design basics

Starting a Home-Positivity Movement - 12 strategies for loving your home just as it is


I’ve never been a thin, athletic woman with muscular curves in just the right places. Nope. I’ve struggled to love my body as it is, in all kinds of shapes, sizes and weights. I’ve struggled to take care of it and to learn how to feel beautiful despite the places I wish I looked or felt different. Even after I started to figure it out, to take care, to learn about nutrition and good food, even then there were places on this body that I wasn’t so proud of.

I’m so happy to see cracks in social media where the light is coming into this area. I get a huge smile seeing an Instagram post with a woman owning her stretch marks. I grinned ear to ear at the grocery store the other day seeing a magazine cover in the checkout aisle with a real woman with real thighs, cellulite and all, in a gorgeous bathing suit… and there was NO mention of her loving herself ‘despite her flaws’ anywhere on the cover. She was just existing there, enjoying summer as she was.

So, I’ve been playing with this idea in my head the last few weeks: why can’t this body-positivity movement roll right on over to our homes?

Why can’t this sunshine light up the dark, undone corners of our homes, too?

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If you know me at all, you know I’m all about practical interior design, about loving where you live, however it is right now, and I think it’s an important message. I wish for all of us to feel that our homes welcome us, comfort us, give us a safe place for all the chaos and joy and mess of our lives to unfold.

It seems an awful shame to only share the perfect, clean, beautiful, inspiring parts of our homes with the world, when it comes to company or social media. I’m so guilty of smoothing out the background, hiding my clutter, moving to a ‘finished’ and styled room to take a photo, rather than just sharing real, imperfect life. I’m going to work harder on just loving my home as it is and respecting its perfect imperfectness in my life. I’m going to shrug my shoulders about the undone, unfinished, messy parts of my life more.

I’m curious, what you think about this idea – should home-positivity be something we start to think about more and should we be on the front line?

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Got an imperfect house? This one’s for you!

I have lived in a few ugly places: places I wished were beautiful and airy but were most definitely… not. I grew up as what I can see now is a curiously mature child with a collection of House and Home magazines I bought used from the library and a Sears catalogue with all my starter home needs circled. Tucked inside as a bookmark was a hand-written list of what I’d need to start a nice little home and how much it would all cost. I’m sure I was around 10.

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I think much of my love of creating beautiful spaces comes from the place of wanting so badly to create something pretty that I could be proud of when I lived in these gems:

-          A single-wide trailer where my room was so small my twin bed touched the wood-paneled wall at both ends

-          A tiny apartment I shared with my dad after high school where I slept on the couch and kept two laundry baskets under the coffee table, one for clean clothes and one for dirty.  Everything else I owned lived in my backpack or my car.

-          A basement suite after college where I once put my foot on the shower wall to shave my leg and my foot pushed the tile right through the rotted wall behind it.  I duct taped a patch of garbage bag over the hole as a repair.  Bless.

-          In the same place, there was no drywall on a section of framed wall between two rooms, just some gray fabric covering the studs, held on with thumbtacks.  I mean, honestly.  What.  The.  Heck.

Not glamorous but I grew up and I learned and developed in so many ways, including with my design style.  I went to college and graduated with my interior design degree and along the way I learned how to properly maintain and repair things.  Most importantly, though, I think I learned how to make the best of what I had and how to make any less than perfect place into a lovely little home.   

These memories are sweetly nostalgic now.  They are a part of me and even though years have gone by and I now live somewhere that isn’t so hard to love, I still have this as my foundation:  if you can love where you live, even in some small way, and make your house your own, things are always infinitely better. 

Is this superficial? I don’t think so. If you feel at ease in your home, you can hold your head up, and when you can hold your head up, you can take on the world.

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Here are the best strategies I have for loving your home just as it is:

1.

Appreciate the ‘very big picture’ thought that you have a safe and warm home. This is your place to live life with your people. It shelters you and keeps you together. Let that sink in.

2.

Look around for one area that you love. It can be small! Love the light when you sit at the kitchen table for supper? Grow that by making the table area clean, clutter-free and adding something pretty as a centerpiece.

3.

Focus on clean and simple. Don’t add things when you are starting out in this process, just simplify and reduce the visual noise. This might mean things like clearing surfaces, editing down what’s in bookcases or on shelves. Even the saddest of rooms looks better pared down a bit. Declutter like it’s your job. Be relentless.

4.

Forget what you can’t change; is there anything small that you *can* quickly and simply change out? Bedding, accessories, some throw pillows, a new wall hanging… these relatively small changes can add some life back into your home without changing anything about the room itself. And you don’t have to necessarily go shopping – think about what you already have in your home that is maybe forgotten in another room.

5.

Remember that you live there, that your life is busy and that homes are always evolving and changing. It’s okay to have things unfinished, in-process or not even on your radar yet.

6.

Focus on one small area at a time. It doesn’t have to be an entire room, either. Pretty front porch? Cozy little reading chair area? Adorable coffee station? Spa-like bathtub area? Don’t worry about the whole house, create islands of space that you love. These have the potential to create ripples for you, where you find yourself moving outward and fine-tuning things from there, but if not *that’s okay, too*.

