See how a designer transformed Broadway and TV star Sutton Foster’s home office in just five easy steps.
A home office can easily become a neglected space. Since it’s not usually a place to entertain guests or hang out, people tend to keep the home office bare and focus their decorating efforts on other spaces, like the living room, dining room, or family room—which was the case with the home office in actress Sutton Foster’s New York City apartment.
So Foster enlisted the help of interior designer Mike Harrison and HomeGoods to give the office more personality and style. “Functionality doesn’t mean lack of style,” Harrison says. “One of the great advantages of this space was that there was so much natural light with a stunning view, so the interest is already built into one entire wall. Another great plus was that the three pieces of existing furniture were beautiful, quality pieces so my job was just to marry the function with the style of the space and execute a clear vision for the room.”
Foster, who wanted the space to be neutral but not boring, says Harrison’s updates make the new office “come to life.” And it was all done with some inexpensive styling tricks you can use to give your own space a makeover. Here, Harrison’s tips:
1. Bring in Color.
Your favorite, eye-catching colors can make a space feel unique and more relaxed. “For this room in particular, it was important to Sutton that it be a place of inspiration for her husband, who is a professional writer,” Harrison says. “She wanted a space full of interest with a sophisticated whimsy. I wanted to achieve this through a layered neutral palette, with an occasional pop of color.”
2. Add Accessories.
“When personalizing an office space on a budget, try to remember that a little goes a long way,” he says. “One new desk lamp or one new rug can really transform a room. Also, it’s important to remember that even if a room needs to function as an office, it is still an extension of your home. It doesn’t need to be stale and corporate, so inject personal touches like framed pictures, special objects, and artwork.” In Foster’s office, Harrison added a geometric rug, abstract art, patterned pillows, plants, and unexpected lighting.
3. Play With Scale.
Often, your home office might be a small nook or a tiny room, so it’s important to maximize every inch of space. “When dealing with smaller spaces remember that scale is important,” Harrison says. “I used a great mirrored end table to serve as a coffee table instead. I also found a clean, white leather desk chair that brightened up the space to juxtapose the dark wood in the furniture.”
4. Organize With Style.
Keep the clutter contained. “Since the office is a highly functional room, organization is key,” he says. “Let the organizational supplies that you use exhibit the room’s style.” And, luckily, you can easily find inexpensive office supplies that pack a lot of color and flair—think metallic notebooks and pens, acrylic boxes and pencil cups, and colorful tape dispensers and staplers.
5. “Fake” an Office.
Don’t have a designated office? Don’t worry: You can still create a working space wherever you have a little bit of extra space. “Create room for a small desk in your living area, bedroom, or even dining area,” Harrison says. “You can add floating shelves above it to house office supplies and display decorative objects.” Ta-da, an office nook.
Whether or not your plastic containers are BPA-free, some research suggests that they might still contain harmful chemicals. Want to go plastic-free at home? Here are six genius swaps to make it happen.
Swap plastic wrap for…
Bee’s Wrap, reusable sheets of organic cotton muslin that are infused with beeswax. Use the heat of your hands to mold around the top of a bowl, sandwiches, cheese, or a loaf of bread. Each sheet lasts for a year, and comes in a variety of beautiful, vibrant patterns.
GIR Silicone Lids come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and suction onto every sort of bowl and casserole dish to keep food fresh.
Tinfoil! To keep things simple.
Swap zippered plastic bags for…
Lekue silicone food storage bags, which are safe for the fridge and freezer. Each reusable, dishwasher-safe bag has a sturdy zipper and flat bottom, so it stands up on its own. Each bag has cup, ml, and oz measurements marked clearly on the side.
Lunchskins Sandwich Bags are made from lightweight, quick drying cotton fabric. Each cute bag fastens with a hook and loop, and is dishwasher safe.
Swap plastic storage containers for…
Anchor Hocking Glass refrigerator sets, which are made from sturdy, dishwasher-, microwave-, and oven-safe glass. They come in a variety of sizes and have heavy glass lids that keep food fresh. Opt for these 100 percent glass containers over storage containers that have glass bottoms and plastic tops.
Stainless Steel Tiffin, traditional Indian food carriers made from stackable tiers. In other words, these compartments take up minimal space in your refrigerator, and keep food super organized. They make fantastic lunchboxes, too.
Weck jars or mason jars.
Swap ice packs for…
Oynx Stainless Steel Ice Packs are about the size of an iPhone, and can slip directly next to your food. Filled with distilled water, they freeze solid in about two hours, and will keep lunch cool for four to six hours.
Swap plastic water bottles for…
Klean Kanteen water bottles come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes—and are made entirely of stainless steel.
