Monday, October 4, 2010

Organizing Tip: Do You Need a Professional Organizer?

There is a difference between being messy vs. being disorganized. If you frequently encounter the following situations, you may want to consider hiring a professional organizer.

1. You do not invite your friends or family over because you are too embarrassed about the disorganized state of your house.

2. You spend a significant amount of time looking for misplaced items.

3. You repeatedly buy duplicates of the same item because you cannot find the original item.

4. Clutter is creating tension in your relationships with your spouse and children.

5. You no longer enjoy your home because living in clutter is stressing you out.

6. Your children are picking up your clutter habits.

7. You want to get organized, but you don't know where to start.

We can help you reduce the stress of a cluttered home and free up more time for friends, family and hobbies. We establish order, work flows and systems that are easy to learn so you can maintain order in your home long after we leave. A small investment in our services can yield a high return in an orderly home that will recharge and nourish you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Return of the Maximalists

For the last couple of years, I've been on a minimalist kick. I purged almost 75% of my belongings and kept only the essentials. Everything was simplified - patterns were sparingly used, surfaces were kept uncluttered, textures were flat and wall colors were neutral. Furniture had clean, mid century modern lines. It was soothing and serene with lots of negative space.

Now, I find myself craving more "stuff." I'm hungering for ornate, complex patterns, I'm starving for rich colors and I'm jonseing for texture. I want an opulent, layered look with lots of frilly, gold filigree and Persian rugs. I want to cram my bookshelves with leather bound books and Greek inspired nick nacks. I want to fill my house with time tested antiques. I want to live in a Maximalist house.

I'm seeing more of this Maximalist look in blogs and magazines. What has previously been dismissed as "clutter" is now carefully curated to create warmth and comfort. The most successful Maximalist rooms are grounded in a classic, traditional style. Colors tend to be richer and more masculine. Often, there is a preppy menswear influence.

Zach Motl proves that more stuff can make a room look bigger in 178 sq feet.

Nick Olson's famous oregano walls.

Miles Redd, the King of Maximalists.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Organizing Tip: Setting Examples for Your Kids

One of my clients has a young daughter who occasionally observes our working sessions. She has seen us sort, purge and place kept items in their new homes. The other day, my client caught her playing "organizer" in her bedroom, cleaning and tidying her room.

Parents are children's first role models. Many of their behaviors and attitudes are developed by observing their parents. Teach your children the importance of being organized and lead by example. A "do as I say, not as I do" attitude is hypocritical and unfair.

Teach your kids to be organized by giving them assignments that are easy enough to do but challenging enough to leave them with a sense of accomplishment. It may be something as simple as hanging up all their clothing or putting away their toys every day.  Organizing habits established early will stay with your children for life and help them be focused and productive.

A Peek Inside My Kitchen Drawers

I recently organized 3 drawers in my kitchen. Only an organizing geek like me would think this is blog worthy, but it's one of those little things that has been driving me insane that I finally got around to fixing.

This is our household drawer. I got tired of my husband constantly asking me where the scissors, batteries and tape were kept, so I consolidated all those household items in one of the kitchen drawers so he could help himself. Notice the 3 pairs of scissors? This is what happens when I am not organized - I end up buying duplicates because I thought I lost original, and sure enough, I find the misplaced item it after I buy the duplicate and it's too late to return it. Argh . . . .

This is the newly organized silverware drawer. When my husband and I first moved in, we both had our own silverware caddy that were kept in two separate drawers as they were both too big to fit together in one drawer. It was aggravating toggling between 2 drawers, so I bought an expandable caddy to hold everything in one drawer.  I also squeezed in 3 additional baskets at the top for smaller items.  No more dead space.

Spices are now kept in a drawer. Previously, they were inefficiently kept in a cabinet where I had to remove 20 jars to get to the oregano way in the back. Cooking became a chore as I would overcook food while I was wading in the cabinet hunting for the right jar. I wanted an easy way to view all the spices at a glance, and storing them in the drawer was the perfect solution. The drawer is very shallow, and most in-drawer spice inserts were too tall, so I improvised with some drawer dividers. This made access to the jars quick and easy.

This is where we keep the duplicates spices. Once again, I bought duplicates not knowing I already had the items. I now have enough dill, paprika and chili spices to last me a lifetime.

I'm still trying to figure out the most efficient set up for the rest of the kitchen, but organizing these 3 drawers have made cooking a pleasure rather than a dreaded task. Each one of the prior inefficiencies alone was annoying but bearable, but it was the accumulation of all the annoyances that was making me dread cooking. Now, the kitchen is more streamlined and I look forward to making a home cooked meal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Displaying Collections

Glass collection, originally uploaded by m4linn.

My husband and I recently bought this console to display his glass work he blows as a hobby. Before, his glass work was scattered in the house, getting lost in bookcases and random places in the house. Now, we have a gallery-like showcase next to the front door, giving our guests a preview of what to expect in the house.

