Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Smarten up your space: declutter

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In writing these articles each week I try my best to cover a variety of decorating scenarios so that I reach as many people as possible. This week I want to focus on those who want to simplify their lives; perhaps those who might be starting from scratch with a few key items and for those who just want a great space with little effort or budget required. I happen to fall into the first and last category so I'm right there with you.

We'll use this lovely Kohler living room as our inspiration and guide. It fits all three scenarios so it's a great room from which to garner ideas.

Paring down

The older I get (arggggh... aging. I don't recommend it), the less "stuff" I want in my life, literally and figuratively. Many people are in the same boat. We spend decades feathering the nest and then we'll spend the next decade trying to get rid of all of the stuff we collected! Simplifying your life includes de-cluttering your home.

Whether you're doing this because you are an empty nester or perhaps are retiring and moving to a smaller home, paring down your "stuff" is a great way to begin your transition.

Our feature living room, courtesy of Dulux Australia, might be too sparse even for those who want to pare down, but it's still a good example of a sparse room with lots of character. You can always bring a few more items into the space once you've scaled down to the bare essentials.

What are the bare essentials? Well, in the living room you need a place to sit, someplace to put your coffee down and light to be able to see. That's pretty darn basic, but sometimes you have to put yourself into the right frame of mind in order to stay on track and keep the clutter at bay.

Once you have your room down to the bare essentials, it might feel quite stark. Adding rich colour will instantly bring the room back to life. The one thing that makes our feature room pop is the wall colour.


Unless you like sitting on the floor, you'll need furniture in the room. A high-quality, comfortable piece will last for years and be a treat. Choose a pattern or colour that you can live with for years to come. A solid, unpretentious colour is best.

You can always add colour and patter through paint and artwork as seen in our feature room. You don't necessarily need a set of living room tables either. A large, upholstered ottoman can be used as a coffee table by simply placing a serving tray on it and it can also be used as additional seating. An ottoman is a great place to put up your feet as well. Choosing furniture that does double or triple duty will help keep your decor streamlined.

If you prefer to have traditional tables in a living room, try to choose unique pieces that don't take up a lot of visual space. The tables in our feature room have a wonderful open design that keeps the room light and airy.


Whenever possible, try to have proper lighting installed in your home. Recessed ceiling lights can provide overall better lighting than a single ceiling fixture, just as an example. If installing hard-wired lighting is not an option, then choose lamps that are visually appealing, unfussy and practical. The fewer surfaces to dust, the better.

Accessories and artwork

As mentioned above, one great piece of art can go a long way to enhancing your decor. The colourful painting in our feature room was the inspiration for the rich wall colour and provides visual appeal.

Not much else is needed in the way of wall accessories. Keep it simple and clean. The modern fireplace doesn't even have a mantle. Slick, clean lines keep the space simple and elegant. The lack of a mantle also means that there is no place for bric-a-brac. If you put up a shelf you have to put something on it right? So, don't put up shelves!

If you're a young person just starting out and you're feeling bad because you don't have a lot of stuff for your first home, give yourself 30 years and you'll probably end up wanting what you have now: an uncomplicated, beautiful life. Cheers.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2009 G3

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