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5 Things Designers Always Splurge on in Their Own Homes


Did you know there are some features designers will nearly always invest in for their own homes… even if it’s a rental? It’s true. In fact, two Coddington team members recently ordered the same custom item for their homes without even realizing it. (There’s a reason we like each other.)

Whether we’re renting, renovating, or just redecorating our spaces, there are a few things us designers always consider worth the investment. Bonus? You can use this savvy to guide your own save vs. splurge decisions…

1. Custom Window Treatments… Even in a Rental

Remember when your kid put on last year’s pants and all you could see were their exposed ankles? Flood alert. Would you send them to school like that? Probably depends on your sense of humor…

The same goes for window dressings. An ill-fitting window treatment just looks off. Either the curtain is too short, the mounting isn’t the correct distance from the window trims, or the shade isn’t the right dimension. As someone who will always invest in custom treatments, I’d say that 9 times out of 10, the window treatment is not the right fit for the space. (That’s the problem with buying retail.)

Designers splurge on custom window treatments because it makes a room feel finished, proportional, and highlights the room’s architecture and furnishings. Custom resources also give us far more control over our options, allowing us to create any look we want: chic, svelte, contemporary, luxurious, you name it. 


From our San Francisco Style Project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston

2.Custom Furniture

Yes, even in a rental, designers will splurge on custom furniture for their rooms. It all comes down to quality. With custom furniture, you know exactly what you are going to get. Purchasing items that are solid wood and joint-construction will be longer-lasting and timeless. 

 By comparison, in the click-to-buy world of retail, you don’t get the complete picture of an item. Even though it may look nice in photos, blindly ordering furniture online may leave you with a rock-hard sofa (and bad back), a chemical-odored rug, or require 4 hours and many blisters to assemble.

Custom furniture also allows you to have furnishings that are to scale. For example, if you are downsizing from an open concept home with a huge great room, your oversized sectional is unlikely to fit in your new smaller family room. Custom furniture in the right scale can make the smaller home feel equally spacious. 


From our San Francisco Victorian project. Photographer: Vivian Johnson

3. Elevated Lighting

Lighting is the jewelry of the home. The statement maker. The focal point. Although many brand new homes will come with hardwired lighting, like pendants, chandeliers, and sconces, they are often builder-grade, run-of-the-mill, cheap options that appeal to the greatest number of people. (To get the sale, of course.) But you aren’t most people. Your family and lifestyle are unique, and your lighting choices should reflect that. 

Elevated lighting adds a delicious focal point to your room and helps define your space, especially in an open concept floor plan. By adding elevated lighting, you create the room’s ambiance, colors, and crowning jewel. 

Just like us designers, you can upgrade your home quickly and easily with new lighting that fits your personal style. Once you’ve selected the right pieces, all you need is an electrician to swap out the lighting for you. For more lighting tips, see here.


From our Beach House project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston

4. Add Fresh New Paint

Paint lets you inject your personal style into a space and can completely transform the feel of your home, from bright and fun to dark and moody. Fresh paint also makes you feel excited to live in your new home because it feels fresh and like YOU.

Again, when you buy a new home, chances are high that the walls will be white or a neutral beige or gray. Hello, mass appeal. There’s nothing more blah to me than basic white walls, especially if the undertone clashes with my furniture. (Yes, there is an undertone in every shade of white.)

The solution? Paint it. Yes, even in a rental I’ve painted my walls my desired color, and then when it was time to move out, I hired a painter to return the walls to white. It was worth it! 


From our Beach House project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston

5. Update the Hardware

If you find yourself moving into a home with a kitchen and bathroom right out of the ‘90s, this easy upgrade will make all the difference… hardware. Although your home’s hardware has a mostly functional purpose, it can also transform a space by defining the style of your home. So if you aren’t ready to invest in new cabinets (or it’s a rental), do what designers do — swap out the knobs, handles, and pulls in your bathroom and kitchen. 

Updating the hardware may seem like a small detail, but it can transform a space. There are thousands of options to choose from, so start with the style and feel you want to achieve. Do you want a modern, transitional, or contemporary feel? 

Then, take those knobs and pulls for a test drive. Make sure they feel natural and comfortable in your hand. Also, choose a color that compliments the cabinets and colors in the room. These prompts will help you find the perfect hardware to update the look and feel of your space.


From our San Francisco Style Project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston

There you have it — you now know what designers choose to splurge on in their own homes, rentals, apartments, and ADUs. (Splurging vs. scrimping is a large part of what we do.) 

Now that you’re in on our little secret, we’d love to hear about your plans to update your living space. Have any big plans? Or little updates with big impact? We can help! We even have a new service where you can hire us to help you by the hour or by room. If you’re ready for pros who prioritize you and your busy lifestyle, let’s chat.





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