Group similar accessories together to create a unified design

September 04, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: My husband absolutely hates clutter, which includes all my collections (hand-painted pottery, Raggedy Ann dolls, miniature chairs). I respect his sensibilities, so most of my "stuff" is in my office and my bath. However, the living room looks really bare, like no one even lives here. Maybe there's a happy medium -- some way I can have my things and my (second) marriage, too?

A: Here's your new mantra: Edit! Edit! Edit!

Decide which things are definitely worth showing off, and then organize them into a cohesive design statement. Group similar items and colors together in a logical display space. You'll instantly see that the sum is truly greater than its parts. And your husband will see a "collection," not clutter.

Mervyn Kaufman, author of a new book called "Store It!" (Filipacchi Publishing), argues for built-ins as perfect places for storing and displaying objects, "particularly if their design coordinates with the style and scale of your room."


We borrowed this photo from Kaufman's book as an elegant example. Made-to-measure shelves are fitted to the wall in a country living room. The built-in shelves envelope the radiator, adding storage space on either side for heavy books, but the overall effect is light, airy and surprising -- in more ways than meet the eye.

For all their pure elegance, the white pieces are almost all inexpensive flea-market finds. The fact that they share a color, an attitude and a wall makes them the decorating focal point of the room, according to Kaufman.

Kaufman quotes New York interior designer Bruce Bierman, who favors monotone over color contrast: "The subtlety comes through the fact that everything is the same color."

"No matter how proud you are of whatever you collect," Kaufman writes, "consider holding back. Don't put everything you own on shelves. Keep some items in reserve, and rotate them periodically -- perhaps seasonally -- to keep a constantly fresh look."

Q: What's the "It" word in decorative accessories?

A: Judging from the ideas on display at the recent New York International Gift Fair, it's "recycled!" with an exclamation mark!

If you still remember recycled products as beige, lumpy and ugly, forget it (or, as they'd say in New York, fuggedaboutit!). That's old thinking now; recycling is not only socially acceptable, it's also outright chic, sexy and the thing to be doing.

Among the most fun recycled products at the fair:

o Wrought-iron chandeliers made in Ghana, sparkling with glass from recycled bottles.

o Lamp bases of stacked beach stones, bolted together ("Funky Rocks," started by Jeff Henderson).

o A Parson's stool covered in stretched, unblown balloons of all colors (designed by Natalie Kruch).

o Wall clock with men's ties (from Goodwill) marking the hours.

o Colorful decorative plates made in Africa from recycled telephone wire.

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