• Homewares + Furniture  • Why are you Ashamed of your Budget Homewares Buys?
Cotton On Kids winter 2016 cat and bunny bedding

Why are you Ashamed of your Budget Homewares Buys?

A little while ago, I worked with a colleague who everyone thought to be quite the stylish lady when it came to interiors. And she was. She had an amazing eye for colour, showed great restraint when putting a room together (she knew exactly when to stop dressing) and her taste level was pretty exceptional. Her downfall: she was ashamed of budget buys.

One day she was telling me about one of her kids rooms, which had a bed from brand X, bedside from brand Y and some art from brand Z (I don’t remember the exact brands, but they were what I would consider to be at the higher end of the scale).

When it came to the shelf she had in her little one’s room, she leant in toward me and lowered her voice (as though a shameful secret from her past was about to be revealed) and whispered “and the shelf is just cheap find… from IKEA“.

Kmart homewares - Kmart lamp and shadow boxes and canvas art - The Life Creative
The sentence seemed to get quieter as she got to the end of it, as though saying the word IKEA out loud would see squad cars appear out of nowhere and take her to design jail. This happened a few times when she would talk about her house, actually, and she wasn’t the only one in the circle who treated budget buys with such shame.

Studying design and interior styling in years gone by, I saw it a lot. Declaring that most of my house was decked out in brands like Freedom (that was acceptable), IKEA (tsk tsk) and Target (gasp, shriek and quiver) was akin to telling people I was raised by wolves. And don’t dare utter the words ‘replica furniture‘ or Fight Club will break out.

This attitude toward budget homewares brands baffled me then and it still baffles me now, especially when I see people whisper about something they found at The Reject Shop or Kmart. Typo is sometimes referred to in the same light, but Cotton On Kids… is oddly OK.

What’s with the style snobbery and brand shaming, I wonder? I don’t really care where something comes from as long as it looks nice and nobody gets hurt. And yet, in design circles that seems to be completely frowned upon. I was even around some industry insiders a few months back who rolled their eyes at Adairs decor, as though it was so very passé. Am I living in a parallel universe?

Kmart outdoor furniture set in aqua teal - The Life Creative

Sure there are some budget furniture pieces that it’s best to steer clear of (more on that here) but for the most part, I’m genuinely confused as to where these attitudes originate.

I’d be keen to get your thoughts on whether this has ever happened to you. Or if you have found yourself feeling like admitting to bargain buys is a cardinal design sin. Maybe you’ve been shamed by someone who thinks spending less than nine grand on a sofa is akin to living in poverty.

I will wrap up by saying that I do understand if the distain for budget buys is due to poor quality (or cheap slave labour). Of course, I completely appreciate that some items are so cheap because the quality is not there. But as a consumer, I’ve always completely understood that concept in some stores and purchased the goods knowing they wouldn’t be treasured possessions that’d be handed down from generation to generation.

I don’t go to Pizza Hut expecting five-star service, and I apply the same concept to some of the budget stores I shop at.

Drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts on bargain buys and budget homewares – and how they’re thought of in your circle. 

Image one via Cotton On Kids, images 2 and three via Kmart.

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He's also spent time on TV, on Channel 10's Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7's Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

  • Rachel


    If the design is good and works with the room I don’t care what label it carries (as long as it’s ethical!). I have quite an outrageous dinner table that everyone who sees, comments on. The funny thing is, that sometimes when I tell people it’s second hand they no longer like it…. Go figure!

    17 August, 2015
      • Oh man I have a lot of secondhand things (I love trash and treasure markets!) and find people are either horrified or impressed. The budget homewares debate is similarly polarising. I have interior designer friends who are proud of their ability to make cheap look a million bucks; while others do the “it’s from IKEA / Kmart / Target” whisper and ashamedly ask me not to publish that on my blog. But why not? Not everything can be local or handcrafted or bespoke. I don’t see the shame in nabbing a bargain at all. Be proud of it! I’d rather have a house furnished on a budget and a chunk paid off our mortgages.

