Designers' Favorite Basics
Shop hand-picked favorites from your favorite big-box stores
These days, even tastemakers shop big-box retailers for well-designed, well-made (and well-priced!) fixtures, fittings, and furnishings that are always in stock—and in style. Here, some go-to buys from four of our favorite pros.
Who: Dee Elms
Principal with Terrat Elms Interior Design, in Boston, Elms has brought a clean-lined and comfortable aesthetic to multiple This Old House TV project houses.
Why she loves it: "It's a substantial table that feels good to the touch. It's like an old harvest table but with a streamlined look that's fit for a casual summer cottage or a contemporary great room."
The details: Made in the same family-run factory for more than 12 years, this wax-finished white-oak table has heartwood legs and comes in two sizes.
From $1,800; Crate and Barrel
Why she loves it: "It's a classic ceiling-mount fixture, yet paired with the painted glass shade it feels updated and fun. The banding adds great color over a kitchen sink or in a powder room."
The details: Handcrafted in the U.S.A. of heavy-gauge brass, the base's stepped design evokes Art Deco lighting from the 1930s.
4-inch fixture, about $164; Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
Why she loves it: "The headboard is so sleek, with the slightest camelback hump in the middle and handsome nailhead trim. I let it be the star in the room, and have everything else recede. For a neat appearance, tuck in the bedding so you can see the rails. Then punch it up with a throw pillow in the same shade as the upholstery."
The details: Made in the U.S.A. in 11 shades of velvet, plus custom leathers and linens.
From $2,580; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Who: Amy A. Alper
An architect in Sonoma, California, Alper is known for creating farmhouse-style spaces with a contemporary vibe.
Why she loves it: "It's a simple white stile-and-rail design that'll never look dated. For a more custom look, I use it only on the base cabinets. Up top, I do open shelves or use open cabinet boxes and paint the insides to add a splash of color."
The details: This top seller comes in painted solid birch or fiberboard with a thermofoil finish (shown).
About $34 for a 15-by-15-inch door; IKEA
Why she loves it: "It's an outdoor light that works well in a bathroom, where you have a lot of moisture. Put two over a vanity mirror. The style is rustic but with modern lines and a geometric quality."
The details: Made of all-weather aluminum with a bronze finish, the sconce is a fresh take on Arts and Crafts lighting from the early 1900s. Comes in three sizes.
About $80 for the 7½-inch-high model (shown); Kichler, lumens.com
Why she loves it: "It's clean and simple with a nod to tradition. I like to vary the size. Use a larger one, for instance, on the fixed drawer front below the sink so you can hang a towel on it."
The details: Patterned after an old window-sash lift, this solid-brass pull comes in four sizes and finishes.
About $10 for the 3½-inch pull in polished nickel (shown); Restoration Hardware
Who: Paige McClellan
Interior designer at Niche Furnishings + Design, in St. Louis, McClellan creates eclectic interiors that mix modern and traditional styles.
Why she loves it: "One of the most versatile pedestals, it goes with Arts and Crafts and Art Deco interiors and has a remarkably wide, flat deck that can function as a countertop. It's perfect in a powder room where space for toiletries is limited."
The details: This vitreous-china sink has chamfered edges borrowed from Craftsman-style millwork and comes in 10 colors.
About $241 in white (shown); Kohler, Lowe's
Why she loves it: "Penny rounds work with so many room styles, depending on the color and how you install them. White ones on a kitchen backsplash or bathroom floor have a vintage look, but bright turquoise ones going all the way up an accent wall feel contemporary."
The details: These ¾-inch porcelain mosaic wall and floor tiles come with a mesh backing for easy installation, and in a dozen colors.
About $6.95 per square foot in Light Blue and Light Green (shown); Merola, The Home Depot
Why she loves it: "The shape is inspired by antique Chinese porcelain—you can't get more classic than that. Yet in a vibrant color with a Lucite base, rather than a traditional brass one, it can look poppy and modern."
The details: Available in two sizes, 24 colors, and different base and shade options, this glazed ceramic lamp is made to order in North Carolina.
30-inch lamp with dupioni shade (shown), about $300; Robert Abbey, ylighting.com
Why she loves it: "The raised facets make this pull a little decorative but not fussy. I use it to add dimension to simple Shaker-style stile-and-rail cabinet doors."
The details: This sturdy 3-inch zinc pull comes in six finishes.