7.

Consider the concept of ‘focal points’ and how easily they distract from everything else. Add something to the room that is brightly colored, oversized, or with a bold pattern. This could be a statement piece of art, a set of throw pillows, a painted table, a mirror with an ornate frame, anything that is bigger and sort of visually takes over the room (what you look at when you first walk into the room and what really sets the tone for the space).

8.

Make peace with the idea that your home is a place for you and your family to be at home. When this is your focus, you can start to relax. So much of our dis-ease with our homes tends to come from the place of worrying what other people are thinking or how people must think *we* are, because of what our *home* is. News flash: no one thinks you are a crappy person if you live in a crappy home. Take your crappy home and love it, make it yours, and what people will think is that you are a loving, cool person with confidence and an amazing personal style. Mic drop.

9.

It is what it is. Make that your mantra. Get it tattooed on your inner wrist. (Don’t do that.) Print it out and hang it on your fridge. Make it your phone wallpaper. Heck, make it your real wallpaper if you want… you do you. It just freaking is whatever it is. Clean it up, make a bit of a haven, start to evolve your style, and Love. Your. Home! Life’s too short to hate your home, it really is. Too much negative energy and strife is wrapped up in hating a home. Let it go.

10.

Don’t dismiss the invisible design elements: sunshine, great lamp light, music & fresh air.

11.

Bring in some ‘you’. Something you love, you favorite color, frame a picture of a place you love off the internet and put it in a little frame, doodle your dog’s name and tuck it in a frame, put a little plant in your granny’s teapot, whatever you love and is going to make you smile, you need a little of that in your home. Sometimes I find when someone doesn’t love their home, they resist attaching themselves to it, and this only amplifies the problem. In my experience, making a little peace with where you are at, just as it is, includes letting some of the things you love exist there, and letting yourself feel comfortable and happy in your home. Check in with yourself and see if you are resisting bonding with your own home, you might be surprised!

12.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. If you are happy, comfortable, relaxed and at ease in your home, everyone who comes over will feel that as well. I know this isn’t a design strategy, but I want you to know that when you take care of yourself, give yourself some grace and allow yourself to make your home a cozy, happy place… people will feel that. Do what you need to do to make yourself as comfortable and proud of your home as you can, warts and all.


PS!

I’m so happy to have added these fresh new mini-guides to my shop! Simple. Efficient. Beautiful. Done. Check them out if you are looking for an easy way to ‘hire’ an interior designer to pull together all of the design details for your home in a really streamlined and simple way.

 

Ready to love where you live?

Join over 12 000 others for instant access to my library of free, practical, and down-to-earth interior design resources: every freebie & printable shared on this website is available for instant download in the library.

 
 
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Where to Start


The best design advice I can give to new clients is to start with something so simple they probably think I’m kidding.

It’s free and it can be pretty quick to implement. You can definitely at least start today. You can probably have this totally done in at least one room in a few hours.

The foundation for most well-styled rooms in my experience? Are you ready?

Simplify. Declutter. Clear away the excess.

That’s’ it. Honestly!

Regardless of the colors, the wood tone, the drapery, the furniture, the art… regardless of all those elements maybe being less than perfect, if you remove the clutter, the room can look instantly more styled and put together.

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And on the flip side, regardless of the beautiful art, the gorgeous furniture, the perfect wall color, if every surface in the room is covered with junk, if the art is hanging crooked and the bookcase is filled to overflowing with stuff that doesn’t belong in the room and looks messy, the room feels off.

I’m not always concerned with this when I’m working with clients on their homes. After all, I’m there to help you get a job done, not critique your lifestyle. Even in my personal life, I try really hard to give myself some grace in my own home, because we all *live* in our spaces. There is going to be signs of life.

This isn’t a tip about living in your home or any criticism about clutter, this is a fundamental styling tip.

I would love for you to consider this as the first step towards designing your room instead of buying something new and shiny.

Want to refresh your décor? Want to know what color to paint to make your room look great? Want to know what tile to install or bedding to buy that’s going to transform your space and make you fall in love?

None of that is going to matter if the foundation isn’t there… and that foundation starts with clearing the excess and letting what remains have some breathing room.

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My point here isn’t that we should live in some way that’s just not maintainable, but more that when searching for where to start, or how to make a space look and feel better, from my side of things, as a person that is hired to design and style homes, the best thing to start with is the easiest. The room will look better if you pare it down.

Even without changing a single element, those exact same items, when given some space, seem more purposeful. A room stripped down to the basic furniture, a few intentional pieces of art on the walls, a well-placed accent light and some purposely chosen accessories looks instantly polished.

You do not have to spend a dime to do this!

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Pinterest or search Instagram for beautiful rooms. Without paying too much attention to the style or art in the room, just look for space and airiness. Look for one piece of art on the wall (not a jumble of 5 or more things, gallery walls aside). Look for a chair alone near a window with one pillow on it, and a side table with a single lamp and one decorative object, not a stack of loose papers and an old water bottle.

