8 Tips for Buying Home Accessories

Whenever I’m designing a space, it doesn’t quite feel finished until I style the space with decor and accessories.

Clear off your built-ins

It can feel cold and bland, but once you add the right accessories, the room transforms into something cozy and personal. It’s those finishing touches that take things to the next level!

My best tips for buying home accessories
How to Style Built-Ins

So while anyone can just go and buy something from Target to display on their shelves, I want to teach you my best tips for buying home accessories that will work well with your personal style and space.

8 Tips for Buying Home Accessories

My consistent home habits
Tips to Decorate Kitchen Shelves

These aren’t hard and fast rules. Instead, they serve as guidelines so you can strategically shop. So whether it’s wall art, picture frames, throw pillows, or the perfect vase for your shelf, I’m offering my best shopping tips for buying home accessories.

1. Know Your Size Limits

Ellis' nursery reveal
Ellis’ Nursery

Let’s pretend that we’re shopping for decor for a specific area, like a bookshelf or built-ins. The very first thing you need to do is measure the space. If it’s a shelf, figure out how tall you can go with the decor piece and identify the approximate width too.

I like to keep a list in the Notes app on my phone with this information, so I’m always ready to go when shopping. I often keep a small tape measure in my purse too. (This one comes in handy all the time!)

I’ve made the mistake of buying something too tall or too wide and I hate lugging it all the way home just to find out that it won’t work in my space. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

My dos and don'ts for throw pillow styling

This is also very helpful if you’re shopping for throw pillows for your living room sofa. You can check out this blog post with my best tips for buying the right-sized throw pillows (Bigger is usually better!) and then take that information with you when shopping!

2. Identify Loose Guidelines

Nightstand styling
My Mom’s Bedroom Reveal

After identifying the sizes, I then note VERY loose guidelines as to what I’m looking for. These notes usually include information about the color I’m looking for, the texture, the number of items for a grouping, etc. These loose guidelines make the hunt a little less overwhelming, but I do want to stress that I never make a list of EXACT items I’m looking for. That makes the hunt a lot more challenging and way more frustrating.

My best tips for buying home accessories
Tips To Style A Coffee Table

Let’s say I’m trying to style my coffee table (Here are my best tips for that!) and I know I need a tray for the surface. If my table is square, then I might want to find a round tray to complement the straight lines of the table. If the table is black, then I probably want a lighter-colored tray to put on top. Adding these notes can make your shopping experience a lot easier.

3. Don’t Overspend

My best tips for buying home accessories
Our Living Room

I rarely splurge on really expensive home accents. I like to change things up so often that it just doesn’t make sense to pay lots of money for smaller items like a vase or decorative object. HomeGoods and Target are some of the best home decor stores and you can often find things at low prices. I’ve also found some of my most treasured pieces and favorite finds from antique stores and thrift shops, so don’t be afraid to do some digging!

Our new hallway gallery wall
Our Hallway Gallery Wall

The one area where I will spend extra is on wall decor. Whether it’s a gorgeous piece of art or a high-quality frame, I think that’s a smart place to spend your money.

The best home products summer 2022
Free Vintage Art

On the other hand, I have lots of free and super budget-friendly art pieces mixed throughout our home too. You can find lots of inexpensive art ideas in this blog post.

If you’re new to decorating a house and you’re not sure where to spend and where to save, this blog post dives into the real costs that go into creating a home.

4. Choose Items That Are Meaningful

Handpainted tray by my great grandmother
A Tray Handpainted by My Great-Grandmother

I love a perfectly styled shelf, but I really love a perfectly styled shelf that tells a story about the homeowner. Anyone can recreate the exact look from a Pottery Barn catalog. It’s going to be much more special if you incorporate decorative objects that share a bit about your interests, travels, or the important people in your life.