Hydro Flask products have insulated walls that keep drinks cold for 24 hours, and warm beverages hot for six hours.
Swap sippy cups for…
Pura Kiki Toddler Bottle, made from stainless steel with a silicone spout and travel cap, is totally plastic-free. Internal volume markings make measuring beverages a breeze.
Green Sprouts Glass Sip ‘n Straw Cup holds liquid in a glass insert that’s covered with a plastic shield for protection (which never comes in contact with the beverage). This is a great option if you’re looking for a transparent sippy cup.
Follow these simple instructions once a month and neither rain, wind, sun, nor drop of bird can ruin your patio pieces.
Cover furniture pieces from top to bottom with all-purpose cleaner and rub with a nylon scrub brush. Next, wipe with a microfiber cloth. For extra protection, finish with a coat of car wax, says Linda Cobb, the author of the Queen of Clean book series.
Combine 1 quart warm water, 1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent, and 1 tablespoon borax in a bucket. Dip a sponge in the solution, then use it to scrub the cushions on all sides. Let the solution soak in for 15 minutes. Rinse with a hose. Stand each cushion on an edge until dry.
Hose down the umbrella. Rub a wet soft-bristle brush across a bar of laundry soap. Run it over the open canopy, working from bottom to top. Rinse with a hose. Leave the umbrella open until dry. In between cleanings, wipe off bird droppings as soon as you spot them; the high acid content damages fabric, says Don Aslett, the founder of the Museum of Clean, in Pocatello, Idaho.
Use the vacuum’s crevice attachment to dislodge leaves and bugs from the cracks. (A paintbrush works well, too, says Cobb.) Next, wet a microfiber cloth with all-purpose cleaner and glide it over the wicker. Rinse with a damp sponge. Dry with a cloth to prevent mildew.
Follow these three decorating tricks to make your house feel happy and calm.
1. Clear Clutter
Mess is the number one enemy of feng shui. Dead or uncared-for piles sap your home’s strength and block positive energy from entering. Most significant is entryway clutter, so deal with this first. Next up, any clutter at the center of your home.
2. Fix or Toss Broken Things
They’re impediments to vitality. Toss chipped plates, burned-out bulbs, and clothes with holes. Repair stopped clocks, clogged drains, teetering chairs, and loose cabinet pulls.
3. Clean the Windows and Oil the Doors
In feng shui, the windows are the eyes of a home, and the front door is its mouth. To bring clarity to the space (and to yourself), maintain them, making sure that they open, close, and lock well.
Want to know more? Learn all about fung shui, then use this 8-point guide to create a feng shui house.
Follow these easy steps and you’ll soon worship the ground you walk on.
You don’t have to enforce a strict no-shoes policy, but whenever possible, avoid walking on wood floors in high heels, which can easily dent the surface. Furniture can scratch wood, too, so adhere felt pads to the bottoms of all chair and table legs. Put doormats outside every entrance to keep out dirt, sand, and salt. “If you take this precaution, you’ll prevent particles on the soles of your shoes from damaging—and possibly even removing—your floor’s finish,” says Brett Miller, the director of education at the National Wood Flooring Association.
The ideal temperature for wood floors is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 30 to 50 percent humidity level. Keep the thermostat in that range year-round and you’ll lessen the chance of planks gapping and buckling, which is caused by drastic changes in heat and moisture, says Miller. But don’t sweat slight heat fluctuations: The room temperature has to change radically and stay that way for a prolonged period to affect the wood.
Keep Dust in Check
Debris takes a toll on a floor’s sheen. Sweep or vacuum twice a week—or every day, if you’re up for it. Once a week, use a microfiber mop with a pH-neutral cleaner (like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner; $9.50, us.bona.com) or a homemade solution (1 tablespoon distilled vinegar in 1 gallon of water) to wipe up stuck-on dirt. Avoid products that claim to “shine,” “polish,” or “rejuvenate”; they often contain additives, like acrylic wax, which create a buildup, says Josh Frink, the wood-floor chairman for the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
Bring in Pros
Properly maintained floors may never require replacement. “Many wood floors on the East Coast are well over 100 years old,” says Frink. But when the wood loses its luster, hire an expert to apply a new coat of finish. If your floors see a lot of foot traffic, food spills, or pet mischief, have the surface sanded every 7 to 10 years or whenever you notice worn areas, loss of stain color, or gouges.
3 Genius Solutions for Living Room Layout Problems
The hangout zone of your home can be hard to arrange. So Real Simple asked two designers to sketch out solutions for three of the trickiest scenarios. Pull up a chair and take some notes.
Problem: If Your Living Room Has No Foyer
You can fake one with your choice of clever work-around. The idea is to create a pause before the seating area. Check out two solutions below.
