Surface Matters

Has your living space become unmanageable or unsettling? Too much stuff? Are you unhappy about how a room feels when you enter and spend time in it? Are you interested in creating more simplicity in your rooms? We’ve all heard that we need to declutter, but how many of us know how

to do that and where to start?

1) Start by thinking about the table tops and other horizontal surfaces in your house. A common problem in many houses is having too much furniture, especially tables. We’ve got dining tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables, side tables, fold-up tables, bedside tables, desks and more.

Not to discourage you, but as well as large and small tables we also have other horizontal surfaces we are seduced into putting stuff on. I’m thinking of window sills, book shelves, fireplace mantles, plant stands, dressers and the like. All these surfaces require fussy dusting time when we have extra

stuff on them, not to mention more furniture to vacuum around. Have you noticed that even the dread of having to organise before cleaning up a room is an energy drain?

Now focus on the task to see if you can eliminate any tables. How do you do this? Think carefully about the actual function of each surface and how essential it is to the comfort of the room. Think about possible clever, new ways to combine their functions and see if any surfaces might become redundant. If you can double up the use of even one, you may eliminate the need for another.

Here is an example of this type of furniture simplification. I recently helped my mother re-size to a 1-bedroom apartment. She needed less furniture so instead of taking her T.V. with the unattractive stand, we removed a shelf from her teak shelving unit and a TV fit perfectly on the first deep surface. She was thrilled with the innovative reuse of the teak unit and is glad to be free of the old stand.

Your goal is to eliminate unnecessary surfaces, if it results in removing even one piece of furniture this creates more open floor space. This changes the visual space so a room looks larger when the eye can travel across the floor with fewer interruptions. It also simplifies cleaning!

2) After you finish that exercise, have a look at other surfaces that collect things. In most cases it is unnecessary to have anything on window sills. Try clearing them off, live with that for a bit. Notice changes in yourself keeping the goal of calmer, uncluttered surroundings intentionally in the front of your mind.

3) How about your bookshelves? It takes time but is worthwhile to rethink what is stuffed in there. Sort through the books; return the borrowed ones, give away the novels you’re not going to reread and the books you’ve outgrown. Take the remaining group of treasured keepers and give them

pride of place on your shelves. Your books need breathing space too. For visual interest some of the books can be alternating in horizontal stacks to break up rows of long vertical spines. It also makes the titles easier to read. If you did a really good job culling to the essential books then you may have room for a few of your treasures interspersed on the shelves for interest. Perhaps a few small sculptures, some pottery or a picture. The goal is not to pack the shelves again but to leave some intentional gaps,

giving your eyes areas of calm.

Keep in mind that any horizontal surface in your house which has less on it allows for a calmer, simpler ambiance when you return from a busy day. Live with your changes for a while and observe any difference in your attitudes and energy when you enter and use your simplified room.

This is the beginning of the process called reDesign. If you really get energized using these reDesign exercises then I recommend turning your new found skills to your kitchen counters, island and the tops of your kitchen cupboards – but don’t expect to have it all done in a day!

Jan Laurie lives in Nanaimo. She is a partner in Cooperative Design Home Staging & ReDesign Specialists. She is also a fabric artist and hand drummer/percussionist.