Your collections reveal volumes about your personality and lifestyle. Showcase them in a way that elevates them as art. It's a great conversation starter, and your friends and family will get a deeper understanding of who you are and what moves you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Out Box

This this more an "Out Nook" than an "Out Box", but it's the perfect place where my husband and I gather all the things we need when we head out the door in the morning. The left side is my side. I recently sold quite a few gadgets and books when I was cleaning out the office, and there they sit on top, ready to to be mailed. Below is my bag I take to client sites. The right side is my husband's side. Office items sit on top, and his computer bag is on the bottom. This nook is next to the garage that serves as our main point of entry and exit. We tried to add a little more style to this nook by adding flowers and glass work my husband blows as a hobby. Through out the day, all out items get collected in this little nook, and getting out the door the next morning becomes a breeze.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Organizing Tip: The Vicious Cycle of Clutter

When I first meet with clients, I often hear the same stories explaining why their environments are in disarray. The following themes repeat themselves like a broken record regardless of the client's income, background or education.

1. Emotional chaos manifests itself in clutter chaos. There are difficult life events that create turmoil in our lives like catastrophic illness, death in the family, job loss and divorce. The stress, disorder and turbulence of these events are all consuming, and keeping house is no longer a priority.

2. No infrastructure to support order. The absence of organized infrastructure like a landing strip when you first come home or a functional storage system in the kitchen contributes to the proliferation of clutter. When you don't have an easy and well defined way of putting things away, possessions tend to accumulate on any available flat surface.

3. No established workflow. When clients get overwhelmed with bills or children's paperwork from school, it's often because there is no established workflow of receiving, processing and returning the paperwork.

4. The clogged flow of clutter. Posessions come in and out of our lives. It's easy to bring things in, but for some, it's harder to let things go. Items outlive their usefulness, clothes go out of fashion, and children outgrow their toys. Some clients don't have the time to purge, and some clients are too emotionally attached to their possessions.

5. Packing for a move without purging. Moving is a stressful process, and under the duress of an impending move date, some people pack everything in sight. When they move to the new house, they find themselves in the same clutter situation in a different house.

The first step to developing an organizing solution starts with a diagnosis of the symptoms. Often, it's a combination of the above that creates the chaos in the house, but once the situation is understood, it becomes an easier problem to solve.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stripe Me Happy

Pieter Estersohn Design

I vividly remember the first time I saw this bathroom in a magazine over a decade ago. The clean lines and simple palette of the horizontal stripes made a strong, graphic impact with out resorting to any design cliches. That was the first time I realized in my wanna be designer's mind that simpler was better, and you can't get any simpler than stripes. Thus began my love affair with horizontal stripes.

These jack-of-all-trade stripes work in any decor ranging from sweet nurseries to modern living rooms. Small tweaks in width, color and scale create a wide range of tone and mood workable in any room.

Wide, variegated stripes impart vibrant energy in this modern room.

Contrasting stripes create a glamorous vibe in the foyer.

Tonal stripes set a quieter mood in this boy's bedroom.

These stripes remind me of an an upscale boutique. I wish I did this in my bathroom.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beyond Bookcases

Who knew that moving in with the new husband would bring up all these design dilemmas, like what to do with all our books. We initially put all the books in his Pottery Barn bookcases, but it looks so generic no matter how artfully we arrange everything. I would love to get me one of these chairs as an alternative to the standard bookcases.

This chair from Nobody&Co. would be a great addition to the living room. Why is it that all the really cool furniture seems to come from Italy?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beds in front of the Window?

The new husband and I are already bickering in that old-married-couple way about furniture placement. I think the bed is the most obvious focal point in the bedroom, and I want it to be the first thing you see. In the guest room, the best placement of the bed is under the window, but the husband is worried about blocking the light and the general awkwardness of the configuration. I found some images to convince him otherwise.

Michael Merrill used a minimal headbo
ard and extended the drapes around the bed for a dramatic effect.

Bedroom by Turquoise

Bedroom by Andy Carera

Bedroom by
Michael Graydon. The bay window is the perfect nook for the bed.

I suppose there are several good reasons not to do this. If you have old, drafty windows, you can catch a nasty head cold. A headboard would be mandatory if you want to sit up and read in bead. Also, closing and opening the drapes can be a drag if you need to stand on the bed to do so. Our room is a rarely used guest room, and the windows are dual paned, so I'm going to place the bed in front of the window and ask for forgiveness later.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dress Your Desk

I've seen endless slipcovers for couches, armchairs and consoles, but I don't see them often for office desks, so I squealed with delight when I saw Anna Sprio's Tutu desk at her blog Absolutely Beautiful Things. Most office furniture is bland and boring, but her desk slipcover exudes sass and style. Here's another desk slipcover Anna did for a client. Love the bold pattern.

