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How you can un-condo and live in maximum bliss

Yes, we are sorry too.

Marie Kondo’s take-no-prisoners approach spread like clutter-burning wildfire through New York homes a few years ago. “Does it cause happiness?” “So which subway isn’t running today?” We asked the question more than that.

“A lot of it is about the need to control your environment, the idea that there’s a path to some kind of smooth existence,” said designer Chris Stevens of Tipper Studio, “which is why New Yorkers are so prone to it. Please, we’re always doing 15 things at once.

Now, though, interior design has shed those minimalist shackles, thanks to trends like the trinket-heavy clutter core and the comfortable, overstuffed coastal granny flat.

Simply put, maximalism is back.

Kondo's former disciples are having second thoughts.
Kondo’s former disciples are having second thoughts.
Adam Rose/Netflix

“People want to decorate with a capital-D right now because they’ve spent all this time working from home and seeing the Marie Kondo thing take all the characters out,” explained Hugh Long, breakout TikTok interior designer and champion. More.”

“They want to add things to their space because they’re there all the time. People think that organization is an important goal for your home, but it should be done in conjunction with decorating,” Long said.

As a result, of course, your home’s Kondo-inspired makeover morphs into interior design’s answer to drunken tramp stamp inking — a regret-filled choice, made in haste and seemingly impossible to undo.

However, if you’re stuck in a similarly cluttered and joy-free empty house, don’t worry.

Interior by Chris Stevens on couch.
New Yorkers are control-freaks, says Chris Stevens, and therefore susceptible to Kondo’s minimalist theory.
Manuel Rodriguez

We have some solutions from some New York-based in-house talent, all of whom are unabashed champions of maximization; Think of his advice as a fancy answer to lasering off a bad late-night decision.

“Marie Kondo is about purifying yourself by doing nothing,” said Martin Brdnizki, the glamor-obsessed designer who helmed the interiors of the Cane Mare and Beekman hotels. “So to fix it, start with the walls and see what you do with them. Every room needs light, so hang some mirrors – they can be small, shards – and then put some lamps above them, a sconce or a standard lamp in front of them.

They sparkle and shimmer, effortlessly adding energy and interest to an interior.

Next to Martin Brudnizky and Marie Kondo
Designer Martin Brudnizky (left) says Marie Kondo (right) wants you to purge yourself of nothingness.
Getty Images

Fill what’s left of the walls with what Kati Curtis, of namesake studio, calls “a riot of beauty”—that’s a salon wall of art, where pieces jostle for space and crowd together, offering the perfect clash of colors.

“It tells people who you are and where you’ve been, what’s important to you. I know people are afraid to do that, but honestly, you can’t go wrong,” she said.

An immediate additional solution, Curtis said, is putting storage on display: think a coat-stand by the door instead of a closet that hides every jacket or scarf.

The same is true in the kitchen—remove the doors to display plates and bowls, elevate them, and place them on outward-facing shelves so they’re more decorative and easier to access.

Forget appliance garages, too. Curtis points to the coveted collaborations between Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana on small appliances, for example, meant to be displayed instead of squirrels. Buy a luxury toaster and leave it on the counter – both decorative and useful.

Hopefully, you didn’t leave every item unhappy with Kondo’s rules.

“Kondo says to put things in boxes in boxes, and you can’t really find things that way,” added Curtis.

“Kondo says to put things in boxes in boxes, and you can’t really find things that way.”

Katie Curtis, designer

And if you’ve really stuffed stuff into storage boxes, now’s the time to retrieve some choice tchotchkes. Fill one or two surfaces with them: a table, perhaps, or a shelf. The most important thing when arranging this display is the theme: think of an idea or concept that connects all the items you are displaying.

“They’re all related to each other — you don’t have to explain what it is, it should be obvious,” said interior designer John Barman.

Brudnizki puts it more simply – then think of yourself as a real estate agent showing the space.

“Can you tell a story when you’re walking in space with people? Imagine that,” he said.

Room interior by John Berman.
John Barman likes to group things by a common theme.
Anastasius Mentis
Living room interior with bookshelves and fireplace.
Stevens wants your bookcases to “crack.”
Manuel Rodriguez

When in doubt about your doodads, lean toward oversized vases.

“Don’t get too caught up in the little, teeny-tiny stuff because if you’re not really on top of it, it’s going to blow away from you,” Stevens said.

Long offers a simple formula for keeping shelves full but not overcrowded: books should occupy 60% of the space, decorative items 30% and 10% empty.

“Without some open space, you don’t feel like you can breathe,” he said.

Light filled room interior.
Hugh Long loves the open space.
Joseph Barajas and Hugh Long
Interior shot of mirrored wall.
Virtually double your art collection with a well-placed mirror.
Joseph Barajas and Hugh Long

But what if you junked every precious stash in a fit of Mary-inspired madness?

An easy and inexpensive way to replenish is a trip to the local antique mall or junkstore. Search the stock there, Long says, and you’ll find collections that have already been assembled by someone else and that you can adopt wholesale.

“It looks like you’ve done it over time, when in fact, someone else has done it over time — and for you. If you just buy random junk, it can start to look like you’re living in a storage unit.

Long says it’s as easy to avoid re-cluttering a house as you de-condo if you change the way you shop. Instead, practice mindful acquisition. Stick with Etsy and others if you’re browsing online, but don’t buy new from your computer. If you have to get up and go to a brick-and-mortar store, it’s an effort, a gesture, and an exploration — and it keeps you from overbuying.

“The bottom line is that people are spending more time at home and they’re looking at it differently. You don’t want to live in a white cell.

Martin Brdnizki

Kondo famously taught her cohorts that no more than 30 books are unnecessary, but these designers dismiss that idea as bunkum; Time to reassemble your shelves – or fill the floor.

“Your bookshelves must be bursting at the seams, but I have so many books in my house that they’re side tables,” Stevens said.

Piled high, coffee table tomes become actual tables for guests to use — coasters only, please — and grab a title or two to flick through when one piques their interest. With hardbacks, consider removing the paper jackets as they may become creased or faded.

“Once you do that, it cleans everything up and makes the books beautiful to display,” Curtis said.

Whatever you do, forget the snobbish, Kondo-inspired rules that less is more, or stuff is bad. It’s okay to surround yourself with beautiful things.

“The essence of it is that people are spending more time at home and they’re looking at it differently,” Brudnicki said, “You don’t want to live in a white cell.”

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