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Last week I was visiting a prospective client in her home and we were discussing a major renovation. She was lovely and so excited to transform this part of her home so that it would function better (and I completely agree, the space was poorly designed by the builder and didn’t work for their growing and changing life, fair enough)… but this was a beautiful home and it was not in need of most of that renovation at all. What it needed before any other purchases or major decisions, was a deep and unmerciful decluttering. The new kitchen cabinets and flooring were not going to magically fix the issues she was facing.

A more tactical first step was to try to make the space *function* properly by reducing the excess to get a clean slate, the rethink how she could use the space she had to function better… then decide if major renovations were needed. I hate seeing people start anywhere other than the beginning, so that’s what I told her. ‘I think we need to start with clearing out all that doesn’t belong here, then let’s see if we can rework how you use this space to make it function properly for you… then let’s evaluate if the rest is needed.’ It wasn’t the design advice she was expecting but, to me, it was what she needed to do most.

Sometimes it is the unexplainable details that make a room look great. And more importantly, feel great. A clean, clear room, with meaningful pieces always, always looks styled and intentional, regardless of the items in the room.

Give it a try and see what you think!

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PS!

I’m so happy to have added these fresh new mini-guides to my shop! Simple. Efficient. Beautiful. Done. Check them out if you are looking for an easy way to ‘hire’ an interior designer to pull together all of the design details for your home in a really streamlined and simple way.

 

Ready to love where you live?

Join over 12 000 others for instant access to my library of free, practical, and down-to-earth interior design resources: every freebie & printable shared on this website is available for instant download in the library.

 
 

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5 Practical Nursery Essentials from an Experienced Mom


When it comes to sweet projects that are an interior designer’s dream, nurseries are the beloved little darlings. For me, on the other side of mothering little ones, looking back on those fleeting days with a small baby always has me feeling a bit nostalgic.

I tend to take extra care with the details of these projects – every little thing seems so important when I think about all the time that parents spend in their baby’s room tending to them and basically trying to survive that first year. When everything feels like it’s hanging on by a thread it’s so nice to have a lovely, well thought out space to spend time in.

Since my own boys were babies so long ago (one drives me around in the car and shaves! I go to bed before them sometimes! I sleep all night long! Rejoice, there is hope!), today I’m looking back on what I think was essential during those baby years, not in terms of gadgets and gear, but in terms of interior design.

These are my 5 best practical ideas for your nursery as you prepare for a new baby, settle into a new space with your little one, or even just now that you finally have the time and energy to focus on turning their room into something special.


So, here it is:

My list of 5 practical nursery essentials, from an experienced mom.


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1. Make it dark

Drapery isn’t always an exciting design topic, especially when we are looking at something that needs to function well and not just look lovely. I assure you, though, that there is nothing more exciting to new parents than a deep-sleeping baby. A dark room means a sleeping baby and a baby that sleeps deeply and on some semblance of a routine is bliss for parents.

When I think back on my own days as a new mom, one of the clearest memories are the early mornings that came so much earlier than they needed to, especially after a long night of being awake off and on, because of the morning sunlight. I want to yawn and cry just thinking about it.

It took me months with my first son to clue in to this one: get a room-darkening roller shade. Get it wide enough to cover the sides of the window. Then get some thick drapes that cover the sides of the shade.

Yes, I know roller shades aren’t being featured on the cover of Vogue Home. Who cares! There are actually plenty of decent looking ones out there – just look for something neutral with a bit of texture and low shine. You can build or buy a valance box if you want to hide the roller, and unless your little one is sleeping, the shade will be up and almost unnoticeable anyway.

Straight to the point: get a room-darkening roller shade and some drapes.

 
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2. Have somewhere comfortable to sit

You are going to be in your baby’s nursery night and day, so you might as well get comfy. Rockers, gliders, recliners, bouncers – whatever suits you, just make sure it’s either well-padded or can fit a pillow across the arms.

Putting your feet up will get you through some long stretches, so look into a footstool, ottoman or pouf if your chair doesn’t recline.

Please don’t overlook a side table within arm’s reach with room for a lamp & a place for everything you need while sitting (phone, book, water, tea, soothers, bottles, medicine, etc).

Straight to the point: get a comfortable chair, a footstool & a small side table.

 
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3. Create a functional change station

If you can make your changing area function with precision, your days and nights will be so much smoother. You change table should stock everything you need within arm’s reach while keeping one hand on your baby – diapers, wipes, garbage can, fresh clothes, a few small toys are all things to consider.

To make this work, choose a change table with some storage below, but also look at wall shelves hung above, a bookcase beside and even small cubbies mounted to the wall. Keep in mid that your baby will grow and eventually stand on the table at times, so ensure that any shelves within reach are sturdy and mounted securely to the wall.

Straight to the point: set up your change table so that everything is within arm’s reach.

 
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4. Lighting is so important

Soft lighting makes nights so much more cozy and, let’s face it, you are going to be spending some significant time in this room at night. There are a few simple things you can do to make this work well.

