Layered vs. Cluttered: How To Have Your Stuff & Display It Too

Layered vs. Cluttered: How To Have Your Stuff & Display It Too

Dabney Frake
Sep 4, 2015
(Image credit: The College Prepster)

One person's normal stuff is another person's abhorrent clutter and the threshold is different for everyone. Some prefer a bounty of visual treasure that engages the eye, and others want a minimalist look that feels soothing. If you're worried about your maximalist tendencies, there are tricks to editing your space that don't scare your brain needlessly. Learn how to straddle the line (wherever you think it should be), and keep your left eye from twitching with discomfort.

Above, the 900 square-foot home of Thomas Cary, a well-known dealer of rare books and objets, who turned his NYC apartment into a private showroom for clients. At first glance it looks like chaos, but the space is actually ruthlessly merchandised with a rhythm and reason all its own.

Here's how to do it at home:

(Image credit: The Selby)

Display Multiples: When you group together like objects, it doesn't look as random and disconnected as tons of disparate things would. Above, this snapshot of Ford Wheeler's home (seen on The Selby) shows his collection of African folk art. Although there are tons of figurines in his home, it looks purposeful.

(Image credit: SF Girl By Bay)

Organize By Color: To avoid total chaos, keep to a strict color scheme. If books feel like clutter, try arranging them by shade and see if that feels any different. The living room and the books above belong to Allison Serrell, whose home was featured on SF Girl By Bay.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Keep It Contained: If you love stuff, but don't want to be surrounded on all sides, restrict items to certain spots in the room, like a bookshelf of curio cabinet. On a smaller scale, corral items with containers and baskets on surfaces. Kim kept her living room (above) uncluttered with the use of shelving and a tray.

Stick to a Theme: There's a lot going on in Emi & Nathan's home, but it all fits into the "natural history" vibe they've got going on. They stick to what they know and love, it all ends up working together.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Go For Neatness: Get rid of the piles of dishes on the coffee table, the shoes under the sofa, and the stack of magazines you've been meaning to file away forever. This is stuff that make a room feel out of control versus pleasantly filled with the stuff that's fun to look at.

(Image credit: Period Living)

Have a White Background: If you love color, and like lots of contrasting pattern, keep the walls white. You'll guarantee a clean start, and everything that's going on will have a basic backdrop. This room, photographed by Logan Photography for Period Living, manages to be colorful and soothing all at the same time.

Leave Some Free Space: You could argue that there's a not a lick of free space in the room above, and for some people, that's true. But if you are a maximalist, you can have blank moments with large blocks of plain color without pattern, like the pink curtains above. It's all relative.

(Image credit: Rue Magazine)

Repetition: Similarly, you can give your brain a break from processing new information by giving it some "sameness" across the space. Try repeating shapes or color in different spots throughout the room. Even though the wallpaper and curtains in this bedroom from Rue Magazine aren't minimalist, this room misses Crazytown by a mile by using the same pattern in multiple spots throughout the room.

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