Change How Your Home Feels - 12 Things to do Today

true design house - change how your home feels - 43 - pinterest - 1

When it comes to interior design, it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy to be a good and important thing. 

I’m on a mission to help people love where they live because I think being at peace at home is the foundation for a balanced life.

Sometimes we all get overwhelmed by our home.  There so much to deal with every day, so much to clean or declutter, and it can end up weighing us down.   Often the last thing on your mind is the big picture of design and how your home is making you feel, but it is something meaningful to think about.  If you can break it down and know that making a small improvement will absolutely make a difference, you will feel so much better in your home.

If you’re on the same page but only have a few minutes today, here’s a dozen ideas to get you started!

1. Clear a surface & leave it empty

We all have a spot that tends to accumulate the stuff of life.  Clear one off, deal with what’s there, wipe it down and let it be.  This might be hard for some of us but, trust me, it’s going to feel so good to walk into the room and just see open air where there used to be too much stuff.  Will it stay this way?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Does it need to?  Nope.  You just need a refresh today, don’t overthink it.

2. Make your bed a little extra pretty

Make your bed, smooth the blankets, add a throw and maybe some fresh sheets and pillowcases.  Make it inviting and pretty.  Gather a few things from around the house if you have to.

3. Turn on lamps and light a few candles

Soft, warm, ambient lighting is one of the most important elements for a feel-good room.  If you have some small lamps with warm bulbs, light them up.  Adding in a few candles will really turn up the volume on this effect.  Middle of the day?  Who cares.  Go for it anyway.

4. Fill a small bag with trash

Just walk and toss, you’ll fill a bag before you know it.  Actual garbage?  Goodbye.  Things you’ve been meaning to deal with but aren’t likely to?  Buh-bye to you as well.  Things you’ve been saving with good intentions but are now ruining the peaceful vibe you’re cultivating?  See ya.  Key point:  get it out of the house and off your mind as soon as possible.

5. Set up a coffee or tea station

Adding a little nice touch to your daily drink area will make you feel good every time you use it.  A little tray, a stack of special mugs, a canister of tea, a pretty bowl of sugar.  Whatever you have around that is nice and makes you feel good to look at.  Gather a few things and give that spot some meaning.

6. Put on some great music

In the category of ‘intangible ambiance’, music can set the tone for your home.  Find something you love at a volume that suits your mood and let it transform your home.

7. Wipe down your front door

Seems almost too simple to actually matter, but coming home to a door that is cared for really does something nice for us.  It’s the first drop, causing that ripple effect:  well cared for, tidy, at ease.  Even if you mostly come in through the garage or back door (which could be polished up as well if you’re in the mood), giving the front of your house a little love helps you to feel proud of your home and puts you at ease when people stop by.

8. Organize a few drawers

It’s amazing the feel-good effect of opening a drawer to face knives neatly lined up or a sweet box of pens that all actually work.  Ahhhh!  Instant energy boost and internal sun beams.

9. Hang something on an empty wall

Sometime an empty wall just needs a little something - a small piece of art, a framed photograph, a little tapestry or something sculptural.  We often put off hanging things, but why not make it happen today?  Adding life to an empty space feels good, makes us smile and fills our home with character.

10. Rethink your side table styling

Often bedside tables get neglected and filled with the less than lovely clutter of life:  Kleenex boxes, hair elastics, dusty books, water glasses, medications, lotions.  Take a few minutes today to clear them off, wipe them down and rethink how you can style them in a way that feels lovely to look at when you crawl into bed.  Add some height with a large lamp or vase filled with tall foilage.  Corral those odds and ends in a pretty bowl or rustic basket.  Add a doily or fresh candle.  Maybe today is the day for some grocery store flowers.

11. Overhaul and declutter a closet

Going through a closet and getting rid of the things you don’t need is a beautiful thing.  Give it a dust & vacuum and put everything back in just where it belongs.  Simple and tidy just feels so good!

12. Style your front entry

Step outside or stay inside, whatever you like.  Take everything out of the space, give it a good sweep, polish the windows and wipe down the door.  Now take a good look at what actually needs to be in the space and give everything a home before thinking about adding some color - maybe some new throw pillows on a bench, some potted flowers, a new vibrant umbrella stand.  Even if all you do is hang up all the jackets and put the shoes in the closet, this is space going to feel so much better when you’re done.

