How to Shop Like an Interior Designer

Interior designers have a well-honed—and sometimes seemingly mythical—ability to scope out the best finds (it’s one of the reasons to hire them in the first place). With a new season on the horizon, and much of our time still spent at home, many people are beginning to think about ways to refresh their surroundings, so we asked Krista Lewis of K. Lewis Interior Design in Little Rock, Arkansas, to share her tips for shopping for interiors. Here, she reveals what to splurge on, how to scope out the premises, and which accessories can make a big impact.

Plan ahead. During the pandemic, many retail shops are offering shopping by appointment, limiting the number of patrons within their store at any given time, and/or showcasing their offerings virtually, so it’s a good idea to call ahead to determine their current mode of operation. If and when you do venture out, be sure to follow proper health and safety protocols (wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer, etc.).

Splurge where it matters. “I think it’s always a good idea to invest in quality, timeless pieces that will last,” Lewis shares. Think of the anchor pieces that affect your life daily, such as the living room sofa or your mattress. “I’m a big proponent of waiting and investing in quality pieces versus purchasing the cheaper version that won’t last, or isn’t as comfortable,” she says. Lewis also suggests that splurging on a small amount of something really special, like a beautiful fabric for pillows or an incredible wallpaper for a powder room, can make a big impact.

Reject disposable design. “As much as I love beautiful interiors and changing them up, I do not like disposable design,” Lewis says. “Eventually, upholstery wears out, but quality pieces can and should be recovered.” Keep this in mind when shopping at resale shops and estate sales, where there are often gems hidden under old or outdated fabric.

Consider natural fiber rugs. Hand-woven wool rugs are gorgeous, but if you’re looking for a way to save, Lewis opts for large, natural fiber rugs, which look great and cover a lot of territory. You can also layer smaller, less expensive hand-woven rugs on top for a wonderful, textured look, she advises.

Look to estate sales and antique malls for fantastic finds. While these establishments can seem overwhelming, Lewis says they can be a good source for rugs, furniture, lamps, and artwork—and for reasonable prices. While you’re there, keep your eye out for small accessories, such as books (for coffee tables and shelves), hurricane lanterns, blue and white porcelain, baskets, and trays that can add character and personality to a room.

Shop with intent and utilize sales staff. “I always make several laps around a store when I’m shopping,” Lewis says. “There are so many pieces at different levels that you have to literally look high and low.” She also seeks out salespeople to inquire about specific items. In addition to knowing their current inventory, they can also give you first dibs on a coveted item that’s on its way into the store.

Photograph of Krista Lewis by Jason Masters. TSG Tip 379 from Krista Lewis of K. Lewis Interior Design in Little Rock, Arkansas. K. Lewis Interior Design is featured in The Scout Guide Little Rock.