I'm dying to see what's on the other side. I'm guessing it's probably one of those affordable but generic tables with plastic top and metal legs.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Farewell Bachelorette Pad

Every time I get my place just right after years of deliberation (or procrastination, if I were to honest with myself), I move. A couple years ago, I was convinced I was going to be a single girl in the city for the rest of my life, and I found the perfect pad to live my "Sex and the City" lifestyle. I hemmed and hawed and hesitated over the art, furniture, rugs, drapes and accessories. I bought and returned countless tchotchkies from Target and Pier 1. I even bit the bullet and spent a stupid amount of money to remodel my bathroom and replace all the pipes so I wouldn't have to bathe in or drink brown water from the rusted galvanized pipes. And what happened 1 week after the the contractor finally completes the remodel? I run off to Vegas to marry the man of my dreams and move to the *gasp* suburbs!

My last place in the city gave me so much comfort, pleasure and joy. Looking at the before and after pictures gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. You've come a long way, baby, but it's time to move on to the next chapter of your life.

Living Room

The living room was spacious and got amazing light, but the dark paneling sucked it all away.

I brightened up the place with baby blue walls and put in glossy cherry floors. The cherry floors were a mistake. I thought I picked out a browner, darker floor, but the floors were already half way installed when I realized the mistake, so I worked with it. It's actually quite stunning. Quite often, it's the first thing people comment on when they first enter the place.

The built in bookcase and fireplace surround were the only redeeming features in this room. I've been meaning to paint it white and put in a mirror backing in the bookcase but never got around to doing it.

Dining Room

I originally wanted an exotic, Moroccan inspired dining room, which explains the rug. I had grand visions of luscious, stenciled walls in jewel tone colors. Instead, the dining room evolved into something more traditional with a hint of French country. I guess I'm more traditional at heart. Almost everything in this picture is from Craigslist and in total cost me around $500.

The kitchen was a total gut job. Nothing was worth salvaging or refinishing. There was a weird hall way entrance that cut the kitchen in two. I closed it off so I could create a U shaped floor plan that is much more conducive to cooking. My last kitchen was all white, and I was craving the warmth of rich wood.

There used to be a wall dividing the dining room from the kitchen that made both rooms feel small and claustrophobic. That wall was one of the first things to come down.

Can you imagine cooking in this kitchen? Check out the rotary phone on the wall.

Half the kitchen cabinets were fake wood laminate and the other half was painted avocado green. Yuck.

Bedroom 1

The first bedroom
had the same dark paneling as the living room. I think I choose the yellow in a knee jerk reaction to the paneling. I gave up finding the prefect piece of art to put above the bed as I'm terrified of it falling on my head in an earthquake. I adore my vintage inspired dresser, but the new husband hates it. It will be interesting to see where it shows up in the new house.

Bedroom 2

The rarely used guest room. If I'm not careful, this room becomes a place to dump all my crap.


As much as I love wallpaper, the before pictures convinced me to stay away from it. Nothing dates a place faster than trendy wallpaper past its prime.

The marble mosaic floor, subway tile, pedestal sink and bead board create the vintage look I was trying to achieve in the bathroom. The coffin shower behind the door was converted in to a spacious closet.  I chose black and white tile for a timeless look. I painted the walls a crazy lavender color. I thought it would be too over the top, but so far, it's been well received.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Colored Subway Tile

An eternal classic, subway tiles are a traditional choice that stays true to vintages houses yet is sleek and minimal enough for modern houses. When I remodeled my bathroom, I choose a simple, white subway tile for the bathtub surround. I admit, it was the safe, predictable, cliched choice. It never occurred to me that subway tiles come in a variety of colors. Just changing the color of this tile breathes freshness in this classic tile.

Cornflower blue tiles is the perfect backdrop for this beach front cottage kitchen.

The red tile in Katherine Hammond's bathroom makes a bold, modern statement.

If I had the courage, I would have done my bathroom in pink glass tile. Available at for those of you brave enough to consider it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Organizing Tip: Emotional Clutter

The easiest way to tame clutter is to let go of all the stuff, but its easier said than done when we often have emotional attachments to things. Here are some common reasons we hang on to too much stuff for far too long.

1. It's a family heirloom. We love our family, but we don't always love their possessions, which can be troublesome when we inherit family heirlooms. Some people equate the disposal of heirlooms with the disposal of family memories. Memories of a loved one is in your head and heart and not embodied in a physical item.

2. It's an antique. Just because something is old doesn't automatically mean it's valuable. If it's old and beautiful and you love it, it's worth keeping. Otherwise, sell it or donate it.

2. It cost a lot of money to acquire. I've made this mistake many times, especially with clothes and shoes. There are countless pairs of painful shoes I held on to but never wore because I wanted to get my money's worth. In retrospect, I should have sold them when they were still in fashion. Value is based on an item's usefulness or the amount of pleasure derived from it, not how much money you spent on it.

