arms a bit.

  11. No I can't turn it off! I want to redo constantly! Love this post and will bookmark it for clients. Great Mary Ann,
    oh, and did you get to be a movie extra? That was very interesting! Happy Weekend. xo Nancy

  12. Such great advice, Mary Ann! When we first moved into our house my husband and I bought less expensive furniture for our family room, within 2 years the leather was peeling and cracking. We eventually upgraded to a much nicer leather sectional. With 4 of us and our dogs it has held up beautifully. I wished we would have just waited and saved for it in the first place.

  13. Great post and good advice .....to me its always quality over anything. I have always even when I was a young newlywed and had nothing wanted one good thing over a bunch of things from Ikea:) I think in the long run it pays off.....informative info here from a pro!

  14. I too agree, buy quality, it will last better in the long run. I have had some success scouring craigslist for high end items, with the thought of re-uphostering. Also, check local consignment shops. I happened upon a Lee Industries sofa for $100. Needed a bit of repair and upholstery, but I saved $$$ and have the sofa I always wanted. Plus, don't you just love the hunt? Sourcing, etc.

  15. I have Ethan Allen sofa and chairs from the 90's that are still in perfect condition. I had slipcovers made to change the look for summer but for the past few years have kept the slips on year around. I also have Lee sofa's with washable slipcovers in our cabin. I love finding these brands at antique malls, my Lee chair was 325 in mint condition and most recently a $119 Ethan Allen sofa in mint condition but with awful pink floral 80's upholstery is now sporting a black ticking slipcover. I also have a Rowe brand slipcovered chaise for 10 years than I have been very pleased with. This furniture has held up with four boys and now young grandchildren. I am the one in the thrift and antique stores lifting cushions looking for that name logo:):) It seems I always have a to do list with the current project to enclose a screened in porch to a sun porch so we can enjoy it all year. I love my home and am happiest when I am their with my family! I always enjoy your blog!

    1. Wow, Miriam….I LOVE a bargain too…and it's good for the environment.

  16. Thanks for including my post, Mary Ann! Great round-up.

    And, yes, trying to turn it off myself. I want to redo things that are "perfectly fine". Hard to explain that to my husband :)

  17. I've had that sofa from Pottery Barn on my wishlist forever and I'm about to buy it. I love the idea of a slip cover that it can be washed. That really is great when there's a house full of kids/teens. Love your ideas! thanks for sharing!

  18. Great advice, Mary Ann! I have Lauren's post bookmarked and re-read it from time to time… usually when I'm gearing up to have the budget talk with clients. Ha!

  19. Great advise...my fist sofa was from Ethan Allen too...I've heard that Ethan Allen products aren't what they use to be..but Lee Industries has a great reputation...

  20. How does one know which brands will hold up well after years of heavy use?

  21. I agree with all of that advice....my Wesley Hall sofa is 20 years old....I gave it to my sister about 12 years ago and she just sold it for 350.00. It had 2 sets of slipcovers and the original white chenille was in perfect shape! As the say "buy well.....and you will save money in the long run". I love Lee Industries also and I think they make some furniture styles for Crate and Barrel.


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