First, look into changing out the light switch for a dimmer. This is not only great for middle of the night when you will need to change a diaper or find a dropped soother, but also for easily checking on your sleeping baby without waking them, making bedtime routines soft and cozy, and for slowly waking up babies after naps or in the morning when you need to get going (oh, I used to hate doing that but it was necessary sometimes!)

Second, a great lamp with a very low wattage light bulb and a soft shade is perfect for reading a bedtime story or finding something that’s dropped in the night without completely waking anyone up.

Soft lighting in the night is not only great for getting your baby back to sleep in the night, but don’t overlook the benefit to yourself, too. Having soft lighting for the time you are putting your little one back to sleep allows you to fall back to sleep easily as well… not that parents usually have any issue with this, but just in case.

Straight to the point: a soft lamp and a dimmer switch are worth their weight in gold.

 
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5. Your art & decor create the mood in the room

This is the time to spend some time looking at how you want this room to feel.

Soft? Serene? Joyous? Earthy? Vibrant? Natural? Vintage?

You can bring on so much detail to a nursery and if you do it right, it will last a long time. Good design ages well, so as your baby grows and changes, the framework remains in place (the paint, the flooring, the lighting, most of the furniture) and just the details can be updated with smaller swaps.

Things like new bedding, art prints, accessories and small details that reflect a budding personality, can easily be slowly added over time. A more timeless approach is my preference in spaces for babies. Bring in those details to make the space sing but keep the framework classic.

Straight to the point: pick a few great accessories to create the perfect feeling in the room.

 
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I can’t believe sometimes how fast life evolves when it comes to parenting babies. The technology, philosophies, gadgets and accessories that roll out year after year, I could never pretend, from this side of the fence, to have my pulse on what’s current with babies. My oldest child is taller than me. He drives. I’m not the source for what’s hot in newborn mothering. What I bring to this conversation is a level approach to designing a nursery and some basics that I think are timeless essentials. Sometimes the old advice is the best advice.

What I can best offer is this: the philosophy of living your babies well or taking care of yourself along the way starts with carving out a small, peaceful space to do that hard work. The needs of babies and new parents just never changes or goes out of style. I hope my perspective has given you some things to consider when designing a nursery for your little one. From this side of things, I just want to say to enjoy these years and don’t underestimate the value of making the time & space you spend them in as lovely as you can.


PS!

I’m so happy to have added these fresh new mini-guides to my shop! Simple. Efficient. Beautiful. Done. Check them out if you are looking for an easy way to ‘hire’ an interior designer to pull together all of the design details for your nursery in a really streamlined and simple way.

 

Ready to love where you live?

Join over 12 000 others for instant access to my library of free, practical, and down-to-earth interior design resources: every freebie & printable shared on this website is available for instant download in the library.

 
 

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Here you go!

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10 Uncomfortable Things No-One Wants to Tell You About Your House When It’s For Sale


A part of my interior design work locally is being hired by a wonderful team of real estate agents to meet with clients of theirs who are getting ready to sell their homes. I walk through the clients’ houses with them, making design suggestions and taking notes to later send them, giving them as many actionable tips and bits of advice as I can. I want their house to look as perfect as it can for their listing photos. I want them to be able to show off all of its beautiful features so that it looks its very best when potential buyers come for showings.

During this appointment, I’m there to give design advice for a very specific purpose and to explain just what to do and why. Sometimes just having an extra set of eyes to notice what someone has stopped noticing about their own home is immensely helpful. I aim to always leave clients feeling positive about their house and motivated to polish things up.

This consultation is a little glimpse into people’s homes and lives and it’s one of my very favorite things to do. I love being part of their team, helping them best prepare for what is one of life’s biggest and most stressful changes.

I see people who are on the edge of something big and I have seen the entire spectrum of emotion about just why they are there: whether they are excited about their growing family, nervous about moving to a new and unknown place, burdened by financial strain, in the turmoil of divorce, or grieving the loss of a parent, I take it all in my hands and treat it gently while I’m there.

Which is all to explain why I could never and would never say to a client what I’m about to say here, at least not as bluntly as I’m about to lay it out.

It goes without saying that if I can see that something is a big issue and really needs to be dealt with, I very gently broach the subject. But small things? No. I could never compromise my relationship with these people by what might be felt as nitpicking, and I have no interest in hurting someone’s feelings. Nope. Never happening.

But for you, friend, I’m going to lay it all out. Maybe this is easier to do, to be completely honest, as it’s not personal. I’m not standing in your kitchen with you. I’m not looking at your bedroom right now.

Best of all, maybe some of this applies to you, and maybe it doesn’t.

It’s worth reading if you are thinking of making a move, though. If you are getting ready to sell your house, keep these things in mind. If you have your house listed and, despite everything seeming fine, you just aren’t having anyone fall in love enough to make an offer, maybe these are some places you could create some change. Maybe there are some things here that your team (your real estate agent, your stager, your friends) are too close to be comfortable mentioning.

Like the little piece of pepper stuck in your teeth… they don’t want to embarrass you or make it awkward for them. No one wants to compromise their relationship with you or hurt your feelings, so they just hope you realize it on your own and quickly fix it.