Solution #1: Introduce an Entryway Position a rug and some key pieces of furniture just inside the front door.
Set Up Drop Zones: Bookend the doorway with two greeting areas. “A bench-and-hooks combo on one side lets people know right away that this is an entry area,” says Shea McGee of Studio McGee in Salt Lake City. On the other side, place a chest of drawers with a tray on top for grab-and-go essentials, like sunglasses and keys, and a mirror above “for that last check on your way out.”
Bridge the Gap: Center a rug between the drop zones to help define the “foyer.” “I like a rug that’s a foot wider than the door-way on either side,” says McGee. “Any smaller and it can feel puny, like a doormat.”
Add Strategic Sitting: Connect the foyer and the main living area (couches plus TV) with a pair of poufs or low stools. “It’s cumbersome to have to walk around a sofa or two big chairs,” says McGee. “And those pieces would also block your view of the room.”
Related: 33 Modern Living Room Designs
Solution #2: Block With a Bench Set up a divider—a bench, a bookshelf, or a console—and lay down a runner to carve out an entrance corridor.
Bring in Greenery: Pop a plant into the corner facing the entry door to fill out that blank space. It’s in your line of sight when you walk in, so it makes the room feel instantly welcoming, says Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors in Los Angeles. (A snake plant is a good option if that corner doesn’t get a lot of light.)
Decorate With Doubles: Structure the main seating area with some symmetry: a pair of end tables with lamps flanking the sofa, a pair of accent chairs on either side of the coffee table. “Symmetry looks deliberate, so it helps define a space and makes it seem finished,” says Lewis.
Anchor the Main Area: Lay down a rug in the middle of the larger seating section to establish it as a separate space. “I like the outer pieces of furniture to rest partially on the rug,” says Lewis. “The room feels more easygoing, less stiff that way.”
Problem: If Your Living Room is Super Long and Narrow
Divvy up the space to get the most out of the oddly shaped square footage. Opt for either two defined spots or a more fluid layout. Take a look at some ideas below.
Solution #1: Rectangle + Circle Section off the room with dual, seating-heavy groupings—a linear one and a piecier one. Filling out the space actually makes a room feel less confined, says McGee.
Start With a Pair of Sofas: Set up the main seating area with two same-size couches and a coffee table in between. “Some people like a sectional to squeeze in more seating,” says McGee. “But in a tight room like this, it makes traffic flow tricky. A pair of sofas opens up the space better.”
Create a Circle Seating: Turn the second half of the room into a loungey area with four accent chairs surrounding a cocktail table about 18 inches high. “It gives you an intimate spot for conversations or playing cards or board games, and it balances the other side’s chunkier setup,” says McGee.
Add a Flowing, Organic Element: Ground the accent chairs and cocktail table with a cowhide rug. “The curvy shape helps a narrow room feel less boxy,” she says.
Related: 6 Things to Eliminate From Your Living Room Right Now (That You Won’t Miss)
Solution #2: All-Inclusive Break up the rectangle into areas that function well on their own or in tandem: a big, communal spot and a smaller, cozy, nook, says Lewis.
Choose Double-Duty Pieces: Cap the main seating area with a bench that can be reached from either side. “The bench adds extra seating, and because it’s low, the division it creates is very subtle,” says Lewis. “You’re utilizing the narrow space better if you keep an open flow in the room.”
Decorate on an Angle: Outfit the smaller spot with an ottoman and two plush armchairs tilted to face the center of the room. “That way, you can use that nook on its own, or if you have guests over, it morphs with the larger grouping into one big seating area,” says Lewis.
Keep the Nook’s Floor Bare: “I love all kinds of rugs in all kinds of spaces. But in a narrow room, an area without one can open the space and help it feel airier,” says Lewis. “In this scenario, it’s often better to go with one attention-grabbing rug for the main area.”
Problem: If Your Living Room Has Lots of Windows
Build the room from the inside out. (You have no wall space, after all.) Let the setup support your vibe: casual or formal. See two options below.
Solution #1: Homey Hub Keep the area around the windows clear to make them the focal point, and concentrate the coziness in the center of the room.
Use Seating in the Round: This setup creates a comfortable conversation area—just be sure that you have enough space to pull it off, says McGee. “You need about three to four feet in the walkways and about two feet of breathing room in areas that don’t get foot traffic.”
Choose an L-Shaped Couch: A sectional sofa isn’t just a savior for spaces that can’t comfortably fit a sofa and a love seat. It’s also a great choice for anchoring a furniture arrangement in the center of a room, because it’s so weighty and substantial.
