A designer I know recently tweeted that he loves things that don't look expensive but, in fact, are. I tweeted back that I like things that look expensive but, in fact, are not. Don't get me wrong, I understand his point — understated luxury is like a fabulous secret just for you. There is great pleasure in that. Fine materials and workmanship can set a piece apart and make its quality and value only discernible to those in the know.

But as someone who is surrounded by the best of the best on a daily basis, I admit it can be a little disappointing to have champagne tastes on a tap water budget. That's why I take such delight at finding pieces that have great design lines at very affordable prices. Here are my top 5 current faves.

The Portfolio stainless outdoor wall light, $37 at Lowe's, has a great nautical look but it doesn't have to stay outdoors. I recently suggested it for a friend's cottage bathroom and it looks great. In my research I came across many that look like it with price tags 10 times higher.

These 2" faux wood horizontal blinds have been a favourite of mine for many years. Prices start at about $30 for a small window. I have installed them or specified them for more than 30 windows. That includes the six I installed myself over the weekend at our place in Tweed, Ont. They can be custom cut at the store to the right width for your window. I prefer a snug inside-mount installation. I almost always pair them with fabric side panel drapes or a fabric valance and roman blind to soften the look. Here's an example of how I paired them with café curtains. Bonus: having the same blinds in every window boosts your home's curb appeal too.

I spotted these Carlisle Metal Barstools or Counter stools ($99/set of 2) at Target recently. What a fun pop of colour. I think the yellow is my favourite. You get two of these for half the price of what one reasonably priced stool usually costs. They come in several colours, but I have found stock to be low in many Target stores so you may have to hunt for them if you want them.

I used the Ikea Aina linen curtain panels, $60/set of two panels, as hangings for my four-poster bed, but I've been using them for years on windows too. For this same bedroom I had the panels lined with room-darkening lining and had French pleats added to the top for a semi-custom window treatment.

Every season West Elm tempts me with something sumptuous for the bed. Last week when I popped in the store I fell for this collection. The Linen Cotton Blend Bedding (queen duvet cover, $165) has very simple unfussy styling and some very yummy colours. I like the idea of mixing the darker hues to cozy up the bedroom for autumn. And for the record, I would style them in all their wrinkled splendour — no steaming or ironing.


Jackie Dall'Orso

Jackie Dall'Orso

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Miller Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage*
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