Regaining control of a cluttered area


April 17, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

In our consumer society, many people casually go about acquiring possessions until one day their homes are crammed with stuff. Things spill out of closets and, in some cases, the family car can no longer fit into the garage, which now looks just like the overstuffed attic and the impossibly cluttered basement.

It isn't easy to keep a home design in order when objects of every variety are in the way. This is particularly true for sleekly modern houses. These sort of interiors never look right when they're bulging with paraphernalia from a long series of shopping sprees.

The only effective way of gaining control in such situations is by organizing a major garage sale or by giving away unused items. In addition, the inveterate consumer will have to put an end to the unthinking process of acquiring things.

But I'm not in the business of suggesting lifestyle changes. As a designer, my role is to suggest ways of minimizing chaos, regardless of how a client relates to the material world.

To set a helpful design direction, I recommend that attention be paid to a few basic elements. The first is the color scheme, which ought to include either warm or cool neutrals juxtaposed with an individual's favorite colors. A plan intended to prevent clutter also must involve a generic furniture layout that indicates the positioning of pieces according to their width, depth and height.

The photo shows the result of one attempt to restore order to a once unattractively jumbled setting. It's an open space that combines a family room and kitchen. Color, texture and a variety of styles have been skillfully assembled to produce a personalized and relaxed interior.

In keeping with the room's unembellished architecture, the walls have been painted a plain white, while the flooring in both sections of the space has a clean, monochromatic sheen. The XTC rich color of the flooring in each area makes an appropriate background for the multicolored furnishings. The deep white of the kitchen floor looks as though it had been poured from the walls. Note, too, how the border strips in the kitchen help balance the bright colors in the sitting area.

Upholstery fabrics in contemporary designs were added to reinvigorate the tired, traditional furniture. Tables, stools and an eclectic selection of arts and crafts provide visual interest without clutter.

While this may look like a casually put-together setting, original and distinctive interior designs never arise effortlessly. A great deal of thought was given to the colors, the scale of the furnishings and the incidental details. That's the way to regain control of a living environment: through personal discipline and respect for everyday objects.

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