Ask A Connecticut Expert: Shopping For Home Decor On A Budget

July 22, 2014 7:00 AM

(credit: Thinkstock)

Whether you’re settling in to your first apartment or looking to upgrade your current house, at some point you’re going to need to buy some home furnishings. But this can present a challenge if you have a limited amount of money to spend. For some good advice on how to stretch your dollar and still make your home look the best it can, we turned to Karen Fiorito-Preli, Director of Design for United House Wrecking in Stamford.

Karen Fiorito-Preli, Director of Design
United House Wrecking, Inc.
535 Hope St.
Stamford, CT 06906
(203) 348-5371

United House Wrecking began as a demolition business in 1954 – hence the name – but has long since been transformed into one of Connecticut’s largest retailers for home decor. Inside its 43,000-square-foot showroom are items for every room in your home from furniture, rugs and bathtubs to artwork, mirrors and stained glass. In addition, sprawled out over 2.5 acres outside the store, is everything you would need for your patio, deck or backyard. UHW carries items that are new and used, modern and vintage, familiar and unusual, with many of them sold at a discount. That’s why Karen Fiorito-Preli was the perfect person to ask for tips for budget-minded shoppers.

Tip 1: Determine What Your Budget Is

Before you begin shopping, be realistic about how much you can spend. “For every customer, that number is different,” says Fiorito-Preli. “Is it $2,500, $5,000, $7,000? Basically, what are you looking for? Are you looking for a quick freshen-up? If that’s the case then perhaps a nice pair of lamps and a couple of pillows and maybe a vase or two will do the job.” She adds that if you’re looking to purchase a couch or a sofa to keep a couple hundred dollars open on the back of the budget for some accents.

Tip 2: Prioritize The Most-Used Rooms In Your Home

Fiorito-Preli recommends investing your budget in furniture for those rooms used most by household members, especially children, such as a family or living room. “Most people do not want to replace a sofa in two years. When that situation happens, a home is never really done because you keep replacing furniture.” That’s why she says to spend your money on “a good sofa covered in a really good fabric that’s forgiving,” not just for comfort’s sake, but because it will save you money in the long term.

Related: Best Home Decor Stores In Connecticut

Tip 3: Sign Up For Store E-mail Newsletters

Most retailers offer customers the opportunity to sign up for the company’s email updates, so if you find one you like, take advantage. “United House Wrecking has a huge email base, and with that we send out newsletters about special events and promotional offers,” says Fiorito-Preli. “When you get those emails and they’re saying ‘Storewide Sale In 2 Weeks’ or ‘Our Patio Sale Is Now On – Take An Additional 20% Off,’ you can plan what you’re doing.” She also advises finding stores that, like UHW, are featured on sites like Living Social and Groupon which can offer great bargains.

Tip 4: Consider Used Or Imperfect Items and Do-It-Yourself

Fioriti-Preli says that handy customers can find inexpensive finds at tag sales, antique stores or flea markets which can then be fixed up to look like new. An older table with fading color, for instance, can be brought home, sanded down and given a fresh coat of paint. She says some of her best customers believe in this DIY approach. “Get a little touch-up stick. All the artwork I buy here is stuff that’s got a little ding or two. I don’t mind – get a little marker, touch it up and it looks like a million dollars.” Be creative and consider what smaller items can be homemade; for example if you can sew, you can make your own throw pillows rather than buying them.

Related: Top Places For Antiques In Connecticut

Joshua Palmes is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on

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