Design Experts

Inside design: Peri Wolfman

Inside design: Peri Wolfman Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Peri Wolfman

In the introduction to her book A Place for Everything (Clarkson Potter, 1999), author and product designer Peri Wolfman confesses to a lifelong compulsion for stacking and folding. As early as age nine, Peri writes, she was folding clothes with display-worthy panache. Peri has capitalized on her talent, earning a name and living by sharing her expertise. Dividing her time between her two homes, one in New York City and a new pied-à-terre in San Francisco, where she heads the Williams-Sonoma product design team, Peri knows about keeping a home (or two or three) organized.

S@H: Let's start by pinpointing
organizational trouble spots.
PW:
There are those who will tell you that kitchens and closets are the biggest nightmares, but I think that you have to make the distinction between getting organized and staying organized. With most spots in the house, once you get organized it's fairly easy to stay that way. You set up a system that works and find places for everything, and then it's simple to just put things back where they belong. But paper -– in my world that's the biggest challenge. We're just inundated with mail, newspapers, magazines, photos -– they come in every day. And even in this so-called computer-driven society, it's not getting any better. Staying on top of the mess created by paper requires constant vigilance. It's like a garden: it needs constant weeding.

S@H: So what are the best ways to weed out the messes?
PW:
I believe that the trick to staying organized is to have a place for everything. And you have to address the problem where it starts. For most people, home offices are a nightmare -– in fact, I'm an organizer and I just called in a professional to help me create a system for my own home office -– but let's face it, you get your mail at the front door, and that's where the cycle starts. So what you need to do is create a place for mail, deliveries and newspapers right there at the front door. I'm a big basket person. I have an attractive basket at my front door and all the mail goes into it. Every few days I'll take the time to sort through it and then file everything away. I have a second basket in my den, which is where all the magazines and newspapers go.

S@H: What are some of your favourite organizational tools?
PW:
Baskets are great. You can never have too many. In fact, I always suggest buying more than you think you'll need because inevitably you'll need them. But the key is to buy baskets that are all the same size: a stack or line of identical baskets just looks better, less cluttered, than an assortment. In my home office, I have a row of baskets on display under my desk used to house everything from files and bills to paper-clips. Baskets can even be used to house hanging files. And they don't have to be wicker; there are great wire mesh and even leather baskets that look modern. I also like large canvas totes for storing magazines and books. I order mine from L.L. Bean because they're the perfect size and you can even have a custom label -– "books” or "files” -– embroidered on them. You can stow the bag beside the bed or carry it down to the den. It looks chic and it's practical.

S@H: You're expert at making better use of lost spaces in the home.
PW:
That's right. I love draped tables, for example, because you can build shelves right into the table, and the fabric hides everything. In my living room, I have a draped table that stores all my gift wrap. My guests would never know. I also suggest that people make use of vertical space. If your ceilings are high enough, consider triple-hanging clothes in a closet or building a shelf above the clothes rail for storing suitcases or shoeboxes. I also like to put a shelf for towels above the bathroom door; it's unused space that can be reclaimed. Finding these spots to store things makes staying organized easier -– and that makes life so much easier.

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Inside design: Peri Wolfman