It doesn't take endless hours or big bucks to rev up a room. One of these essential, easy-on-the-wallet pieces can help you create a fashionable, family-friendly space.
By Danielle Blundell
With classic furnishings, a living space can be practical for family activities as well as inviting for guests.
Even if you have other fixtures in the room like pendants or floor lighting, table lamps help brighten a seating area. Choose a timeless double-gourd ceramic design—it adds character and a touch of color.
Luxe for Less: Double Gourd Ceramic Table Lamp, jcp.com, $40
A simple wood design that's proportionate to your sofa—around two-thirds its length—never goes out of style. "It's the kind of table that can be mixed with almost anything, from a mid-century sofa to a French settee," says Emily Henderson, star of HGTV's Secrets from a Stylist. One with an open-frame base and shapely legs not only feels light and airy, it softens the right angles of square or rectangular furniture.
Luxe for Less: Bombay Dunnley Tray Table, bedbathandbeyond.com, $200
Cushy yet tailored chairs—choose quality above all—can adapt to any look and space. Try a kid-proof acrylic or ultrasuede fabric in a subtle contrasting color that complements the sofa—no matchy-matchy. Perk up the neutrals with patterned pillows and bold accessories.
Luxe for Less: Allegra Chair in Cactus, la-z-boy.com for stores, from $639
The well-designed bedroom needs a few functional pieces cast in a calm color palette.
A drawer-front design provides a spot to stash odds and ends under wraps but within arm's reach. It should be roughly the same height as your mattress and with a top generous enough to hold a lamp, a book and a glass of water. Should you want a change of pace, use it as a side table in the living room. "Just make sure the table is placed against the wall, otherwise the back has to be equally attractive," says Henderson.
Luxe for Less: Wildon Home Glenmore Three Drawer Nightstand, wayfair.com, $279
Headboards lend polish to a bed, but upholstered ones also offer cushioning for reading and lounging. "It's all in the details," says Christiane Lemieux, owner of New York-based DwellStudio. "Look for tufting, piping and hardwood framing." Pick a solid-color fabric that pops in contrast to your walls, and bonus points if it has trim, which delivers a touch of sophistication. Save bold patterns for the sheeting and the pillows.
Luxe for Less: Greenwich Tufted Headboard, target.com, $190 to $320
"The bed should be the star of the show, but the right bench at its foot gives a room a layered, finished look," says Manhattan designer Elaine Griffin. "It's also a perfect place to park extra pillows and blankets." A settee, fabric-covered seat or rectangular storage ottoman can be a great addition as long as it's in proportion to the bed's height. If you tire of it, just move it to the entry or use at the kitchen table.
Luxe for Less: Chloe Linen Bench, kirklands.com, $100
Wood furniture in a variety of shapes and tones gives a dining room warmth and versatility.
Bow-back chairs—copies of iconic Danish modern designs—are the ultimate chameleons. "They're crowd pleasers," says Henderson. "When you have a rectangular table, they bring in some curves without screaming femininity." Equally at home in a contemporary setting, they can work as perch at a desk or vanity. "You can also put one in the bathroom for holding a stack of towels," says Henderson.
Luxe for Less: Wood Chair with Hemp Seat, overstock.com, $147
A buffet with lots of compartments and slim proportions is a great multitasker. "Use it to store your linens, silverware and serving platters," says Lemieux. "Or try in a foyer to keep all those little items organized—mail, newspapers, magazines, keys, the kids' homework." Topped with a tray and stationed behind a sofa or against a living room wall, the piece doubles as a makeshift bar.
Luxe for Less: Bjursta Sideboard in Brown Black, ikea.com for stores, $249
The simple rectangular shape of a Parsons table guarantees it fits in with any chair, modern or traditional, and does double duty for both family meals and entertaining guests. "It's the little black dress of tables—it can go anywhere," says Griffin. Find a wood version that seats at least six, in a rich finish that works with or without a cloth.
Luxe for Less: Parsons Rectangle Dining Table in Chocolate Oak Veneer, westelm.com, $399
Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.