You can find this digital graphic I created, for free instant download, in my Resource Library.  Click on the image or button below to register or sign in!

true design house - change how your home feels - 43 - pinterest - 3.jpg

7 Simple Steps for a Fresh Start at Home

There are times of the year that are like waking up from a really beautiful dream, times that are the quiet 'after' of something big and exciting and all-consuming in our lives.  Or maybe it's more like the ugly kind of waking up, startled from one of those dreams where you are being chased all night - you're relieved, sweaty and full of anxiety.  I don't judge.  On days like this you're turning a new page and waking up in the 'after'.

After summer holidays.

The quiet lull after Halloween.

Post Christmas abyss.

There is some kind of overwhelming hangover effect as you look around in the days after and realize that now that it's all over, all of this less-than-glittery stuff now needs to be cleaned up, organized, hauled to wherever it lives for most of the year.  It's all the physical and emotional weight of an event, without the excitement and happiness to float you along.  It can really drag a person down.  I hear you.

You crave a fresh start.

What you need to do is act swiftly to clean it up, pack it away and move on.  You need to give yourself a clean slate because a fresh start is where the magic happens.  It's where you can take a deep breath, feel light and unburdened and start to thoughtfully place some happiness in your daily life.


Here's a few simple ways to make that happen today.  

By tonight you could be curled up with a hot cup of tea, looking around your beautiful, clear space, just basking in that great fresh-start feeling!




Clear space for storage.  Wherever that might be, make sure it's ready to go.



Gather the boxes, bags or totes where you're going to be working.  If you are putting away seasonal things, chances are you already have a system in place.  If not, that's ok, just gather what you think will work.  Don't overthink this, you don't need the perfect totes or specialty boxes.  Grab what you have or can get easily.  Momentum is key here, don't lose it.



Working swiftly, wrap things up and get them put away.  As you fill each box, take it to your storage area and move along.



Clear away anything that doesn't belong in the space.  This is a great time to fill a box or bag with things to donate.  Be liberal with getting rid of things that no longer serve you or that you don't love anymore.  Recycle or throw away anything that is garbage.



Once everything is cleared, do a quick clean.  This isn't the time to scrub baseboards and organize drawers.  Surface clean, dust and sweep or vacuum.  Fold and put away.  Give everything a quick wipe down.


By now you should be feeling pretty good.  A clean slate has that effect!



Next, it's time to tackle those maintenance items that tend to get brushed aside during daily life.  Common things I see are burnt out light bulbs, squeaky door hinges, and throw pillow covers that need a wash.  Anything that can be handled in a few minutes with what you have on hand.  If you can't get to it right away, make a little to-do list and deal with things as soon as you can over the next few days.  Again, this should be small stuff - we are not refinishing floors here.  Just handle the little jobs that you've been neglecting - we all have them!



The final thing to do is small but important:  add a couple of meaningful items.  You just need a thing or two for this to work - don't overwhelm your space with clutter.  The goal here is to give yourself some breathing room for a little while.  Enjoy the openness and clear space before moving onward in your decorating.  Find an item or two that give you a happy feeling - a stone from a river walk that your kids found, a beloved snapshot from a vacation,  a teacup from your grandma.  Place them wherever feels good, where you can see them daily.  This isn't permanent so don't overthink it.



I challenge you to leave your space in this open, clear state for a week or so. Enjoy the uncluttered, unburdened feeling.  This is what a fresh start is all about:  giving yourself time and space to reset. 

Take some time during this week to immerse yourself in inspiration.  Check out photos online, magazines, books and blogs- you'll soon see a pattern in the things you are drawn to.  It won't take long before you start to think of what would be good additions to the space, how it might function better, how it could be organized differently.  You'll probably start to think about things to do to your room, ways you could make it exactly how you want it to look and feel.  If you go forward thoughtfully, only adding things to your space that enhance it, you will have soaked up the full benefit of your fresh start.

Enjoy that fresh start feeling - you earned it!






The Anatomy of Flawless Wall Art Placement

Today I am answering another great question from my inbox on this beautiful, sunny What To Do Wednesday!

Hi Tara, I have a few questions about art placement in my living room.  How high above the sofa should art be hung?  To what scale should art or decor be to a wall?  I am wondering, should photos be staggered or in line with each other when making a grouping?  Thanks so much!