Bring in a Little More Bulk: To balance the scale of the furniture, pair the sectional with an oversize coffee table or ottoman (ideally, about half or two-thirds the length of the sofa). A side table topped with a tall lamp adds visual height and draws the eye up to accentuate the windows.
Related: 16 Decorator Tricks for Small Living Rooms
Solution #2: Structured Symmetry Double up on sofas and accent seats to maximize the middle of the room, and utilize the scant wall space you have, says Lewis
Section Off Your Space: Usually the walls delineate space in a room, but if you don’t want to block the windows, you have to do it with furniture. Floating two sofas around a coffee table creates a framework, says Lewis. But keep in mind: “You need at least five feet of space between the sofas and windows so the room isn’t cramped.”
Sprinkle in Shiftable Seating: Extra ottomans that can move around keep everyone happy, says Lewis. You could also add two chairs at the other end of the coffee table if you have enough room for people to sit comfortably there.
Sneak in a Sleek Accent on the Side: Balance the heavy pieces in the middle of the room with a clean-lined console on one wall. “Often people put tables behind the sofas,” says Lewis. “But if you have a little wall space between windows, a console is a slim pick that offsets the bulkiness in the center.” ￼
The brand new marketplace for craft supplies is launching today. Take a look at these three projects that you might want to tackle this weekend.
A few months ago, we announced that Etsy was launching a new site, Etsy Studio, which is a marketplace dedicated to craft supplies. The new site will feature eight million craft supplies to choose from, making it easier than ever to create DIY projects. Consumers can find everything from traditional and vintage craft supplies to hand-dyed fabrics and hand-carved weaving looms. In addition to the supplies, you’ll also find original craft projects and tutorials to inspire you.
Etsy gave Real Simple a sneak peek at three new projects—take a look below and get started on your next DIY venture. See more craft supplies and ideas at EtsyStudio.com.
Driftwood Jewelry Organizer
Photo by Etsy Studio
Tangled necklaces or bracelets in your jewelry box can get annoying—and even cause some damage. This pretty driftwood jewelry organizer will keep your items safe and put them on display. Once you complete the project, hang it on your closet wall or in your bedroom so you can easily grab your favorite pieces when you get ready in the morning.
Party-Ready Paracord Coasters
Photo by Etsy Studio
Cocktail hour just got a little more fun with these colorful coasters. They’re made of paracord and wound in a spiral design. You can experiment with playing with the patterns and colors to match the rest of your table décor.
Wood Bead Keychain
Photo by Etsy Studio
We guarantee you’ll never lose your keys again when they’re on these colorful, pattern-happy holders. Made with wooden beads and tassels, express your creative side by pairing different patterns and colors.
The $6 Kitchen Tool Real Simple Food Editors Are Obsessed With
Every home cook should own one—but most don’t.
There are hundreds of specialized cooking gadgets you can buy, from strawberry hullers toolive pitters. Even if you have a big kitchen, we believe less is more: you really only need 3 knives and a streamlined set of tools. But the one tool we can’t live without (besides the knives) is the Ateco Small Offset Spatula. It’s an inexpensive multitasker that takes up barely any space in your kitchen drawer.
Technically a baking tool, the offset spatula has a long narrow flexible blade with a rounded end. You’ll see the Ateco spatula comes in a variety of sizes. Bakers will appreciate the largest (9.75-inch) offset, fantastic for frosting a cake in a smooth, even layer. But the tool that every home cook should own is the mini, measuring in at just 4.25-inch offset.
We like to think of it as an extension of your hand, like a regular spatula, only more precise. Because of its flexibility and angled end, it can easily slip under delicate foods without breaking them (unlike a regular table knife). You’re frying eggs, for example, and the whites look like they’re about to start cooking into one big mass. Use an offset to gently push them apart. You’re searing homemade veggie burgers and want to move one to the hottest part of the pan. Give the burger in question a lift and a scoot with your offset. You forget to put parchment paper down when you’re making brownies: slip down and underneath to neatly loosen them from the pan.
RELATED: How to Stack and Frost a Layer Cake
The Ateco offset is also better at spreading condiments than any butter knife you’ve met. Because it sits flush against bread, you spread with much more surface area than a knife, which forces you to pull spreads along on its edge. Whether you’re buttering, mayo-ing, or peanut butter and jelly-ing, the offset will become your new best friend. Check out your sandwich maker next time you’re at the deli. Chances are they’re using one of these babies.
17 Bathroom Organization Ideas to Make Mornings Less Hectic
Stop digging for Q-tips, searching for the right eyeliner, and untangling curling iron cords. The key to a calm start to the day is having everything organized and at the ready in the bathroom. Plus: Get more great bathroom ideas!