These items will add that personal touch that no other home can have. Here are a few ideas and DIY projects from my own home…

Add a basket of postcards to your shelf
A basket filled with postcards from our travels
Adjusting the shelves to fit our new piece
A family doily I framed for Rory’s room
Large Crate from Wausau, WI
Thrift store crate from the first city we lived in together
Add meaningful decor to your kitchen
Framed family recipe in the kitchen
My best tips for buying home accessories
Elephant from our babymoon in Finn’s office

5. Shop Your Home

My favorite room transformations - pink and green nursery
Rory’s Nursery

Before you shop, look around your house and try to use decorative objects you already have. So many times I re-work items from around my house into new places in my home and I instantly have a newfound love for these old pieces.

Try to use what you have before buying new.

6. Follow My Styling Tips

Jan's main bathroom freestanding tub
My Mom’s Main Bathroom

While styling information will be helpful when it comes time to actually display your items, it’s also good to review before you buy so you are searching for the right decorative pieces. This blog post goes into all of my best tips for styling shelves.

Group items together in threes

One of the most important styling tips is to incorporate a variety of heights to add visual interest and depth. While you’re out shopping, keep this in mind. Try to buy a variety of sizes and shapes to create a diverse collection. I like to group beautiful home decor items in threes (That’s the sweet spot!) and I will always make sure I have different sizes.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Buy Accessories Online

My feel good makeover from 2022
Our Feel Good Makeover

While I do love shopping in-store for accent pieces (There’s just something about being able to hold an object in your hands before you decide!), don’t be afraid to do some online shopping for home decor. The internet is a great place to shop because there are no constraints! As long as you have your size requirements and loose guidelines (See tips #1 and #2), you can search away for the perfect items that match your home decor style. Here are some of my favorite online retailers for decorative accessories.

  • Anthropologie ($$$): Unique pieces, but often with a higher price tag. I go here when I want an eclectic piece of decor. I adore their candles and candle holders, but I wait for sales!
  • World Market ($): Global and boho look at a good price point. Lots of budget lighting options.
  • CB2 ($$): A bit more modern, masculine, and contemporary with a lower price point than Crate and Barrel.
  • H&M Home ($$): A favorite online retailer of mine! They have unique pieces with an Anthro vibe but at low prices. Check out these stoneware vases and this wooden picture frame.
  • Target ($$): It really is a one-stop shop for on-trend home decor and accessories.
  • Etsy ($): Shop handmade and one-of-a-kind pieces while supporting small businesses. Yes, please!
  • West Elm ($$): Mid-century modern interior style. I especially love their planters for my indoor plants.
  • Wayfair ($): Robust collection of products at lots of different price points. You have to do some digging, but I’ve found good items here.
  • Amazon ($):  You might need to dig a bit to find the good stuff, but it is possible to find lots of home furnishings here. In fact, every single item from our Feel Good Makeover was from Amazon. Plus, you can’t beat free shipping.
  • Urban Outfitters ($$): Yes, they sell stuff for the entire home. Unique pieces with many of them renter and small space friendly.
  • Pottery Barn ($$$): Traditional and farmhouse style. My favorite products are their lanterns, pillows, and throw blankets.

8. Only Buy What You LOVE

My best living room coffee table ideas
My Living Room Coffee Table

Don’t ever buy just to buy – especially when you’re feeling desperate to get the job done soon. Hold off and wait for things you absolutely love to ensure you’ll love them (and love your space) months or even years from now.

Don’t put a deadline on getting these items for your new home. It’s a process to furnish and decorate your home and it will not happen overnight.

Tips for Buying Home Accessories

My best tips for buying home accessories

In short, here’s my advice for buying your perfect home decor accessories:

  • Measure.
  • Jot down loose guidelines.
  • Don’t overspend.
  • Allow your space to tell your story.
  • Shop your home. You may be surprised by what you find.
  • Know styling secrets before you shop.
  • Don’t be afraid to hit up online retailers.
  • Buy ONLY what you love…no exceptions!
Our pretty home office

And once you have those gorgeous new items of yours, you can check out these tips for styling the perfect shelf!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.