This is a great question not only because it’s so universal but also because getting it right can make a huge impact in your room.  I mean, there is a lot of grey area where things can look ‘okay’, but if it’s very wrong it can draw a lot of (bad) attention.   If you nail this, it takes your room to another level.

The main design goal when hanging art is to create a pleasing sense of proportion.  Having things sit in nice relation to each other looks so wonderful.   There are several guidelines that can be used to achieve that, but in the end you just want it to feel right.  It’s very obvious to understand that if you imagine a tiny print hanging awkwardly by itself to the side of a huge blank wall.  You would take one look and know it doesn’t feel right.  Now, the ‘feel’ of this question is a little hard to translate into an exact lesson, but  if you trust your gut to tell you when it’s not right then you can use these tips to narrow down just what to do about it.  Once you start thinking in terms of proportion, it’s easy to get things looking great.

These are common guidelines that I use for myself when I’m advising clients on hanging art or laying things out myself.  These should get you started and give you some things to consider, but remember to lay it out then see how it feels before committing.  Sometimes breaking a rule is just the right thing to do.  Not every rule applies to every situation - you’re getting a smattering of what’s in my mental toolbox as I’m thinking things through!


Vertically center the art at eye level

The horizontal line running across the piece should be about at eye level of a standing adult of average height (5’ 6” or so).

The rule of thirds

Divide the wall into 3 horizontal bands and try to focus the art along the line between the top 2 sections.  This is a photography rule but it works in interior design as well.

The art belongs to a family

Make the art part of a visual grouping with the dominant things around it – windows, furniture, lamps, plants, etc.  If you can bring the art closer in relation to those things, rather than floating ungrounded in the dead center of a wall, you will create an eye-pleasing vignette when looking at the groupings in the room.


Although, the above tip is my go-to plan, there are times when there is a really dominating architectural feature in the room (pillars, a large grouping of windows, built in book cases) and then it’s often a better fit to lay out the art work with those features as the main grouping, then arrange the furniture around that to balance the room (or balance with plants, etc).  For example, if there are two large windows with a wall space in between, I would center the art between the windows first.  Then, to balance the room I would arrange the furniture where it fits best, and if that is not working with where the art is on the wall (if the furniture is all to one side), I’d add a large plant or a floor lamp with a basket of blankets, maybe a small table with a little grouping on it. 


A gallery should have a main shape to it (a square, rectangle, oval, etc).  All the frames should more or less fit into that shape in a balanced way.  Some edges can be ‘loose’ but the core of the grouping should have some structure.


Especially in large galleries, it looks best to leave a consistent, even spacing between all of the frames and let the outer edges be a little free-formed.   2” is about average.  When the outer edges of a grouping are a uneven, try to balance things by having that extra visual weight on both opposite corners or sides.

Practical Hanging Tips

Use a measuring tape – ensure your picture will be exactly where you want it before nailing into the wall.

Level  up – straight pictures make a heart happy.

Dot it – put a small dot of toothpaste on the hanging spot on the back of the frame, then hold the frame to the wall and press.  You will get perfect placement for the hanging hardware,  just wipe off the toothpaste and you are done.  I have used this tip for years and it works perfectly every time.

Templates – use a piece of cardboard or wrapping paper and some painters’ tape to test out art placement on the wall. 

Gallery tips - A large template of the core shape for a gallery grouping can help you figure out shape and sizing, then can be laid on the floor to lay the frames out on it.  Use the toothpaste trick to put dots onto the template, tape the template to the wall and nail through the dots.  Rip off the paper, hang the frames and your gallery will be perfect.   Also helps to take a picture with your phone of the gallery layout on the floor to make it easier to remember where everything goes as you are hanging it.  I also sometimes use sticky notes to number the frames before taking the picture if they are similar.


I do hope this has been helpful – looking forward to doing it again next Wednesday!

  Click below to send me your burning design questions - I might choose yours to feature next week!






The Impact of Good Interior Design: Peace, Order & Comfort

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the bigger picture of interior design, why it matters, why it’s more than just aesthetics, being stylish and (the worst, most cringe-worthy label), just plain snobbery.  I’m just not into any of that kind of thing, really (like, so incredibly not), so I have been scratching an itch in my brain for weeks, wondering why I feel so strongly about design then. 