But here I am to just quietly let you know: you have a bit of pepper in your teeth.


So, here they are:

10 uncomfortable things that no-one wants to tell you about your house when it’s for sale.


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1. Your house smells bad

I’ll start right with a tough one. Everyone’s house has a unique smell. That’s okay, and it’s normal. But the problem is when the smell is overwhelming or bad. This is such a huge turnoff for people and it really makes it hard for them to want to stay in your home, let alone live there.

For the most part, you just need to take a few steps to eliminate the odor before you list your house for sale.

First, get rid of or stop the cause. If you smoke in the house, it’s time to stop. If your litter box is full, time to deal with that daily. If it’s cooking smells (grease, strong spices, fish), you are going to need to not cook those things for a little while.

Second, if the smell has been absorbed by soft things in the house, you are going to need to clean or get rid of those things. Carpets and drapes might need to be cleaned, concrete basement floors might need to be bleached, give garbage cans & cupboards a good soapy wash. The walls might even need to be washed. I will leave it up to you to find out how best to clean something (the internet has answers for everything!) and to decide what might not be able to be properly cleaned and will need to be removed entirely. (Some clients find that there are lots of things that can just be move out to the garage, taken to a storage unit they already have, or be taken to a friend or family’s garage for a little while if needed.)

Third, the house should be aired out. You might need to consider renting an ozone machine if opening windows doesn’t help. Fresh air solves so many problems. It’s not a bad idea to open your windows as much as you can while your house is listed as well. Life can have smells (cooking, garbage, pets, kids) and just keeping the air circulating helps so much.

Fourth, be careful when adding in any scents after this process. Don’t overdo it with any artificial air fresheners, waxes, candles, or diffusers. What smells good to you can be a turn off for someone else. Clean and fresh air is the best.

The bottom line: your house needs to smell clean, so do everything you can to make that happen before you list.

 
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2. Your pets have ruined things

Everyone loves their pets, probably even the people coming to look at your house have beloved pets of their own. But it still seems that people don’t want to see the mess, hair and scratches from *your* pets.

The most common things I see are normally quick fixes: pet hair (just vacuum & lint-roller diligently), dirty backyards (pick up messes daily), dirty litter boxes (get a spare and keep one washed and then just switch it out daily and before showings), and scratched flooring or ripped carpet (this one is a bit of a bigger fix and what you should do about it really depends on the value in fixing the problem – this is one to talk with your realtor about, they will know best whether it’s worth fixing or not)

For showings, it’s also best if you can tuck away pet dishes, toys and beds. Yes, people will know you have pets (especially if there any allergies in the buyer’s family, it’s important to disclose) but you just want to keep it as subtle as possible so that it’s not an immediate turn off for people. You want the buyers to subtly feel that you might have pets, but if you do they are the best pets in the world: they do not shed, eat, go to the bathroom or scratch the floor. The end.

The bottom line: Clean up & repair any pet damage and do your best to keep signs of pets minimal while your house is for sale.

 
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3. Your clutter stresses people out

Everyone knows how it feels to be overwhelmed by clutter. When it’s too much to deal with, most often, you just want to get away from it, right? Close the cabinet, shove everything back in the drawer, walk out of the room. Is that how you want people to feel in your home when they are considering buying it?

The decision to purchase a home is a very emotional one, and those subconscious responses are the very things that guide people in those very important decisions. When they don’t want to be in your home, when their heart is saying ‘get me out of here’, they are not going to immediately want to place an offer on your home. It’s silly, but it’s true. Now, I’m not saying they won’t think things through and come to a decision that is more logic-based, but if their immediate response is a solid ‘no’, it’s going to take some convincing.

Another aspect of clutter in a home that is for sale, is that for the people living in the home, they see art projects they worked on last night, things they are going to return to the store tomorrow, the mail they just put down, the forms that need to be filled out and sent back to school tomorrow. It’s fluid and it’s ever-changing. But for a prospective home buyer, they just see one thing: stuff. Without any connection to the meaning or timing of all that stuff, they just feel overwhelmed. It just looks like a mess.

This can also apply to things you don’t even consider clutter, so go through your house with a discerning eye: collections, gallery walls, china cabinets, bulletin boards. Be ruthless with all that little stuff.

The bottom line: Clean it up. Get rid of it. Box it up. Put it away. Out of sight, out of mind.


 
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4. No-one wants to imagine you using the bathroom

This is a really difficult one for me to look someone in the eye and talk about, so I’m happy to cover this one online instead!

I always tell clients to imagine their home bathrooms like a hotel bathroom. Logically, you know other people have used the bathroom in your hotel room before, but if you walk in and there’s evidence of that staring you in the face (wet footprints on the mat, toothpaste in the sink, a hair on the toilet seat)? Gross.

And that’s just how potential buyers feel about your bathroom. And if you are honest with yourself, you feel the same way when you are looking at new homes yourself.

