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With shelving, drawers and tiered side table, there's a place for everything and a place to sit too! With shelving, drawers and tiered side table, there's a place for everything and a place to sit too!
Designing Dilemmas September 2007

Too Much Stuff and Too Little Space

Dear Debbie: I have a very artistic and creative family, plus my husband is in law enforcement, but relaxes with his guitars. We live in a small ranch on a slab in the southern Illinois area, near St. Louis. This is our first house and we have two daughters who are nearly 10 years apart. I am a freelance illustrator. My eldest child is a musician and tutors. We need specific spaces but here's our dilemma. We have traditional room placement - dining room, front living area, a living area with fireplace and large-screen TV, kitchen, master bedroom, two small bedrooms and a guest room (lots of East Coast friends visit). EVERY SINGLE ROOM is just a polyglot of stuff. I would like to designate a music room and a room for me to work - but I'm at the point of tearing my hair out. My husband also needs a workspace. I need a space of my own with computer desk and drawing space. So, what do you suggest for this insanity? How do I separate space for the kids and their games and entertainment, leave space for music (lots of instruments and their accoutrements), give my husband desk space and myself studio space - all without losing my living room and dining room? I'm thinking you're just going to tell me to move into a new home, but that option is not open at the moment! Lisa

Dear Lisa: A place for everything and everything in its place. This is a good motto to guide you. In fact, I don't think you have a designing dilemma, but an organizing dilemma. Don't move, just organize your home.

The hardest part of getting your home in order is this first step- Get rid of everything you haven't used for the past year! Editing your stuff will free up valuable floor space and if you donate these things, it's also good for you and the community. This difficult first step is essential- if you can't commit to editing all the stuff and ridding yourself of the things you no longer use, you'll find it difficult to make your home functional and your rooms comfortable and usable.

The second step is easier. Now that you've edited the "stuff" down to the things you really use, need and want, organize each room by function. The home office needs all the papers, reference books and art equipment that are essential to your work. Edit your items and make space for your husband to work and store his things as well. The family room needs comfortable seating and, of course, a TV. Move everything related to music into one end or corner of the family room.

Outfit your rooms with furniture that can hold it, store it, display it and give you access to it. For example, add bookcases, tiered side tables (a table near a sofa with a top that holds a remote control and drink and shelves underneath for TV Guides, reading books, etc), cabinets with drawers and wall ledges to hold books, items that need to be stored and mementos/pictures that need to be displayed. A large wall unit in the family room can house your TV equipment with extra room for music, instruments and cds. An "L'" shaped desk top with file drawers below will give room for you and your husband in a home office. Add shelving in closets and in kids' rooms to store games and toys.

I know, sounds simple and having been there, done that, I know it's not easy. Start with an honest assessment of the things that must stay and the items that can go. Designate space for work, play and music. Provide the furniture/storage and display items in each space that will make the room comfortable and functional. Then stick to it. It's not the size of the home that counts. It's organizing it to be user-friendly and comfortable that will make your home work for you.

Go Flat on a Vaulted Ceiling

Dear Debbie: This is a painting dilemma. I have a room with a vaulted popcorn-textured ceiling. I want to minimize it, so I think I should use flat paint on the ceiling. But the walls have no molding to separate them from the ceiling, so without adding molding, how can I use a highly scrubbable paint on the walls and flat on the ceiling?! Help! Melissa

Dear Melissa: Ceiling paint is made in a flat finish so that it is obscured and unnoticeable. It's perfect for your "popcorn" ceiling. Whether you have moulding or not, wall paint that's flat or glossy, flat paint on the ceiling is the way to go. 99 out of 100 homes have flat paint on their ceiling- you should too.

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