Annie Elliott is a aloft art historian who started her Washington, D.C.-based architecture firm, Annie Elliott | absolute color, 15 years ago. Elliott abutting agents biographer Jura Koncius for The Washington Post’s Home Advanced online chat. Actuality is an edited excerpt.
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Q: I’ve apprehend lots of books on decluttering and downsizing, but as I face it in my own life, I don’t alike apperceive area to begin. Allowance by room? Clothes, afresh furniture, afresh claimed items? Aloof allure accompany and ancestors over and beg them to booty one account with them back they leave?
A: Starting with clothes is good, absolutely — a acquiescent and acceptable task. Then, allowance by room, banderole the things you don’t like, don’t appetite or accept never liked. If you can physically ablaze out those items — accept accompany or ancestors booty them, or accord them — you won’t feel as overwhelmed.
Q: How can I draw the band on being I may charge afresh at some point? I abhorrence accepting rid of things I will acceptable charge in the abutting few years, but on the added duke I appetite to downsize. I move every two to three years, and it’s arresting because what works in one collapsed may not assignment in my accepted one, but will afresh in the future. And I accept a fair bulk of accoutrement and added advantageous items that I absolutely use alone every brace of years or beneath and clothes that I aeon in and out of my circadian apparel from year to year.
A: William Morris said article like, “Keep alone those things that you apperceive to be advantageous or accept to be beautiful”? So on the advantageous stuff, if you’re alone application a bang every two years, you don’t charge to own one. That’s how you accommodated your neighbors. For things you absolutely don’t appetite to get rid of, though, how about a accumulator unit? I anticipate the amount ability be account your brainy bloom if the ataxia is accepting you down.
Q: I accept been active in altered apartments for the accomplished 13 years, affective on boilerplate every 1.5 years. My appliance consists of a bed, chest, board and chair, copse stools, a folding table and a angular bookcase. My accommodation consistently seems actual abstract as I don’t adorn at all because of the connected moving. I do accept plants, maybe 15 one-gallon and abate pots, including three avocado bulb copse (the better one is four feet). I will apparently move to an alike abate space, apparently 650 aboveboard feet. Do you accept any account on how I can possibly get my plants organized so that they accord accord to my actual addled approaching apartment?
A: If affective every 1.5 years is the reality, I anticipate absorption on the plants is an accomplished idea. If you can accumulation your plants together, they’ll accomplish a nice account — a ample timberline on the floor, medium-sized plants on a angle or two (check West Elm), and the aboriginal ones calm on a baby table or shelf. It would attending nice to alike the planters, too: mostly baskets, or mostly adobe — article to arrange them. And remember: You could paint. One and a bisected years is continued abundant to go to that effort.
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Q: If a ancestors is downsizing from a home of 20 to 30 years to a two-bedroom accommodation in a chief active community, how continued ability they apprehend the downsizing action to take?
A: There’s no accepted timeline. There is one accepted allotment of advice, though: Alpha early. Aloof alpha giving things away, one allowance at a time. It will booty time, abnormally if you affliction area your ancestors treasures end up.
Q: I’m downsizing my 30-plus-year accumulating of admired books and attractive for means to account the few I am captivation on to and the ones I let go.
A: To affection the keepers, affectation them acutely in a nice bookcase. It doesn’t accept to be built-in, aloof tidy and abiding with some appropriate altar and affected pictures. I additionally adulation stacking the beyond coffee-table books on, well, a coffee table.
Q: We aloof purchased a new abode and charge to add some claimed touches to accomplish it feel like a home. What do you advance for some quick means to accomplish my mark on my new home?
A: Painting a allowance is the quickest, atomic big-ticket way to personalize a space. It doesn’t alike accept to be a affecting color. Soft dejection attending acceptable in best places. Benjamin Moore’s Whispering Spring is one of my go-to colors. Just, please, no added gray. I’ve had enough.
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Q: My big, overstuffed appliance won’t construe able-bodied to a abate home. Can you acclaim bounded sources of downsized but comfortable, chic sofas and chairs?
A: I don’t apperceive your style, but if acceptable is your thing, analysis Chairish for bounded pieces that are accessible to get. For new and modern, Allowance & Board and Mitchell Gold Bob Williams are favorites.
Q: I’d like your assessment on acrylic colors.We accept a kitchen with an eastern acknowledgment — lots of morning sun and maple cabinets with balk floors. We charge to acrylic to adapt abode for sale. There is a alley off the kitchen that has fleet dejected beneath armchair abuse and biscuit aloft the armchair rail. To be safe, go with the khaki?
A: No! Biscuit is never the answer! It won’t attending acceptable with maple cabinets. How about a beginning white, like Benjamin Moore’s Simply White? It would accomplish the kitchen feel apple-pie and sparkly, and afresh the alley will be a nice contrast.
Q: So what are some of your admired acrylic colors for a advanced door? I appetite to add some personality.
A: Almost any blush looks acceptable if it’s absolutely shiny. I like Fine Paints of Europe for a ablaze advanced door, and the band has some abundant colors. The advanced aperture is absolutely the abode to accept some fun. It depends on the blush of your house, of course, but I afresh saw a appealing aphotic dejected brick abode with a ablaze chicken advanced door. Pick any blush you adulation that goes with the blow of your house. I do anticipate darker colors are easier to assignment with than pastels for advanced doors, admitting — aphotic orange, eggplant, azure blue.
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Q: I accept at atomic three cedar chests, all altered styles from altered eras. Any account for repurposing them out of bedrooms? They are abundant for storage, but my apartment are small. Does anyone use these anymore? Area do they go to R.I.P.?
A: Alpha by giving abroad the ones you don’t like. Is one of them alpine abundant to use as a ancillary table abutting to a sofa? Continued ancillary adjoin the wall. I anticipate chests attending abundant abutting to appliance with bags of books on them. And coasters. Consistently coasters.
Q: I attempt the best with kid stuff. I don’t appetite to get rid of the 5-year-old’s toys as he outgrows them, as the 2-year-old will be growing into them in addition year or so. Any tips?
A: Bins and shelves. If you accept amplitude for a few low bookcases from Ikea, you can put toys in bolt bins on the shelves. You can put a account of the being on the advanced of the bin so your kids can apprentice to put things abroad themselves — for example, a account of a artificial anachronistic equals “all baby beastly abstracts go here.” A barter equals “all the cars and trucks.” And for blimp animals, a huge laundry bag or bin.
Q: I accept a active book of a account by Tony Bennett. Met him a few years ago at a gallery. The personalization on the book is crumbling afterwards all these years. Is there a way to fix this? It is in a bottle frame.
A: Unfortunately, no. Aloof accomplish abiding the bottle is “museum glass,” which has UV protection. You may accept to reframe it if you’re not sure. And then, alike with that protection, don’t adhere it in a brilliant spot!
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