Clear surfaces are good for the soul – 5 steps to make it happen today

I have this thing for clear counters.  It just makes me feel good.  At peace, grounded, organized… maybe it's all the things I wish I had more of in my life.  Clearing surfaces is my go-to when I need to refresh a space in my own home and it’s my standard advice to clients before any design transformation takes place. 

I don’t think I’m alone, either.  I often hear from clients that doing this simple first step gives them a clean slate, space to breathe and opens them to thinking about all the possible ways they want their space to feel after we are done working together.

It’s simple but then again, it’s not.  We probably all know it should be done, but we just don’t get around to it, probably because it just seems overwhelming or tedious to deal with all the loose ends of life that are piled up there.  Things we need or might need soon, things that need to be dealt with in one way or another.  I will suggest, though, that for most of us, there is a very small amount things that actually do need to be dealt with in any time-consuming way.  The rest?  Quick, fast, simple, and done.

Today I’m throwing out 5 quick steps to get you started.  I encourage you to just pick one surface and give it a try.   See how it feels afterward – I’m guessing you’ll develop a thing for clear counters, too.

1.        Let go

Don’t overthink this.  Toss garbage and let it go.  If it’s recycling or trash, off it goes into a bag or receptacle.  If it’s something that no longer serves you or makes you happy but you think would be useful to someone else, bag it up and take it out to your porch or car right away.  Take action and keep your momentum going here.   Just stand there with your garbage bag and a recycling box and look quickly at papers with expiry dates, newsletters that are outdated, and at broken bits and pieces.  Toss and keep moving.

2.       Relocate

There are definitely things that don’t belong there.  Gather them up.  I use an empty laundry basket for this and just pile things in that belong elsewhere in the house.  All that stuff you’ve been meaning to put into the storage room, the little bits and pieces that belong in the office or bathroom, the extra stuff you’ve been meaning to move elsewhere when you get time – now is the time to clear it out.  Once you’re done with this step, just set the basket aside.  Afterward, after everything else is done, take a quick tour around the house with your basket and put things away.  Don’t get stuck in each room mulling over where to put things, either, just set them down in a logical spot or out of the way and move on.  Momentum!

3.       Prune

This is the time to look at what you are using on a daily basis.  If you’re not using it every day, clear it away.  Items that you use less frequently should be stored in a place that reflects how often they get used.  Be wise with your storage and prioritize.  The toaster you use every few days should get prime real estate in the kitchen cabinets.  The punch bowl you only bring out at Christmas could go to the basement. 

Is there anything that can be stored in the drawers rather than out on display?  Common offenders that could easily be stored in cabinetry (but often aren’t):

  • ye olde grease-dusty spice rack (you know the stickiness of which I speak)

  • the ceramic crock full of spoons of questionable aesthetics (no judgement here, my favorite cookie lifter has not had a handle for several years and my go-to bamboo spoon is missing one edge)

  • the spreading pile of papers by the phone (school notices, appliance warranties, birthday invites)

  • the bedside bowl filled with personal items (nail files, lotions, hair ties, loose change and lego bits… usually some goodies emptied from a pocket at bedtime)

4.       Be ruthless with your décor

Take an objective look at the decorations you have on your surface.  Seriously consider if you love what’s there.  A clear, clean space might feel a bit empty at first, but it feels much better than one that is bogged down with items that don’t really suit you.  It’s okay to let things go, to evolve your style or to have a clear space for a bit.  Take your time, later, to find a few things that feel right for the surface and make you happy to look at.  It doesn’t take much – one lovely, wonderful, colorful little thing in a bowl or on a tray is worth a dozen tired, boring, no-personality, no-connection pieces.

5.       Scrub & polish

Finally, give a good soapy wipe down to the surface and everything that’s staying.  Give a good clean to all the little nooks and crannies in the woodwork.  Polish up frames, lighting and mirrors.  Stand back and smile.  Doesn’t that feel good?


I’d love to know if you also have a weird love for clear counters… or maybe I convinced you to try to feel a bit of the love?

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!






5 Soul-Focused Tips for Designing a Feel-Good Room


A personal style is like handwriting – it happens as the by-product of our own way of seeing things, enriched by the experiences of everything around us. - Massimo Vignelli

Designing a space that is ‘just right’ means pulling together things that make you feel good and that remind you of warm memories.  You will be at your most comfortable when you are surrounded with things that make you happy and remind you just why it’s good to be you.  Here are 5 soul-focused tips for doing just that.



1.       Clear the clutter

Get rid of stagnant energy by clearing out clutter.  These piles and nests of stuff tend to harbor bad feelings because they are normally things you need to deal with, are unfinished or regret buying or owning in the first place.  Quickly evaluate what you really need to keep (then put it away properly or deal with it right away) and get rid of everything that no longer serves you.

2.       Turn up the volume on some great color

The psychology of color is vital to creating a happy space.  Yes, there are studies and charts to help you find a color that might give the mood you are looking for, but if that’s not your thing, take a look at your closet or the rest of your house.  What colors are you drawn to?  What makes you feel good?  It’s also important to think of the energy you want your room to have – brighter colors tend to be ‘louder’ and be more energetic.  Muted tones tend to be more soft and restful.  Dark, bold colors tend to have a solid, heavy feeling.  Adding color can be as subtle as small accessories or a throw, or as bold as painting the entire room.