About $5.91 in oil-rubbed bronze (shown); Hickory Hardware, build.com
Who: Rebekah Zaveloff
As co-owner of KitchenLab, in Chicago, Zaveloff's signature is timeless kitchens and baths that not only look good but also function well.
Why she loves it: "It's hard to find good counter-height kitchen stools that are comfortable. This fits the bill and is affordable, too. I like to have a few powder-coated in a custom color for a fun accent."
The details: Made in the U.S.A. by a century-old company that manufactures workplace and industrial-storage products, the steel stool has a backrest, a perforated seat for ventilation, and rubber feet for stability.
About $160 for two 26-inch-high stools; Lyon, Amazon
Why she loves it: "Beveled glass and an exposed piano hinge give it a vintage feel, and the frame looks hand-forged. It's solidly built of stainless steel, so it wears well in a moist bathroom."
The details: The recessed cabinet with adjustable tempered-glass shelves comes in two sizes and can be installed to open on the left or right.
About $630 in small (shown); Restoration Hardware
Why she loves it: "It falls somewhere between Hollywood Regency and Art Deco yet feels very current. The mirrored frame provides lots of reflective surfaces to bounce light around a bath, bedroom, or entry."
The details: Once to the trade only, this 34-inch design can now be found online.
About $330; Uttermost, Bed Bath & Beyond
Why she loves it: "The pattern and color really pop, and the price is great for a natural-fiber rug. The flat weave is so durable and easy to clean—I use it in high-traffic areas, like under a breakfast table."
The details: These handwoven, Fair Trade-certified wool-and-cotton rugs are made to order in 14 colors and sizes.
About $180 for a 3-by-5-foot rug; West Elm
Who: Bill DeMaio
Owner of the architecture firm WJ DeMaio & Associates, in Denver, DeMaio restores old homes and builds new ones that echo vintage architectural styles.
Why he loves it: "While true to the Craftsman style, it's a classic panel configuration that also looks good in a lot of newer homes. To have one custom-made in wood would easily cost $500. But this stock version is a fraction of that and looks just as nice."
The details: A reproduction of an early-1900s interior door with three recessed panels snugged within a stile-and-rail frame, this solid-core composite door comes prehung and primed for paint.
About $160 for a 30-by-80-inch (shown); Jeld-Wen, The Home Depot
Why he loves it: "Knife-edge corners give it a crisp, clean look that's similar to more expensive sinks that you see at kitchen design centers."
The details: This commercial-grade sink is made from heavy-gauge, scratch- and stain-resistant stainless steel. Natural rubber insulation on the bottom reduces noise when washing dishes.
About $300; Kraus Handmade, Lowe's
Why he loves it: "It's got great style and sturdy, all-brass construction. The bridge design is something you might see in one of those big European country kitchens. Yet it comes with a side sprayer for washing big pots. Similar versions cost more than $1,000."
The details: Patterned after vintage faucets that linked hot and cold taps to the spout via a pipe mounted above the counter.
In four finishes, about $340 in chrome (shown); Danze, faucetdirect.com
Who: Shawna Starkman
Owner and principal designer at Shawna Starkman Design Group, in New York City, Starkman creates contemporary living spaces with a warm, handcrafted feel.
Why she loves it: "It mimics Carrara marble but doesn't scratch, scorch, or chip. And in the unlikely case that something does happen, the manufacturer will send someone out and fix it, free. Real marble has to be sealed periodically or it'll stain. If it stains, I get a phone call. I don't want phone calls."
The details: This engineered stone with subtle gray veining is made from crushed quartz crystals bound with polyester resins.
ABout $65-$85 per square foot, installed; Caesarstone, ikea.com for stores
Why she loves it: "It's great for updating an existing bath because it rides that edge between traditional and contemporary. I prefer the lever handles for family homes because they are easier for kids and grandparents to grip."
The details: This clean-lined solid-brass faucet has a gooseneck spout and comes with either cross-handles or levers.
About $400 for the 8-inch widespread in chrome (shown); Kohler, The Home Depot
Why she loves it: "With a gently flared back and arms, and soft leather upholstery in a warm, neutral color, the style and feel are perfect. It fits right into a transitional or a more modern space. Arrange a pair in the living room to encourage conversation or tuck one in the bedroom to carve out a reading nook."
The details: This golden-hued leather club chair is handcrafted with a solid wood frame and a stained wood base.
About $700; West Elm