If you need to get organized, you also need a good strategy, or approach. The best strategies result from thinking about how, when and where things are used, not just where they’re stored. Try these four simple techniques to tame clutter in your own home!

1. Think zones, not rooms. Most of us organize our home by room… dishes in the kitchen, clothes in the bedroom, toiletries in the bathroom. The problem with this 30,000-foot view of our home is that, in reality, each room is a microcosm of activities, not just a single one. Instead, think about the ‘key activities’ that happen in your home… getting dressed, paying bills, packing a suitcase. Then consider how you could create a zone around each activity, with related things kept together, where they’re used.

For example, you could create a dressing zone in your bedroom by keeping makeup, hair dryer, jewelry, scarves, etc. together in one place, or one piece of furniture, with a power bar attached to the back or insider of a dresser. Or you could create a party zone drawer in your china cabinet to store candles, napkins and placemats. Or a beverage zone in your china cabinet to store wine and cocktail supplies together with wine glasses. Or a home office zone drawer to store stamps, stationary and office supplies and recharge portable electronics Creating zones—whether on a shelf or inside a drawer or storage bin saves us time and energy, not to mention money (re-buying things we already own but can’t find!). Zones ensure things are always in their place and placed where they’re used.

2. Open up storage space. One of the quickest ways to make more space inside overstuffed closets and drawers is to move off-season things… or things yu’re not using to an alternate location. That doesn’t have to mean giving them away.  Invest in a portable wardrobe rack (under $30) that you can store in a basement, attic. Or store off-season clothing or shoes in under-bed storage boxes or stackable storage bins.

2. Give yourself time to let go of things. Most of us have a hard time letting go of things; even things we haven’t used in years. After all, we might just need them… or worse, we’ll miss them! The truth is, we probably won’t do either. But still, letting go is difficult. So why not give yourself a buffer – a transition zone. Remove the things you haven’t used or worn in more than 2 years. Take a photo of items with special memories and store them in boxes or large plastic bag. Label the contents and store it someplace out of the way – in a garage, basement or attic. If you still haven’t used or missed the items you’ve stored after a set time limit,  just drop off the box or bag at a good-will store. Or call a charitable organization to pick it up.

4. Decide to help someone else. It’s never been a better time to give things away. Thinking about how much your things will be appreciated by people in need is its own motivation to part with things you’re not using. Making a difference in someone else’s life is one of life’s biggest rewards. It’s also a great lesson to teach kids. Letting go of old or extra toys is easier and even exciting for kids when they realize they’re bringing happiness to another child!

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Check out this fun card from Aspenhome Furniture, complete with easy (and very memorable) ways to create the perfect guest bedroom for the holidays! See if you can find all 15 tips!

http://www.aspenhome.net/CompanysComing/

At 103" tall, the Napa grand wall, by Aspenhome Furniture, is ideal for a living room with high ceilings... and meets all the criteria of the perfect focal point.

A living room’s focal point can be more than just pretty to look at. It also gives a room  purpose and guides furniture placement!

Unless your living room design has an obvious focal point (a large fireplace, unusual windows), you’ll need to create one. How? Select an object that promotes the room’s main activity. A handsome cabinet makes TV-watching easier, a unique area rug under a sofa and chairs invite together.

According to interior designers, the perfect focal point in a room should meet eight criteria…

#1. Nice to look at!  Being the center of attention, a room’s focal point needs good design and detail. If choosing furniture as a focal point, here’s a tip. The Ancient Greeks insisted that the most beautiful objects had a ratio (between top and bottom sections) of about 2/3 : 1/3. Given how important a focal point is, it helps if it meets classical standards!

#2. Well lit. Recessed lighting within the focal point, or accent lighting on the focal point adds art gallery-like drama.

#3. Personal. Adding books, picture frames or  favorite objects above or inside a focal point makes it unique. Adjustable shelves in a cabinet are ideal for customizing your own display.

#4. Useful. A focal point with a purpose does double duty! A fireplace adds warmth. Furniture with drawers adds storage. Cabinets with glass doors keeps media components dust-free and the remote control working!

#5. Without a bad side!  There can’t be any unfinished sides on furniture thats also a focal point. If a tall piece of furniture is visible from a balcony, the top must look as good as the front!

#6. Next to seating. Whether a fireplace, window or TV wall, focal points should draw us like a magnet, making a convenient, comfortable place to perch nearby… whether a chair or full seating area.

#7. Scaled for the room.  A focal point needs to be right-sized for the room! In a large living room with high ceilings, a tall piece of furniture will look more proportionate. In a small room or one with low-ceilings, a low, wide unit will look more proprotionate… and make the ceilings look higher!

#8. Unlike the wall behind it. Focal points that contrast the color or texture of the wall behind it stand out. Objects with sculptural, or three-dimensional qualities add extra drama.

In most living  and family rooms, watching TV is the main activity! A  grand cabinet, like the Napa grand wall (above) houses a large TV without making the TV itself the focus of the room.

 

This stylish white kitchen is the Room of the Month in our current issue of RoomPlanners magazine.  If you’d like to read more about this white kitchen makeover, check out page 37-39 of the current issue.

We’d like to know which dining chair you’d put in the neighboring dining area beside the kitchen. Cast your vote, or just check out the results!

This fall’s color options are expanding from simple red-and-green, and even sophisticated silver-and-gold combinations. New favorite color combinations are emerging… from plums and purples with gold to sophisticated light and dark neutrals to pale baby blues with white and silver. 

We’re polling our readers to see which they liked best. Cast your vote below, or check the  poll results so far!