3.       Add a few memories

Having little touches of things that warm your heart is the best way to make a connection with your space.  Things like pictures of tender moments with your children and happy photos from around your home are easy fits here.  Don’t overlook more abstract mementos, though.  In my house I have on display a rock collection from summer walks with my kids, a few feathers in a vase brought to me by my son, and a watch that belonged to my husband’s grandfather.  All of these things make me smile when I look at them.

4.       Nod to nature

A connection to nature will bring life to the space.  Consider plants, fresh flowers, rocks, rough wood, water features.  Don’t overlook big, open windows (keep those blinds open and hang your curtains outside the frame), especially if you have a view of trees or a garden.  If plants aren’t possible or just aren’t your thing, there is nothing wrong with a good quality fake, or consider the other non-living alternatives.

5.        Let all that isn’t you fall away.

Evaluate everything in your space.  Get rid of things that just aren’t you - you know you have at least a few things that just bother you for whatever reason – au revoir!




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!



10 Bite-Sized Tips to Style Your Bookcase in Under 30 Minutes

Bookshelves are like showcases, even when their purpose is solely functional.  They are often the largest visual ‘art’ in a room, so styling them with some thought can make a big impact.  There are absolutely no rules about what should go onto your shelves– display anything important, meaningful, or useful.  Don’t overlook items that might spark conversation or evoke a memory or feeling.   I challenge you to search around your house, do a little shopping if you need to, and then gather it all up into a pile on the floor.  Give the shelves a good cleaning and then start working your way through these tips.  Don’t forget to take some before and after pictures because you are about to amaze yourself!


The main goal here is Visual Harmony.  If you can eliminate visual clutter and do nothing else you will be very happy and I’m telling you, it’s going to feel good.  I’m going to help you take it to the next level, though, so let’s get started.

1.       Groupings

Similar objects look better together and have more visual weight.  You can group by type or color.  Create little clusters of collections.  If you have a lot of one type of thing, create several smaller groups.   A color grouping can look really cool, too – if you have several red items, see if layering them together would work.  Put them in a glass bowl or on a tray, maybe.  Much more visual impact this way, rather than scattering them all over the bookcase like lost little polka-dots.

2.       Bigger focal points

Have some bigger shapes (baskets, larger framed prints, a small mirror, stacks of same-colored books, larger object like a rock or ceramic piece.  These items will give pauses in the visual chaos of a busy bookcase.  Don’t overlook lighting – a great lamp can be the perfect addition to a bookcase, as well as soft art-lighting over framed art or photographs.

3.       Color

If you can, it can be stunning to have a cohesive color scheme.  I know this can be a challenge with a bookcase full of books or any assortment of other items that you need access to, but it is definitely possible.   Choose something and try to gather as much as you can in those colors – try a neutral palette, shades of one color, or just pops of a single color.  If your shelves are filled with chaotic book spines with no break, go for a white bookcase with lots of open space – the white will become your neutral frame around the chaos.

4.       Textures

Balance out small, busy textures like stacks of magazines or a glass bowl of rocks with larger scale textures like a smooth linen box or a print framed with a large white mat.  Think of balance and scale here – some big with some small.

5.       Visual planes

Eliminate visual noise of lots of small objects by putting them in a basket or turning them sideways.  Imagine shapes – a horizontal rectangle with an oval on top with some vertical rectangles beside (box with ceramic bowl on top, books stacked beside).

6.       Variety & white space

Break up the visual weight of wall-to-wall books by opening things up a bit - stacking sections on their sides, adding smaller objects on the stacks or on empty spaces , consider grouping the books by color – rather than a wall of ‘static’ you will see larger blocks of color which is much less busy.

7.       Balance

Think about the visual weight of the items on the shelves, the color and the shape (horizontal / vertical, round, square).  Take a good look from across the room.  Blur your eyes.  Look at the bookcase from left to right and top to bottom.  Are things balanced and spread out?  Staggering similar items in a triangle or zig-zag is a good starting point for balance.

8.       Layer

Stack and overlap some items.   This gives some depth and texture to the display. 

9.       Breathing room

Don’t cram things in too tightly if you can help it.  Giving some space around things gives them importance.  Setting your great-grandpa’s watch on a tray gives it some subconscious reverence.   Putting the key to your first house in a frame with a large white mat shows its importance.

10.      Background noise

The color of the shelving itself or adding a color or pattern to the backer board can completely change the feel of the room and affect the tone of the display.   If you are buying new shelving or are considering painting or enhancing your existing shelves, think of what you want to display and how you want the room to feel.  Dark wood can be solid and sophisticated and great for displaying a light-colored collection.  White will brighten up the entire space and make the shelves seem lighter and more open, a patterned or interesting colored backing can be the focus on a book-only shelf.  Wallpaper or fabric can be added to a backing as well – this would be better for shelves holding less busy items (like books, framed prints with large mats or pottery) since the background pattern would be the focus and smaller objects would probably be lost visually.  Keep in mind the shapes you are creating if you go for an interesting backing – be careful to have too much showing on some shelves and none on others, mind the openings and keep them balanced all over the shelf.

This is the basis of the process I use to help my interior design clients and I can’t wait to see what you do with it!  To help you out I’ve created a free printable checklist for these 10 steps to styling your bookcase – it's available in the Resource Library for instant download!