08/18/2010 02:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cheap Is All Relative

While the chatter of a double dip recession intensifies, the spending habits of
the American public are a great topic of speculation. Even the high-end fashion
community is getting involved in discussing what makes a deal, WWD recently
interviewed a select group asking them their definition of "cheap." The best answer
came from Rachel Zoe, a stylist not exactly known for her modest tastes, defines
cheap as "Anything my husband won't yell at me for." She is hitting on the point
that a value is completely defined by the person and can be different for each of us.

This is something I experience constantly when purchasing furniture, especially
for some of my higher-end clients. I will find a piece of vintage furniture that is
good quality and not marked up and think I have hit the jackpot. This lasts right
up until the moment I am telling someone about my day and how I found a beautiful rosewood
bookcase for under $4,000. Suddenly a look of horror crosses their face that
says "You spent how much on a bookcase?" The thing to keep in mind is that a
value is a deeply personal thing and only you can truly appreciate the rush of
excitement you get walking out of a store knowing that you just got something

The importance of personal value is another change surely to come out of this
economic crisis. The idea that you and your time are worth something affects the
way we buy things for ourselves. The age of reckless spending is over. Even if your
home design budget is $1,000 or $100,000, everyone wants to be cautious with
what they spend. People want to be sure they are surrounding themselves with the
very best things their money can get, which is a reflection of how we value ourselves.
I see the change happening not only with budgets, but also in the way that furniture
companies are being formed. There is a return to the idea of craftsmanship in
companies, because if you are paying $4,000 for that bookcase, you want to know
that it is a beautiful piece that will stand the test of the time. Care and time are
being put into furniture and the age of mass production is coming to an end. It is an
encouraging trend and exciting time in design.

The word "cheap" has a different definition for everyone, but frankly, I think it is an
ugly word. Value is what the consumer should be searching for, a return to the old
world traditions of solid quality at a fair price. I'm always weary of anything that
is too "cheap" because there is almost always a lack of quality and the result is that
I am disappointed. Even with our economic situation taking another downward
turn, the value of items seem to be rising, which gives me a glimmer of hope. If we
are all able to place a higher value on what we create and purchase, we are sure to
win out over the economy and come out on the other side a stronger and even more valuable nation.

Hillary Keech is a New York based interior designer.