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Living in a small space? De-cluttering a must

September 29, 2017 GMT

Five home design questions for House Beautiful magazine’s editor-in-chief Sophie Donelson.

Q: Why is small-space living gaining in popularity?

Sophie Donelson: The ease of having less to maintain is a dream for many people. Just recently I visited a grand, newly renovated home and was charmed to see a rather petite master bedroom with just one thing inside: a bed. The sense of calm was palpable. There was no spots for clothing to accumulate (the dressers and closet were in an anteroom) or for clutter to collect, just one lush and inviting bed. I keep thinking about how restful that must be and how the most luxurious way to live is to have everything you need and nothing you don’t. Living in a modest home is one way to force yourself into that way of life. Admittedly, it takes a bit of rigor to get there.

Q: What’s the hardest part about transitioning to a smaller footprint?

S.D.: The stuff! It’s undeniable that objects have power on us. At the magazine we often address how objects so often bring joy, such as the pride of owning a family heirloom or the simple pick-me-up of buying a bright new accessory (my latest was sale-bin hot-coral dish towels, which make me smile). But possessions also burden. Anyone who has a garage jammed to the gills can attest to that. The book, “The Life-Changing Joy of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo, has a cult following for a reason: it works. The book’s premise is to stop thinking of what to heave and focus on what to keep — and to remember that when you let go of things, you still get to keep the memories.

Q: Are there any shortcuts to tackling the task of cleaning out?

S.D.: Channel a favorite William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s hard to make a case for a 25th piece of Tupperware with that in mind.

Q: Why does interior design become even more important in small-space living?

S.D.: There’s nowhere to hide. Small spaces are wholly used, with no rooms — or wings — in which to squirrel away abandoned projects and extra stuff. Every square foot is activated. There’s enormous joy in that. For one, the impact of a chic piece of furniture or a colorful spray of flowers is felt immediately; you don’t have to go over the top to notice beauty in a petite space, it’s at your fingertips.

Q: What’s new for fall at home?

S.D.: The color of the season is green, in particular the slightly grayed-out hue of olive branches. The wonderful thing about green is that nearly all of them work together harmoniously. And with so many families looking to find ways to spend time together away from screens, we put together a story in the October issue about bringing the fun back to the living room, with new furniture, floor plans, games and ideas to invigorate time spent at home.

Sophie Donelson lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, N.Y., with her husband and two sons.