I feel so deeply that there is something so important about regular old good design, well thought out with common sense, beautiful, good design.  Design that just makes daily life better.  Design for the people.  (haha)  Explaining that, however, doesn’t come easy to me.   I mean, if I was a teacher I would feel deep in my heart that public education is a fundamental right and that being a safe and happy place in a child’s life was a privilege and an honor.  I could tell anyone, anywhere about the importance of the heart and soul of my career.  It gets a little trickier with my own career though, which can be perceived as an indulgence of the wealthy and snotty.  (By the way, in my nearly 20 years in the design field I have never actually encountered one of these clients, so it’s not just my opinion here.) 

I do feel it, though, that this thing I’m passionate about has meaning and in all the thinking I’ve been doing I came to a conclusion:  it’s all about helping people create a safe haven.  And that is vital and it matters.  It matters if you are a young newlywed couple, it matters if you are a bachelor, it matters if you are a child, it matters if you are a newly widowed grandma.  We all deserve and crave, at a very deep and primal level, a home that makes us feel good and safe.

So, I’m wondering – am I right?  What are you seeking at home? 

Peace, order, comfort, love?


The feeling you have when you are at home is a fundamental part of who we are.  Feeling good when you are in your home, when you are in your kitchen or in your bedroom is important.  It sets the framework for your life, for how you feel about yourself, your life, your relationships, your kids.  When you feel at peace, when you feel happy and proud of your home, you feel good about yourself.  Feeling good about yourself allows you to go out into the world with positivity and energy and confidence.  It matters.  It matters to yourself, to the quality of your relationship, to the happiness of your kids.


You need to pull yourself out of chaos and the burden of a house you don’t love.  Living somewhere overwhelming or draining or depressing is not what you deserve in life, not what your family deserves.  You can make simple changes that make things better.  These things do not need to take money but they will take thought and time and effort - it is worth it.   Your home and space is a reflection of your energy and your life.  Having an orderly home is a peaceful refuge, and that is important.


There are deep psychological reasons that having a space that is peaceful and orderly and happy and comfortable builds something fantastic deep within us. Your kids will thrive in a happy home, your relationship will be better.  A happier home makes everyone feel good.   When people feel good they are able to laugh more, to have that inner peace we are all trying to protect.  It matters.  It’s not just aesthetics.  It’s a reflection of how you feel about yourself and your family and it changes the way your kids feel about themselves as they grow up. 

Having a home that feels comfortable to us, brings peace to our families and order to our lives is a beautiful goal, isn’t it?  And there’s nothing even remotely snobby about that!

What are you seeking at home right now – I’d love to know!

2 Key First Steps to a Great Entryway

pinterest - blog 15 - entry design -  truedesignhouse.jpg

Creating a great entryway to your home is one of the most important places you can focus your attention when polishing up your home's interior design.  The foyer welcomes not only your guests but, more importantly, your family and yourself on a daily basis.  Walking into your own home and feeling warm and comfortable, maybe even, dare I say it, a little extra happy, is a wonderful thing.  It’s a gift to yourself and one that is both simple and rewarding.  It’s completely conceivable that you could have breakfast, spend an hour or two dreaming and planning, a bit of time gathering what you need, and have the entry completely transformed by lunch.

The key to a great entry is two-pronged:  the first element to master is function;

the second is creating a great feeling. 

Function is clear – wrangle the things that normally pile up.  Be honest with yourself about what your entry normally looks like with the plan that later everything will find its place.  (Thank you Mary Poppins for that bit of wisdom.)    You could make use of a closet organizer, hooks, baskets, bowls, trays, or a table or wall shelf.    Try to imagine the flow of the ‘stuff’ that comes in and where you could put it that is both easy (since it's more likely to get used this way) and visually appealing (a space just feels better with less visual clutter, so tucking things into baskets and bowls or behind doors does help).

The second element is to think about how you want to feel when you walk through the door and to add elements that convey that feeling.  Think about meaningful pieces that you own, things that remind you of a time or place or person, that might go well in the entry.  Choose a color palette that makes you happy and add a few touches of that.  You don’t need to paint the entry in its entirety – it should flow well into the rest of the house and shouldn’t be cut off with color to look smaller than it (normally) is, so keeping the walls the same color as the room next to it makes sense. Adding color or texture works well in little touches in an entry – small art, accessories, or a rug.  If you are using pops of color, don't be afraid to go bold!


The entrance is a small area, usually without much build up of things or emotional baggage to sort through.   My hope is that you can easily apply these tips and transform a normally mundane and often chaotic space into something lovely!