        20 August, 2015
  • Cathy Elsmore


    Don’t get me started on this subject Chris!! You know how I feel about a great bargain find and no one has the right to judge anyone on their choices or how much they paid for their find. I am just so glad that there are a lot more stores stocking a great selection of affordable homewares and furniture now. The budget consious shoppers are now able to purchase some amazing products without taking out a second mortgage to do so.

    17 August, 2015
  • Alyson


    This is SO true! I could (and pretty much do) visit IKEA every week and never get sick of it – so many of my favourite things are from there! I definitely have Target too, but seriously, if it looks good / is liked by those living in the space / does its job then who cares?!

    I would love to own some of the crazy expensive pieces I see so frequently online and in mags, but I’m doing just fine with the lower end items over here!

    17 August, 2015
  • Karenc


    Its such a shame that so many interior designers have a reputation for being snobby and having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. I got the same feeling at design school, and I was frowned upon if I should dare mention anything mainstream. Im cash poor but creativity rich and I still passed!! I get a lot of joy from helping people create something that looks good with what they have and sharing ideas for bargain buys.
    Viva les bargains!!

    17 August, 2015
  • Suzy


    I live in the UK and I have to say we love a bargain over here! I would say when it comes to my home decor and furniture approx 60% of it is second hand or items I purchased on sale and I delight in telling people (especially my 99p armchair I won on ebay!). But I do love to splurge too and have spent a ridiculous amount on wallpaper, paint and home accessories from Laura Ashley. The funny thing is I feel uncomfortable telling people how much these expensive items cost (and sometimes lie “it was a real bargain in the sale!”).

    17 August, 2015
  • I don’t find it shameful to bargain and take home a cheap yet eye catching home decor buys. The lady you’re talking about must be approval-seeking by nature. May be it’s upto the individuals, not in general.

    17 August, 2015
  • Aja


    It’s a very interesting topic. On the one hand I think finding a low cost but good looking piece for your home is a thrill like no other! I bought 2 of the plywood Frosta stools from Ikea the other day that I have been loving so much in my lounge room. I also bought the kmart copper wire basket for our throws that has been another awesome addition to the space. Having said that, quality is also important to me. For larger or ‘hero’ pieces I prefer to go with vintage – I admire a LOT of bespoke timber furniture but it’s so not in our budget to buy and with a young family I just can’t justify it. And I totally agree with Suzy – we spent $1,700 on our Armadillo & Co lounge room rug (thank YOU tax return!) and I am embarrassed to tell people about it!

    As i’m getting older i’m really starting to understand the value in mixing my interior items so that higher end brands I love can be represented along with bargain vintage finds and some mass produced bargains as well that allow me to engage with current trends. It’s a balancing act. I think supporting local where possible and affordable is really important as well. There’s something really beautiful about helping creativity to flourish in your community

    17 August, 2015
  • Louisa


    What a great post! I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying budget homewares. I have found some great things at Kmart, target and reject shop in the last year, and I’m not ashamed to have them side by side with some of my more expensive furniture and homewares. It makes it more interesting I think!

    18 August, 2015
  • I think a lot has to do with sourcing the right low budget piece. You can buy incredibly good things at Ikea and mix it in with your other bits of furniture. Personally I think if you have a talent for this you can reach a much wider clientele

    28 August, 2015
  • jadeyjeu


    Gone are the days of having a disposable income that I can spill into home decor at the turn of every trend, truth is, I’m a full time mum by choice, raising our 2 soon to be 3 kids, but still like our home to look interesting, current and reflect our style. So I am very thankful for budget finds because otherwise I’d have to do without. I jealously observe those who can afford to dot designer pieces throughout their whole house and wonder what their credit limits are at. Hey, it makes me feel better! If I could I would too but I’m glad they are available to me with a smaller price tag attached.

