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19 design-y decor ideas (from an architect)

They’re all under $301

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As an architect, I have the great fortune of working on high-profile projects with custom furniture and luxurious materials. I don’t have that same luxury when it comes to my own home, so I’ve gotten creative about finding more affordable pieces that allow me to incorporate of-the-moment design trends, like curved forms, offbeat colors, and rich textures, on a more, shall we say, modest budget.

A table with two levels, under a round mirror.

I first saw this on Instagram and immediately had to take a second look. The sharp console is constructed of six lozenge shapes; we’re seeing this geometry in absolutely every design magazine right now. The natural texture of the wood is balanced by the clean concentric lines. It’s one of my favorite pieces from Amazon’s very good, limited-edition run of Jonathan Adler.

A small beige round table with angled legs.

I love the pure geometry of this piece; one rectangle, one triangle, and one circle slot together to make a statement that looks different from every angle. For our hospitality projects, we’re often looking for sculptural little side tables that can work together, compositionally, with a lounge chair, but this one’s also great as a plant stand — or even a stool — in a pinch.

Cube with different colored sides.

Another standout piece from Amazon’s Jonathan Adler collection is this multicolored mirrored accent table. Group a few together for a coffee table stand-in, or stick with one if your apartment’s on the smaller side. The reflective detail will bring a little shine to your space — and the mirrored surface will make your room look larger, too.

Rectangular moss green pillow.

Arcs, arches, and the aforementioned lozenges are ubiquitous in interior design right now. There’s still a lot of life left in this trend, as the look only recently found its way to mass market retailers like Target. On a recent hospitality project, we mixed these pillows in with custom ones from Zak & Fox and Maharam, and they looked right at home. The color’s sophisticated, and the lumbar shape serves as a nice counterpart to more typical square throw pillows.

Blue-greenish marble slab in a L-shape.

The silhouettes, colors, and materials of the 1980s are back with a vengeance, and I’m particularly excited about loud and colorful marbles. I spend a lot of time at stone yards selecting slabs of marble for projects, and I dream of finding a slab of deep green marble with blue undertones to use with walnut and brass for a kitchen island. For now, though, I’ll settle for this amazingly affordable bookend.

Square pink pillow sits on a round wooden stool.

Velvet, as well as its plusher cousin mohair, instantly elevates sofas, chairs, and pillows. The material also ages beautifully and is easy to clean. I especially like the luxurious but affordable cushions from Woven Nook. They come in a range of offbeat and striking colors; this cozy-feeling blush would be great for a hygge winter.

Round gold-finish stool.

From candles to vases to this pretty little side table from Target, stacked totem-like shapes are everywhere right now. I’m a sucker for metallics, and this lands just on the right side of tacky for me.

Rectangular bench with woven seating.

For a recent project, we worked with weavers in Denmark for six months to create custom pieces, but this much more affordable version is honestly 90 percent as great at a tenth of the cost. While it’s certainly on-trend, it’s also a piece you’ll want to keep for a very long time. At work, we often pair these with a long dining table or place them at the foot of a bed.

Two terrazzo-print pillars with column-like white candles on top.

Architects love terrazzo for its endless variations; we’ve used it with tiny flecks of mica for poured flooring in retail stores; with giant pieces of pink aggregate for café spaces; and with subtle tone-on-tone coloration for tiles. For those a smaller touch of terrazzo, I recommend these, which can serve as candleholders, mantle decorations, and tablescape décor. I love their brass belts, which are reminiscent of the brass divider strips we’d use for poured terrazzo surfaces.

Bench with pink seating and black frame.

Drawing from the skinny-leg furniture from Scandinavian furniture leaders like Hay and Muuto, this bench has a great balance of spare and soft. I love the asymmetry of the front and back and the great coral pink color of the padded top.

L-shaped side table with white surface and black legs.

A study in balance of form and material, this travertine side table looks far more expensive than it is. The creamy warmth of the stone pairs well with more strong-willed tones and textures. We frequently use travertine as a complement to bold colors and materials like walnut and blackened steel.

Editor’s Note: This side table is sold out at Anthropologie, but this stone and metal side table, also from Anthropologie, has a nice balanced look. If you want straight-up travertine, here’s a cube from Pottery Barn.

Plant in a pink planter.

This affordable yet elegant planter elevates any old Ikea snake plant. When we’re starting on a project, the first thing we do is bring in as many plants as we can. They add life to shelves, fill odd corners, and produce a biophilic human response of calm and focus. This planter has made an appearance in many recent projects alongside woven baskets, bubbled glass, and other textured vessels.

Hexagonal tiles in a blush color.

I received this set of tiles as a gift from my business partner and loved it so much I now give it out to friends all the time. They function as coasters or, when clustered together, as a trivet, and they’re fun to play with like a puzzle. They also look great on a wood coffee table or a composed tablescape. I like them best in this soft matte pink, but they also come in a chalky black and a persimmon red.

Tan colored candle with ridges.

Here’s that totem shape again, this time in soft desaturated hues and scentless wax. At work, I often use these in groups for a sculptural installation on a table.

Clear soap with colorful bits embedded.

Reminiscent of the Memphis design movement, with a touch of Lisa Frank and Beetlejuice, this wacky soap makes the ’80s kid in me very happy. It’s a great gift for someone who loves wild colors and patterns but isn’t quite ready to commit to a hot-pink chair.

Rug with an angular purple and black pattern.

If, on the other hand, you’re ready for a step up from wild-colored soap, this flat-woven wool rug would brighten up any space. We often suggest to clients that they invest in neutral and timeless anchor pieces, like sofas and dining tables, but then supplement with bold supporting pieces, like rugs and side chairs, that can be changed out more frequently.

Tan-orange colored table with round column-like legs.

Terracotta is a pretty timeless material, but it’s having a bit of a moment in jewelry, interior finishes, and housewares. This side table, with its elephant-thick legs and adorably chubby shape, is the opposite of the slim-lined Scandinavian furniture that has dominated the market for the past few years. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see an emerging aesthetic of rough plaster walls, blobby forms, and creature-like ceramics.

Editor’s Note: This stool is sold out, but the Bongo stool—which is taller than the Bingo and has one leg instead of three—is available for the same price.

A small curved table sits near a bigger curved table.

This is a playful contemporary spin on the Danish woven cord bench, simplified into a rounded singular shape. For residential projects, I steer away from large glass or wood coffee tables with hard edges. In my own family’s home, the coffee table gets a lot of wear and tear, with children crawling on top and dogs scratching underneath, and I imagine my clients are no different. I recommend buying this table in both sizes (the small goes for $99, the large for $179), and placing them perpendicular to each other. It’s a strong statement that totals less than $300.

An armchair with off-white woven seating and a black wood frame.

You knew there needed to be some cane on this list, right? From headboards to plant stands to those ubiquitous Urban Outfitters chairs, woven wicker caning has been everywhere these past few years. What drew me to this particular piece is its square geometry, its high thin back, and the juxtaposition of black-painted elm wood and cane. It’s a neutral accent piece that can complement existing living room furniture, but it’s unique enough to stand on its own. We’re using this exact one on some upcoming projects.