My best advice here is the strip the bathroom down to ‘no signs of life’. No toilet brushes, no plungers, no personal care items, no magazines, no toothbrushes, no used towels. Put the garbage can into the cupboard (pack what’s in the cupboard right now, you know you don’t use most of it often anyway!) I even suggest no bath mats – the main reason here is that it’s hard to keep them perfect before showings. Any stray hairs or wet footprints are going to be really obvious.

This is great to do before your listing photos and then after that, my advice is to just keep a small basket or box with personal items in and put it back under the sink when you are done getting ready for the day. Just before showings, it’s easy enough to tuck away the things from the shower, the wet towels, etc.

What should be left out in a bathroom? I like to leave out a few fresh hand towels (white always looks best but any clean, nice hand towel in a color that coordinates with the bathroom will work) and 2-3 small décor items. Some suggestions: small plant, small flower arrangement (silk is just fine and sometimes prettier!), a few candles, wrapped bar soap, upscale hand soap pump, a small décor item. Really, just make one little grouping on the vanity, keep it simple.

The bottom line: clear out all signs of life, get it really clean and leave out just a few styled decorations on the counter.

 
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5. Your messy closet makes people feel overwhelmed

This goes back to what I was saying about clutter. When your closet is packed full, disorganized and things are falling off the shelves or covering the floor, people just want to get away.

There is another layer here: inner spaces (closets, pantries, garages, storage rooms) are subconscious clues to people about how the homeowners *really* are. The wheels start turning when they are standing there in your messy closet: ‘ohhhhhhhkay…. They are super messy people…. The rest of the house looks nice but I can see now that I’ve been tricked. They probably aren’t the kind of people that ever change their furnace filter either….’ And this all happens in the blink of an eye, probably without the buyer even realizing it.

The other things specifically about closets is that the items there are very personal, so when they are a mess, it makes people feel extra overwhelmed. They don’t know what to look at! What’s falling out of all those bags? Why does this woman have so many old bras? Wow, are all those socks dirty? You don’t want people thinking 100 miles an hour about what the heck is going on with your life and how they just want to get out of there.

What you want them to see is a closet that can hold *their* clothes beautifully. That’s all you want them to think about.

Now, honestly, these people have just left their own house with their own messy closets that they feel just fine about, so no judgement here about that, but remember what I said abut clutter? People can’t see their own clutter as visual noise. Every item has a purpose and a place and is just coming or going. But in *your* house, they don’t have that connection. They just see stuff and they just want to get away from it.

The bottom line: remove as much as you can (seasonal clothes can be packed away, time to donate things you’ve been meaning to, etc), line up clothes by color, keep shelves neat and clear the floor completely.

 
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6. Being in your personal spaces is uncomfortable for people

It’s awkward to be in the bathrooms and bedrooms of strangers. It just is. You can make people feel more comfortable by doing a few things (and remember, being comfortable is the first step to wanting to buy your house!) These tips apply to the whole house, really, but are critical in personal spaces like the master bedroom and bathroom.

Make personal spaces as clean and generic as possible. I know this will feel odd to you and might even be a bit of a hassle before showings, but please trust me that it is worth the effort.

On nightstands, try to remove all personal items. Kleenex, lotion, heart burn medication, used water glasses. All of it. Alarm clocks are oddly personal (as soon as you look at one, you immediately imagine the person in bed sleeping when it goes off, don’t you?), so just tuck these down behind the nightstand if you have one.

In ensuite bathrooms, clear all personal items. We have talked about bathroom-specific things like toothbrushes, razors, soaps, etc, but also look at things like used towels, housecoats, slippers, and scales.

I know, it sounds a little over the top, but what do you think of when you see a scale in the bathroom? Are you imagining someone, maybe yourself, quickly getting on the scale before hopping in the shower? You don’t want a potential buyer thinking of anything but themselves and their family living in your home and distracting them with fleeting thoughts of you in your most personal moments, or feeling uncomfortable in your personal spaces, is not the direction you want them going.

Put away all your dirty laundry and don’t have things like housecoats and pajamas hanging on the back of the door. A laundry hamper can usually be tucked into a closet and before showings, just tuck a clean towel or pillowcase over the top of the clothes.

The bottom line: Make your most personal spaces as neutral and comfortable for strangers as possible.

 
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7. Your messy yard makes people think you don’t take care of your house

I know, they shouldn’t care, and they should understand that you have kids / you have a dog / winter snow came early / you will clean up the yard before you move / and on and on. But the reality is that they do care and they aren’t really all that understanding.

The most important thing is that it’s really not a great first impression. When buyers come up to your home, they are going to take a look around and get a feel for your home before they even go inside.

A messy yard, regardless of why it’s there or the fact that’s it’s truly unrelated to your house itself, says to potential buyers that you don’t really take care of things. Anything. Including your house. Not a fair assessment but it does happen.

You can easily avoid giving a bad impression by just tidying up. Pick up or line up any kids’ toys, clean up pet messes, take out any garbage, move garbage cans to a place where they aren’t obvious (not right beside the back door), weed flower beds, hang hoses, mow grass or shovel the walk. All that good basic stuff you intend to do but don’t always get time for – now’s the time to take a few hours and make it happen.