    1 September, 2015
  • its_ella_bella


    I don’t have a problem finding a great piece at a great price be it second hand or from a chain store, this issue i have is replica furniture and homeware companies making a fortune from copying a designer or handcrafted piece and not crediting the original designer/maker while at the same time contributing to global warming by having the piece made in mass cheaply overseas, the typo copy of the great Amindy & co clocks come to mind. Amindy make their products locally near geelong and now Typo (HQ based in Geelong) are making copies in China

    8 September, 2015
  • This was such a great post! I don’t think I have read anything like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it! 🙂 I am a budget shopper, and I happen to love all the budget stores. I think it takes a good eye to make budget store décor look beautiful in your home. So budget shoppers should be applauded! Not everyone can afford high end design, so that’s ok!

    23 October, 2015
  • Helen Woods


    I was reading the first ladies post about her second hand table and knew just what she meant by other people reactions.They look like they want to run for the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer when you tell them something is second hand . Next time tell them your piece is a antique and watch them step back and admire it , they might suddenly become scared to use it because its too good . Lol aren’t most antiques second hand ? You should see peoples faces when l tell them l pick things up from hard rubbish collections! I’m a el cheapo and l love Kmart !

    11 February, 2016
  • gosh.If I only had high end stuff, it would be a VERY sparse and unfriendly home. I have a few of them…BUT There is so much more to a home than the brands you use. How very very boring. How very very strange.Imagine…having to buy things from shops that THE GENERAL POPULUS DOES.How vulgar. How common. And how very NORMAL. Shux. Most of my house is second hand… and I love it.

    22 February, 2016
  • I don’t think there should be any stigma attached to budget homewares. Budget nowadays does not mean loud primary colours in plastic tubs or anything flimsy that comes with a horrible paint smell. Many of them are easy on the wallet and right on trend.

    The cost of living nowadays is already high enough, why anyone should be ashamed just because we want our home to look pretty without splashing out big bucks?

    25 February, 2016
  • Cathy scullino


    Well thats how behind i am I didn’t realize ikea was tsk tsk you learn something everyday, Im afraid I do get slightly embarrassed with certain friends and family when I admit Ive brought from kmart etc…they spend thousands on home decor but I showed them when My budget bedroom was awarded a finalist in last year’s home beautiful competition, a great example that style and class can be brought at any price….they were gob smacked. ….Me, well I had the last laugh

    28 February, 2016
  • I know this post is a bit old, but I just read it, and I love your sentiments and all the comments. Most Australian interior designers and decorators are so afraid of anything that is not “suitably” branded or expensive enough! Having lived from many years in Denmark, I can tell you that there would not be an architect/interior designer in the whole country who hasn’t specified an Ikea kitchen (though they often add a more expensive bench top) and they don’t seem to be at all shy about proudly announcing the fact in magazine articles. What’s more, open any Danish home magazine and you’ll find the most beautiful and stylish rooms filled with second hand, re-purposed and inexpensive finds.

    13 March, 2016
  • Den


    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with styling your home with what ever brand, however more and more I am finding it quite difficult to digest that Kmart are copying small business designers. And because they have the contacts in manufacturing overseas, they are producing them dirt cheap.

    I don’t think this is fair for the designer who has originally created the concept. They tend to be copying designers who don’t really have a leg to stand on in terms of taking the big boys to court so to speak. Ikea have their own designers. I can’t put ikea and kmart in the same basket. In my option the copyright law in Australia is too lenient compared to overseas, so it’s making it easier for them to get away with it here.

    Btw just came across this tonight via google… And then happen to follow you already on insta (via kreo)

    25 March, 2016
  • Holly


    I think people who are designing to impress others, are ashamed of the budget buys. My mom is quite the snob and wouldn’t be caught dead in Ikea. In fact years ago my brother refused to enter the store, saying it was for college students. Lol Well I’ve recently ordered two duvets from Ikea and love them! I love their solid wood pine pieces and I’m currently waiting for an Ikea coffee table to be delivered. I think Ikea is awesome. My mom can keep her snobby stuff.

    24 February, 2018

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