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Design Tip - Organizing

     This tip is a response to a visitor’s request for assistance. As with other visitors’ questions, I think you will find this information useful, if you pick and choose what applies to your situation. Here is a summary of their concerns.
     The room is a large multi-purpose space, (i.e.: great room). It is used as an office, for hobbies, (painting, sewing, computing), for television viewing, etc. The ceiling height is 10 feet. The room has insufficient lighting. There is shelving on some walls, that rises up from the floor to about 6 feet. The client is proposing to paint the shelves and the walls the same color. The proposed color is terra cotta. The budget is approximately $400.

The primary concerns are,
1. How to organize items on shelves, so that the space will appear less cluttered.
2. How to add color to the walls, making the space more intimate, without contributing to the darkness of the room.
3. How to take the emphasis off the television, and place it on the seating area. The client proposes this be accomplished by highlighting a plant, positioned in the corner of the conversation area.

Here are my suggestions.
  1. Since the room is dimly lit, I would go with a bright, strong color. Colors in the terra cotta family would be suitable, as long as the selection is not too dark. I found a site that shows color chips online (isn’t that cool!) Here is the site, Flex Bon Paints. When you open the page, please take a look at the sixth group down. I think a color within the third, fourth or fifth rows could work in the space. You can click on small chips to view larger ones. You do not need to use a specific paint from this line. I just wanted to represent potential colors.
  2. Since the space is busy, I think it is a good idea to paint the shelves similar to the walls. Go slightly lighter or darker, so the space won’t become too monochromatic. After you chosen the paint, referred to in #1 above, select a shade to work with it.
  3. Try to put as many supplies in containers as possible. The more items that are enclosed, the more organized the space will look. If there are items that can not be stored easily, place similar objects together (i.e.: magazines with magazines, books with books, etc.) Again, this type of organization adds continuity. Here are some economical containers: hatboxes, photo boxes, wicker baskets, magazine holders, plastic bins and boxes. The less transparent the container is, the neater things will appear. And, the more natural the material the storage device is made from (i.e.: wood, canvas, etc.), the more sophisticated the space will appear.


Since this is such a large space. You may want to provide separation though the use of area rugs, i.e.: one for the seating area, one for the computing area, etc. Some economical rug types are, carpet remnants with bound edges, rag rugs, or braided rugs. Since you are planning on re-upholstering the seating yourself, you might also want to make your own rugs from your remnants. Here is a site where you can find inexpensive rugs, or learn how to make them:

a. Here is a site that tells you how to make your own rag rugs. The Rag Rugs Tour

To highlight the plant in your seating area, and make it a focal point, use an up light.

You mentioned an essential column that you have highlighted with branches, ribbon and lights. You might want to use lights on other plants to tie things together.

Grouping items that are similar in color, theme, and size can create a cleaner look, so can symmetrical placement of objects. But don’t overdo these techniques. As with anything, too much of one thing is boring and monotonous.

Catherine Foust McGivern, NCIDQ Certified

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