Timeless and cheap ... Lumi Candelabra, $39.95, www.countryroad.com.au

Timeless and cheap ... Lumi Candelabra, $39.95, www.countryroad.com.au

Why is “cheap” such a “nasty” word in design. There's a big difference between cheap design and nasty design. Some of the most innovative, beautiful and influential products are cheaper than a ride on public transport.

Every time I reach for my cheap set of Duralex Picardie glasses ($9.94 for six) from my cupboard or a Rex vegetable peeler ($10) from my top kitchen drawer I wish a little party popper would explode to celebrate this wonderful moment. Don't even get me started on the humble household $3.00 peg – this little marvel should have it's own national holiday.

The godfather of modern British design, Sir Terence Conran once told me one of the items he would put into a time capsule alongside a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2 cigar was a humble HB led pencil.

Timeless and cheap ... Robert Gordon,  ‘half moon’ 1.6lt jug $44.95, www.myer.com.au

Timeless and cheap ... Robert Gordon, ‘half moon’ 1.6lt jug $44.95, www.myer.com.au

A "design classic" is an industrially manufactured object with timeless aesthetic value. It serves as a standard of its kind and, despite the year in which it was designed, is still up to date. Not only are the items useful and timeless, they are like old friends who've travelled across the globe taking up residence wherever I do.

When it comes to the big nasty in cheap design it's when you have chosen a fake. No use disguising this badly made, stolen-identity item by using the term “replica”. Filling a home with nasty fakes is going to leave a taste in your mouth like corked wine.

You really do need to decide how fake you are willing to live.

Timeless and cheap ... Stockholm dining chair, $149, www.ikea.com.au.

Timeless and cheap ... Stockholm dining chair, $149, www.ikea.com.au.

Give me a $139 Ikea Stockholm dining chair any day over a fake $295 Hans Wegner wishbone chair.

The fake is a really bad, cheap and nasty copy but the Ikea purchase is a timeless designer item that's cheap. The mega store Ikea prides itself on working with some of the worlds best industrial designers to bring you products that are not only affordable but are design classics.

Not so long ago, you'd pick up a glass tumbler from a high street homeware store and it would fly out of your hand for being too light and drying yourself with a bath towel felt like rubbing sandpaper onto your skin. Not pretty, but pretty nasty.

Times are changing. Customers know what crap is and demand a lot more from a products if they're going to part with their hard-earned cash for it.

In their fight for survival, med-level stores are going through their own quality revolution.

To survive, they're improving once-inferior items to stand apart from discount stores. They understand shoppers are leaning towards hand-crafted items with a sustainable provenance. We want useful, affordable and, ideally, indestructible products.

Rising costs in China have seen countries including Thailand, Portugal and some in Eastern Europe producing everyday objects for the home. Buyers for high street stores are targeting each country for their specialties, be they textiles, ceramics, glassware or some other.

It's worth looking at what's in those high street home stores; like Country Road which continues, each season, to provide us with beautiful, useful, timeless objects. But there are also some unexpected options: there's nothing “nasty” going on with Peter Morrissey Mariner 250-thread count bed linen at Big W for $79 or super fluffy Karen Walker beach towels at Myer for $59.

What should be coming into play is considered design.

When you buy something, consider its price, function, beauty and sustainability. One of the best purchases I have ever made is my faithful $24 Brown Betty teapot. I've purchased other overpriced tea-making and drinking paraphernalia over the years but compared with the Brown Betty, it was like being in a short, intense, but ultimately failing relationship: I was taken in by looks and prestige but I very quickly fell out of love with them, to the point of detesting them for being such failures in just about all the things they promised to be.