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Shopping with the pros: Paloma Contreras’s favorite items from Serena & Lily

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This is part of a series in which we ask designers and other tastemakers to share their favorite products from one store and how they would use them.

Houston interior designer Paloma Contreras is known for blending classic and modern styles to create timeless, not trendy spaces.

“I’m not a slave to trends,” says Contreras, who writes the La Dolce Vita blog. When you follow the herd, she adds, your space doesn’t stand out from the crowd or reflect your tastes. “Why would you want to have the same look as the person next door?”

She chose Serena & Lily as our shopping destination, because it offers a mix of classic and modern pieces, which is a natural fit for her style, she says. She also likes that it’s a company founded by women, and it began as a small business.

The prices are higher than those at big-box stores, but Contreras says the quality and customization options make it worth the investment. For those with limited funds, she suggests saving up and purchasing gradually as your budget allows. Buying well-made pieces, particularly larger upholstered ones that you will sit on, is worth the extra money, Contreras says.

“I’m always a proponent of buying the best quality you can afford,” she says. “If that means you have to scale back and do it in phases, do that. It’s better than buying everything at once, and then you just have to replace it.”

Rather than skimping on substantial furniture, Contreras says, consider shopping for lower-priced accessories, art and smaller pieces, such as side tables, at vintage markets or other budget retailers.

Here are some of Contreras’s favorite items from Serena & Lily, which she shared with us via email.

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Contreras likes console tables because of their versatility. They can work in an entryway or hallway, or against an overlooked wall in a living room or bedroom, she says. The St. Germain stone console ($2,498), made from gilded iron and stone, is a substantial 65 inches long and has a second shelf for storing books and other items.

A coffee table is the perfect place to display books, boxes, trays and other favorite objects, Contreras says. The Cabot square coffee table ($1,698), with its clean lines, painted mahogany frame and raffia-wrapped shelves, is a “fresh take on a traditional style,” she wrote.

Contreras says the Avignon chair ($2,298) “is as classic as it gets.” The chair is made of solid maple, and the rolled arms and turned wood legs give it a very traditional look. It can be customized with fabrics and leg finishes.

The sleek Flynn single wall sconce ($198-$228) will add a modern touch to any room, Contreras says. The arm turns, so you can adjust the lighting as needed. Finished in hand-rubbed bronze and brass, the sconce comes with a white or rattan shade.

“Rattan is a great way of adding texture and warmth to a space,” Contreras wrote in an email. The Balboa rattan mirror ($798) comes in mist or natural rattan, and the brass detail adds a bit of polish.

Contreras prefers original art when decorating a space, and Serena & Lily does sell original pieces. But she also likes the limited-edition prints it offers, such as “Sun” by Rob Delamater ($275). The 17-by-21-inch framed print from the San Francisco artist and co-owner of Lost Art Salon was inspired by stories of sailors using the sun, moon and stars to guide them.

“I love to use natural fiber rugs,” Contreras wrote in an email. “They really ground a room and can keep an otherwise formal space from feeling over-the-top.” The braided abaca rug ($498-$3,998) is woven with abaca plant fibers and comes in sizes from 3 by 5 feet to 11 by 14 feet.

Trays are helpful for corralling miscellaneous items on a coffee table or other surface. The hexagonal shape and grass-cloth lining of the 24-by-20.78-inch South Beach tray ($248) caught Contreras’s eye.

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