Alyssa, by Ashley Furniture

This pretty dining room furniture (Alyssa, by Ashley Furniture) makes a nice choice for a small dining room or even a dressy kitchen. Its design also offers some clues to guide color and accessory choices.

Our first home decorating clue is all the curve on this dining table and chairs! Curves are especially French, and there are plenty of them here!

dining chair can help set the entire home decorating direction for a room, and the Alyssa chair is no exception.

The metal legs are modeled after the French cabriole leg – that S-shaped French leg that always suggests a refined, elegant and slightly dressy room.

The shiny damask fabric on the chair seat has inspired many dressy dining room tablecloths and linens… and French ones in particular! Damask is typically paired up with the fancy glassware and the good china, so that’s an important clue too.

Then there’s all that scrolling metal.  You can almost pick out a fleur de lys pattern in the chair back….that popular French design of a lily that’s inspired many a formal, French pattern over the years.

The round metal ring above the fancy wood base on the dining table sort of resembles a corona, or the base of a crown and the braided edge of the table resembles the edge of a pie or braided French bread.

With all the fancy details on this dining room, a French-inspired decor seems to be in order! Here are two schemes… one that’s a little on the formal side… one that’s just fun.

First, a very classic, very dressy French option.

The interior paint colors here are delicate and muted… dusty rose, coral and champagne tones. Artwork and accents look suitably French – but that doesn’t have to mean ornate curves, scroll or flowers are a pretty good bet. The chandelier on the right is elegant with all those French-looking crystals, but notice it’s also long and narrow rather than wide  – that’s to keep it in scale with the smaller table. The single bowl-shaped pendant on the left is a more current choice. It picks up on the scrolled metal, but it’s simpler against all the curves in the  furniture.  Dressy fabrics are in order here – for windows and walls, use simple sheers, a delicate stripe or even a damask pattern that’s lighter or darker than the chair seat. For an elegant, no-fail French effect, run curtains from the floor right to the ceiling.

 A second option is more casual, but equally French.

The paint colors here are natural and organic…. muted greens and yellows that remind us of chardonnay wine and olives.  Artwork could include scenes of the Paris streets – casual shots of store windows, bistro cafes or even French people.  Drawings of French food or wine bottles are good choices… so are French words included on the art. Not to worry if you can’t pronounce them – they just need to add a little French culture and sophistication! Clocks also make a nice accent – especially ones that looks like they might belong in a Paris train station – large, with an antique face and curved numbers. To keep that Paris neighborhood feeling going, use a French lantern rather than a chandelier. Fabrics can be more informal, but still with a bit of a sheen. Draperies could cover the entire window… or just the lower half if you’re up for the French café curtain look.

To see interior paint color numbers (Behr), click on the photo to enlarge it. For more home decor ideas, visit www.roomplanners.com. To receive our free room design magazine, sign up here.

Left, Loreen Epp (Editor-in-Chief, RoomPlanners magazine). Right, Jane Seymour.

I had a chance to speak with renowned acress and artist  Jane Seymour about her new furniture designs last month in High Point, North Carolina.

Seymour premiered a trio of furniture collections a year ago, including Palace Gates, Cobblestone Road and Hollywood Swank. This fall, her Grand Shore ( inspired by grand hotels of bygone eras), and Lakeshore Retreat (inspired by dreamy summer vacations by the lake) were introduced.

Seymour’s designs are inspired by her passion for art and design. (Seymour also recently designed an Open Hearts necklace for Kay Jewelers)  She feels strongly about developing unique and versatile furniture collections that offer consumers affordable elegance. Her style is decidedly nostalgic and romantic, though her Hollywood Swank collection below has a fair bit of glam!

Hollywood Swank is one of Jane Seymour's furniture designs, by AICO/Amini Innovation Corp.

A new home department just opened at Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in Manhattan. The company hasn’t sold furniture or home furnishing products in 20 years, but is testing consumer interest in furniture, bedding and tabletop. 

Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein brands headline. Prices aren’t for the faint of heart (try $130 for a toss pillow), but the styling lives up to what you’d expect from these brands.

A few highlights from their grand opening this week…

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein

Here’s a trick to make your bedroom look professionally-designed: Coordinate the colors of your bedroom’s linens (comforter, pillows, sheets) with the colors of your bedroom’s wall art… and place them so they’re seen together.

A few examples! Below, the wall art complements the color (and patterns) found in the bedding and the bed itself. With such neutral-colored (black and white) bedding and artwork, an unrelated (blue) colored walls is a good choice.

Another example! The wall is painted the same color as  the quilt at the end of the bed. But again, notice how the colors in the wall art pick up the colors in the patterned comforter and pillows.

A small detail with a big impact!

Having to raise your voice to be heard by guests sitting in the same room is always a bit unfortunate… especially in a room that’s all about conversation!

This living room suffers from the ‘furniture sprawl’ typical of many big living rooms. The furniture is spread out to line the walls and fill the space, with nothing the right distance from anything. Sadly, intimate conversation… or a feeling of warmth… won’t happen here. 

An over-sized living room needs a tight furniture arrangment so items (and people!) don’t float aimlessly around the room.

If you’ve got a large living room, here’s how to make it work!

 * Pull the furniture into the center of the room. Use the extra space to create a walkway around the furniture rather than in front of it. Or move it to one side and use the other side for a second seating area, game table, grand piano or office area.

 * Place furniture in an  L-shaped or U-shaped seating cluster, with end tables to fill in the corners. A sectional makes a great choice. Use an area rug to anchor, or visually keep the pieces together in the large space.

 * Embrace empty wall space! It’s more appealing in a large space than small pieces of artwork or furniture scattered about. Make the seating area the major focus of attention, with a few large pieces of art or cabinets placed against feature walls.