Get Organized: Room-by-room Organizing Tips
A downtown couple merges households and brings in professional organizers to help them downsize and declutter.
Photos by Tessa Berg
Executive Coach Mary Ann Singer appreciates the value of a productive environment.
So when she and her new husband, Ezra, an executive with Limited Brands, decided to merge their households into a two-bedroom condominium at North Bank, they pulled together a team of home organizers and a decorator to tackle the job.
“As a coach, I have to walk the talk, so it’s only fitting that I should create a personal space that is highly productive and energetic,” Singer says.
In merging households, they had a combined 5,800 square feet of space. When they moved into a condo half that size, they said goodbye to several items, found new uses for others and put in place systems to organize the rest.
Today, their highly functional space offers plenty of inspiration for the organizationally challenged.
The first step was to sort through the couple’s existing stash to figure out what would work in the new space. Their decorator, Chris King of Manifesto Inc., says he first shops the “free store”—the existing supply of furniture.
For example, Mary Ann’s dining room buffet now serves as the TV stand in the living room. A chest of drawers from her foyer is a night stand, and an armoire that was in her living room now stores linens near the bedroom.
A vintage Singer sewing machine from the family business was converted to a desk stand for Ezra, and an heirloom Sweda cash register from Mary Ann’s family business was mounted on a stand as a conversation piece.
The next step was to establish a unified color palette and design to bring together the couple’s varied pieces within the condo’s open floor plan.
“The challenge was working together a minimalist with a modern sofa and a Southern belle (with) a large trousseau of traditional furnishings,” King says.
Inspired by the Downtown high-rise’s striking views, he proposed a unified color palette reflecting the skyline’s grays, tans and blues. He also suggested a soft contemporary vibe to mesh the couple’s polar styles.
MELDING OPEN SPACES
The look starts just inside the front door in the library. Here, King added crown molding and a vintage library ladder to tone down the modern feel of Ezra’s utilitarian bookshelves. In addition, he negotiated space for accessories in eight of Ezra’s 42 jam-packed bookshelf cubicles.
Ezra’s gray sectional provided the anchor for the open adjoining living area. Mary Ann’s traditional end tables are mixed with upholstered chairs in contemporary fabrics. Rugs and contemporary art, both in the chosen color palette, add to a unified finish.
Nearby, the dining room was converted to Mary Ann’s office. A large traditional desk is positioned in the center of the room like a dining table, and a custom-built wall unit hides unattractive binders, files, printers and stereo equipment.
When it came to accessorizing, King demanded restraint to maintain the clean look of the contemporary styling.
Mary Ann’s 60-plus miniature tea sets and Limoges box collections were contained in inconspicuous display cabinets, and various art pieces were grouped by frame colors.
Favorite accessories were displayed sparingly with the intent of occasionally exchanging them for others tucked away in storage.
ORGANIZING STORAGE SPACES
Once the furnishings were complete, Mary Ann decided to dive deeper into organizing her storage spaces. She called on Leah Sneed and Brooks Brown of OCD@Home, so named for its mission to help clients organize, contain and declutter.
The duo started with the kitchen cabinets, making piles of items to toss, sell or donate.
Next, they organized the remaining items according to function. For example, grab-and-go foods were placed on a Lazy Susan in the pantry while entertaining pieces were stored in higher cabinets.
The home organizers then tackled the bedroom closet, an armoire of linens, an office supply closet and a laundry room.
“You don’t come in here overwhelmed,” says Singer about her laundry room. “Everything now has a place.”
Teresa Woodard is a freelance writer.