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Ten ways to make a room more functional

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Create a pretty, practical space with these simple suggestions

May-5.jpgEver wonder how the pros make decor and design look so easy and effortless? Get the inside scoop from Inside Design’s Suzanne McClellan.

1. Maximize vertical space
Take advantage of wall height by adding tall bookcases, cabinets or shelves, or by hanging hooks for jackets in the hallway, or clothing and toys in a child’s room, or pots and pans in the kitchen.

May-6.jpg 2. Keep traffic paths clear

Avoid bumping into furniture by creating an efficient layout. Make direct paths to commonly used zones and leave enough space to maneuver around each piece of furniture. When you buy furniture, keep in mind the scale of the room, and don’t buy such huge pieces that it makes your room look smaller.

May-7.jpg 3. Control clutter

Get rid of items you no longer need or use and donate them to charity. Sort mail over the trash can so you can throw the envelopes and junk mail out before it hits your desk. Deal with paperwork as it comes in, have three files that you use all the time: Bills to pay, invitations and stuff to read or do later. Make filing look great with beautiful file folders from Cavallini Papers & Co., in San Francisco. Return everything to its original place when you’re done with it. Make this your motto: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Clutter control is one of the hardest things to accomplish. My philosophy is, when in doubt throw it out.

4. Add storage
Store similar items—such as cleaning and bathroom supplies—in labeled hat boxes or colorful plastic bins. Just because it’s in storage doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. One time I wanted nice storage, so I painted some shoe boxes with leftover paint and then used them in my closets. For particularly unkempt areas, purchase storage options like an over-the-door rack to get shoes off the floor, a closet-size second shelving unit to stash seasonal clothing or storage units that fit under your bed.

5. Create a nook in a bedroom, living room or closet

If you don’t have the luxury of a separate office or study, add a work area in a corner of a bedroom, living room or even a closet. That way when you want a pink-and-white polka dot office you can have one in the closet and hide your secret from the world.

6. Use a room for what it’s intended

Try to keep the children’s toys in their bedrooms or playroom. (When you make that happen, let me know.) Do paperwork or homework in a home office or den—not the dining room—and move all your craft or woodworking projects out of the kitchen and into the garage or craft room.

7. Store items in the rooms where you will use them the most

Keep table linens in the dining room, books and magazines in the den, dish towels in the kitchen, and detergent in the laundry room.

8. Purchase double-duty furnishings
Buy furniture that does double duty, such as a coffee table with a shelf for magazines and books, ottomans with inside storage, and buy baskets, which can house a load of extra stuff, plus if they get messy you can pick them up quickly and hide them before company comes over. And get a comfy sofa bed for any unexpected guests.

9. Have multiple table surfaces, and think like a Bubba
Rather than having to get out of your seat every time you want a sip of coffee, think like a Bubba. Make sure that everything you need to relax in that chair is within arm’s reach.

10. Purchase lighting correctly
When you buy a lamp, ask yourself the question, What is this light for? Reading, ambience or task? Make sure that your home has table lamps, floor lamps and other lighting for reading, eating or writing, and for setting the mood.