The bottom line: tidy the yard fully to make a great first impression and set the tone for how you care for your home, inside and out.

 
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8. The kids toys and little things being all over makes people want to tidy your house up

The everyday, real honest fact about kids is that they have so much stuff and half of it is ugly or brightly colored and all of it is hard to hide. Add on to that, they want and need so much of it out every day. Kids’ stuff is not always things that can be packed away before a move.

So, I get it… but… you know how *you* feel when you want to maybe curl up and watch a great movie and settle in and just relax for a bit, but there is kid garbage and mess and toys all over the damn place? And it mostly just makes you feel annoyed and overwhelmed so you just forget about starting the movie, throw your hands in the air in frustration and start cleaning up instead? Yeah, other people feel that way when they see your kids’ mess, too. And you don’t want that when potential buyers come to see your home.

When it comes to my clients, I often hear things like:

But, my kids need all of this stuff. Yes, every day. Yes, every minute of every day.

But, my kids are unhappy about moving and putting their toys away is going to really upset them.

But, I’m going to have my hands full just cleaning the adult things, I can’t be expected to keep this area clean, too.

But, it’s pointless. They have toys out all day every day, 24-7, no matter what. Why bother?

But, look, this is the way we live. People are going to just have to get over it. My kids live here, too.

But, listen, anyone looking at this house is going to have kids, too, so they will get me and understand.

But, I’m serious, who cares about a few toys in a living room? What kind of monster lets that effect whether they want to buy our house or not

I am with you, and I agree… it seems ridiculous. And at the end of the day, it’s always up to you to do or not do whatever you want when your house is listed for sale. I don’t want your kids to be upset or bored or feel displaced, either. Of course not.

But, friends, I’m here for the hard truth: messes and clutter, even sweet kid messes and sweet baby clutter, do affect how people feel when they are in your home and how they feel when they are in your home affects whether or not they want to live there. Many people are able to set negative feelings aside and look at a house from pure logic (often guided by a smart realtor or a spouse that loves the home) but the fact is that you are creating resistance that doesn’t need to be there.

The simplest thing to do is to reduce the volume of what you are dealing with (either declutter permanently or just pre-pack some things for your move), and then work on an easy storage plan for quickly picking up the stuff (big baskets, totes that slide under the bed, a laundry basket that can slide into the closet, whatever words for you), and then just do your best to keep things picked up through the day. Most times this can work, especially when you remember this is a short term pain for a long term gain.

The bottom line: it’s worth your time to reduce the amount of kids’ toys and clutter you have out and visible when you house is listed.

 
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9. Your dirty shoes and dirty laundry are gross to people

I don’t know why. I mean, I guess I do: someone else’s dirty stuff is kind of overly personal. And it probably smells a bit. In truth, maybe it actually doesn’t smell , but no one wants to find out for sure so just looking at it is kind of a turn off. And what have we learned? A turn-off makes people feel uncomfortable and when they feel uncomfortable they want to get out and when they leave like that, with bad feelings in their heart, they don’t want to put an offer on your house.

I mean, they don’t know you so they don’t want to see or smell the dirty feet or workout clothes or funky towel smell of you and your family.

The bottom line: short and sweet, just put this stuff away in closets or baskets with some kind of cover. That’s it.

 
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10. All people really want is a clean slate

The basic, overarching theme of all these things is that all people want is a nice, clean, fresh slate. Even if it’s not logical, these big decisions are often guided by the heart. If your goal is to have people come to your home, feel great while they are there, fall in love with the idea of living there themselves and, ultimately, make an offer to purchase your home, then this is the game.

I’ve given you the insider secrets (even when I felt uncomfortable doing it!), it’s up to you to if you want to implement them or not. At the end of the day, buying a house is a highly competitive, psychological game and you want to win. There will be other houses (lots of them!) that your potential buyers go to see. Often, several showings in the course of a few hours. Your competition might have these things covered, so sometimes neglecting these seemingly ridiculous details will have buyers scratching your house right off their list. I don’t want that for you.

 

The bottom line: I hope that this list, though uncomfortable for me to write and possibly for you to read, has been helpful for you. I know that these hard truths are absolutely worth taking care of if they are problem areas for your home. I wish you the best of luck with the sale of your home!


PS!

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How to Properly Place an Area Rug


I’m almost ashamed to admit the amount of times that I’m looking at beautiful home photos online, admiring the feel of the room, the stunning lighting, the gorgeous styling and then it happens… slowly my eyes drift down to the area rug and all the good feelings I had for the room just vanish. All I want to do is reach in and give it a little pull to make it right.

Getting the rug placement correct is all about laying a good foundation for the room. When it comes to design and styling, it’s one of the pillars of your room and it’s important to get it right. To help you nail this in your own home, I’m sharing my top 5 tips for rug placement below!

Area rugs: big impact, big style, big expense. Consider these ideas to get the most impact from one of the bigger investments in your decor!