3. It's still in good condition. If something is in good condition but you don't find it useful or beautiful, then it's clutter.

4. I'll use it someday. If you haven't used it in the recent past, what makes you think you'll use it in the near future? I recently got rid of a box of "I'll use it one day" items kicking around in my garage for the last year. I can't recall a single item in that box.

5. It will be back in style. Fashion trends get recycled every few decades, but they get tweaked with new colors and fabrics. You will date yourself with the original version. If you wore a trend once before, your turn is over.

Only keep things that you believe to be useful and beautiful, and your life will be simpler and richer.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Organizing Tip: Managing Collections

Many people are passionate about their collections, but if left unchecked, it can spiral into a collection of clutter. Here are some tips to help manage your collections.

1. Collect only the things you love. Make sure you are truly passionate about what you collect.

2. Ground a collection on a common theme. The theme can be color, material or subject matter. Your items will look like they belong together and make a stronger impact.

3. Don't buy something just because it fits in your collection. Buy it because you love it and it because it enhances your collection.

4. Know when to stop. Sometimes, a collection is complete once it looks great in your space. Two is a pair. Three is a collection. You don't want too much of a good thing.

5. Trade up. If you are a serious collector, trade or sell some of your pieces for more important pieces. It's perfectly acceptable to start small and then trade up when your budget allows. Quality trumps quantity.

6. Rotate your collections. If you're short on display space, rotate your collections. You'll gain a new appreciation for your collection every time you bring it out.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Organizing Tip: Travel Packing List

Last month, we went on a long weekend getaway, and once again, I forgot to pack my pajamas. I ALWAYS forget one thing or another when I travel. When I returned, I resolved to create a master packing list. I don't always need to bring everything on the list, but at least I won't forget my pajamas again.

Toiletries and Sundries:
Tooth Brush/Toothpaste
Cotton swabs/Q-tips
Make Up
Hair dryer/ Curling Iron
Contact Lenses/Solution
Band Aids
Bobby Pins/Elastic Hair Bands

Set of clothes for every day
Swimsuit/Beach Towel/ Wrap
Work out clothes/sneakers

Computer & Charger
Ipod & Charger
Cell Phone & Charger
International Electrical Adapter

Travel Documents:
Passport/Travel Papers
Traveler's checks

Sleep Aids:
Eye Mask
Ear Plugs
Night Light
Sleeping Pills

Saturday, January 30, 2010

All Fired up over Mantles

Mantles create instant architectural stature and give you a place to showcase treasured tchotchkies. In many rooms, they are the obvious focal point. Even if you don't have a fireplace, there are still ways to incorporate mantels into your decor.

Kelly Giesen built a faux mantel to house a flat panel tv. What a great alternative to the tv-over-the-fireplace cliche.

Easily convert a mantel into a stunning headboard by popping in a fabric wrapped panel. The folks at Apartment Therapy show you how.

Add shelves and backing to a salvaged mantle to adapt it into a bookcase. Instructions available at HGTV.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Forgotten Fifth Wall

The ceiling is the 5th wall in the room but rarely gets any love except for a coat of generic white paint. But there's plenty of opportunity to punch it up.


Bright stripes add youthful energy to an otherwise serious kids room.


A tufted ceiling makes an over-the-top statement. The black ceiling medallion and chandelier create sophisticated drama.

Eric Cohler

A crossword mural adds whimsy to a traditional family room.

Kelly Wearstler

Cover the ceiling and box the room in pattern.

Oldie but Goodie: Christopher Lowell's 7 Layers of Design

Remember Christopher Lowell? 10 years ago, he made interior design easy and accessible to the masses with his 7 Layers of Design approach. Whenever I get stumped on a room, I go back to the basics:

Layer 1: Paint and Architecture (moldings, mantel)
Layer 2: Installed Flooring (any floor surface that is wall to wall)
Layer 3: High Ticket Upholstery Items (sofa, love seat)
Layer 4: Accent Fabrics (area rugs and drapes)

Layer 5: Non-upholstered Furnishings (the work horses of the room, end tables, chairs, coffee tables)
Layer 6: Accessories (pictures, mirrors, candlesticks)
Layer 7: Plants and Lighting

Check out his website to see the 7 Layer of Design in action. This book has a permanent spot on my bookcase.

I Got Nailed

Lately, I've been obsessed with nail-head trim. The glimmer of metal adds a touch of glam to traditional silhouettes, and I'm particularly drawn to the juxtaposition of linen and metal.

Horchow Crocodile-Embossed Table

Crate & Barrel Colette Side Chair

WalMart Alisha Ottoman Bench

If you have pieces that can use a little updating, you can easily add some trim.

Nickel Nail Head Trim