My top 5 tips for getting that area rug placed just right:

1. The rug is an anchor & an island

The rug should be the visual anchor for most of the elements of the room. Rug placement has to do with balance and harmony. It’s a large item in the room and its placement needs to fit into the space well as well as visually bring everything together that wold otherwise be visually ‘floating’ in the room.

Think of your empty floor as a wall and the rug as a large piece of statement art. Its position needs to be balanced within the room (as a large piece of art would be balanced on a wall) and anchor the smaller items in the room like the furniture (as a large frame would house the art within it). There will be pieces that do not sit on the rug and you can liken this to the smaller items that might hang on a wall surrounding one larger focal piece.

2. The placement needs to make sense in the room

The rug really needs to be centered on a major architectural element (fireplace, large windows, main focal wall) in the room. It doesn’t necessarily need to be smack dab in the middle of the room - you want its placement to be the island for the visual weight of the room. If it’s not in the middle, it needs to make sense (ie, centered on a large picture windows or the fireplace). This is something that you are going to spend some time thinking about now, and when it’s done properly, neither you or anyone else will ever notice or think about again… but when it’s off, the entire room just feels off. It’s one of those intangible things that you often can’t put your finger on. The room will just feel unbalanced and it’s not obvious right away what the problem is.

As an example, some rooms have doorways and traffic paths on one side, creating the main seating area in the other. This is a classic case of placing the rug centered on the fireplace or a large window, or even a large TV console), rather than centering it in the room.

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3. Balance it under the main furniture grouping

In rooms with any furniture at all, the rug is the anchor for the seating arrangement (or in a bedroom, for the main grouping - bed & nightstands normally). The furniture needs to be placed in a balanced way on the rug. In practical terms, this means that if you drew a line around the inner edges of all the sofas, chairs and side tables in your main furniture grouping (where your knees hang off of a chair, for example), that circle needs to be balanced on the rug.

Now, remember that ‘balanced’ does not always mean smack dab in the middle. The rug could be under only the front part of a bed, or under a seating arrangement with more in front of the grouping than behind, or at an angle under a table in an odd-shaped dining area. This turns out to be something that is quite difficult to explain but very simple to see for yourself once you know to look for it!

4. Look at the legs

A good rule of thumb is that either all furniture legs are on the rug or all front legs are on the rug. This is mainly determined by the size of the rug or the size of the furniture. A large rug will have room for the entire grouping (all legs) on the rug but a smaller rug might mean the groupings back legs are all hanging off. This can also be a case of larger scale furniture, where the back legs need to be off the edges. Furniture is leveled with felt pads on the back legs when they are off the rug, sometimes more than one stacked on top of each other depending how thick the rug is.

In a bedroom, the rug is best placed sideways and pulled out from the foot of the bed as far as needed so that a warm place to walk is created starting from about 1/3 down the bed from the headboard and all around the foot.

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5. Play with the angle

Turn the rug to get the look you want. The rug brings focus and importance to an area of the room and visually joins together all the smaller elements in that space, so don’t be afraid to try turning it a few different ways to see what works best to pull everything together. I try both horizontally and vertically and often at an angle as well before deciding the best placement. Ideally, you want to create a visual bubble around the seating arrangement and leave clear walking paths from room to room if needed, so think of placing the rug in whatever direction works best to accomplish that.

Rotate, angle, adjust, readjust. Don’t be afraid to try placing the rug several different ways before deciding on the best placement.

The rug should do three things in it’s placement:

1) frame the seating arrangement

2) balance or tie in any of the focal points of the room (the fireplace is the main one in a living room, but this could also be a media console that houses the tv or large picture window)

3) let the edges define the line between the seating area and the traffic flow (the main one I see here is angling the rug to create a traffic path through the room while defining the furniture arrangement as a separate area)

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What not to do:

A few quick things to avoid:

Don’t place a too-small rug centered under a coffee table. It looks like it’s wearing a tutu!

Don’t use an area rug in a random place to fill an empty space. It would be like putting a statement broach on your arm - why? What are you calling attention to in that location?

Don't overuse small rugs. These are great for inside doors, in specific work areas like the kitchen sink and as bathmats… but look messy and kind of silly when scattered all over the floor. And no, more is not better. Again, this is a case where the rug should serve a specific purpose and be visually anchored to it’s space (the door area, the bathtub, the sink cabinet). Scale is also a factor here – small space means a small rug.

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If you need some inspiration to get you thinking about creating a beautiful statement in your home, take a look at some of my favorites below!

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Links for all rugs shown above:

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This post may contain affiliate links. For more information please click on the 'policies' tab at the bottom of this page.


PS!

I’m so happy to have added these fresh new mini-guides to my shop! Simple. Efficient. Beautiful. Done. Check them out if you are looking for an easy way to ‘hire’ an interior designer to pull together all of the design details for your home in a really streamlined and simple way.

 

Ready to love where you live?

Join over 12 000 others for instant access to my library of free, practical, and down-to-earth interior design resources: every freebie & printable shared on this website is available for instant download in the library.

 
 

Want to Pin to save for later?

Here you go!

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