Makeovers

Kitchen Renovation: This Shoemaker’s Children Don’t Go Barefoot

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One day, after organizing a client’s beautifully renovated kitchen, I came home and took a fresh look at my own. After 22 years, what was once state of the art had become hopelessly outdated. Speckled granite counters with bulky curved edges and a stainless steel hood over the oven were rooted in the 1990’s. The grout in the tile needed cleaning, and the television “cabinet” looked ridiculous with a flat screen TV wedged inside. It was time for a renovation.

My first step was hiring Mariela Melamed of MDM Designs, a talented designer, architect, and photographer. While I initially planned to only address the kitchen, she suggested that, since I live in a townhouse, it would be difficult to renovate the kitchen while ignoring the other living spaces on the same floor – the dining room, living room, powder room, and laundry room. While this necessitated an expansion of project scope and budget, the end result was worth it! The changes that I made are described and pictured below:

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A Laundry Room with a Sense of Humor

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London’s Laundromat – 24 Hours, Not Quite Self Service

When a busy mom of four hired me to organize her townhouse, the laundry room was one of her top priorities. Although it wasn’t the sexiest room in the house, it was a space used multiple times a day.

The laundry room was small but well designed with a sense of humor. A counter ran the length of one wall with IKEA shelves above and the washer and dryer below the counter. The opposite wall boasted a sink and linen closet tucked behind the door. A clothesline that retracted into the wall was used to hang hand washed clothing. The sign painted on the wall read, “London’s Laundromat, 24 Hours, Self-Service.

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From Piles to Perfection

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I first met Katrina Mitzeliotis, a chic and adorable fashion director with Hollywood Life, over breakfast in midtown, Manhattan. Newly married and highly motivated to get organized, Katrina admitted that her clothes and shoes were currently in piles on the floor of a spare bedroom in her home in Brooklyn. And, when she said “piles,’ she wasn’t exaggerating!

Before Katrina’s closet makeover

Many people would shy away from sharing a “dirty little secret,” but Katrina wanted Hollywood Life readers to know that there’s no shame in learning to be organized. While Hollywood Life often features celebrities and their fabulous clothing and closets, Katrina is relatable and typical in many ways.  She has more clothes than she needs, she has no idea how to organize them, and she lacks the closet infrastructure that would make organization attainable.  A closet makeover was needed, so I teamed up with ClosetMaid to give Katrina the closet of her dreams.

After obtaining measurements, ClosetMaid opted for its SpaceCreations collection for Katrina. This DIY system is easy to install, yet still has a high end designer look and feel.  Katrina chose the Classic White with contemporary chrome hardware.  The entire system was shipped directly to Katrina’s apartment where it was easily assembled and installed.  We were all thrilled with the possibilities, but the hard work was just beginning.

The closet looked amazing at this point, but we weren’t finished yet. After a quick snack of a hot spinach and cheese casserole, it was time to accessorize the closet with fun accents Katrina had purchased.  We placed a poof in the corner, so she would have a place to sit while putting on her shoes.  A rug was added for polish and pizazz, and a small table with a photo and a candle were placed front and center. A large photo of Katrina and her photogenic husband was added to an empty shelf. We were all giddy with excitement, especially Katrina, who stared in disbelief at her clothing, bags, shoes, and accessories lined up and completely organized.  As she said, “it’s a dream come true.” See the amazing “after” pictures here:

Katrina in her dream closet

Lis on Life – Organizing A Food Lover’s Pantry

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With her easy smile, charismatic personality, and colorful content, it’s no wonder that Lisa Schechter’s venture, “Lis on Life” has taken off in just a few months. For years, Lisa has nurtured her passion for finding or creating the best of everything – food, flowers, fashion, vacation venues, wellness plans, and gifts and sharing her finds. With Lis on Life, her recommendations are now being shared beyond her many friends to reach thousands of followers on Instagram.

Lisa is known for her beautiful food displays and delicious meals. Her challah is famous, not only for its soft texture, but for the innovative shapes and toppings she devises. Her fruit boards are art, and her meal planning is impeccable. Since she’s not only preparing food, but also arranging and photographing her projects, her kitchen needs to be functional and fully stocked at all times.

Over the past several months, I’ve worked with Lisa organizing her office, children’s rooms, linen closets, game closets, sentimental items, basement, and her digital space. The only area we never touched was her kitchen…until now.

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A Space of Her Own

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On a sticky Manhattan summer day, I arrived at Wendy Reimer’s home to organize the overcrowded bedroom of her three young girls. The oldest, a pre-teen, was desperate for her own space, and Wendy hoped I could carve out a niche for her in the large bedroom the girls shared.

As a professional, I rarely feel overwhelmed by a room. Yet, here, I had met my match. Three beds lined the perimeter of the room, and there was almost no clear path to walk. Stuffed animals covered every surface, and toys, games, and books were strewn about the room. Drawers were so stuffed with clothing that many could barely be opened. In an adjacent playroom, clutter filled every visible space with an outdoor playhouse taking center stage.

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Kitchen Makeover for Single Dad

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In between his full time job, volunteering in the community, and taking care of his two young sons, Mike McCleod, Jr. had little time for himself or for organizing his small, but cozy home. As a result, the kitchen, where the family spent the most time, was overrun with food, appliances, and the debris of daily living. His kitchen table was literally on its last leg and in such poor condition that it could no longer be used for meals. When Mike reached out to my friends at Hooplaha, @onlygood.tv for help, I was happy to spearhead his kitchen makeover.

Before pictures of the McCleod kitchen.

When I first met the McCleod trio, they were excited about the project on hand. Kiing and Hova, Mike’s sons, greeted me at the door, and as they showed me around the apartment, I could see that the kitchen was not functioning at all; instead it was weighed down with clutter. Yet, I was also pleasantly surprised to see several areas where overflow from the kitchen could be stored.

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Size Does Matter: Finding Space in a Tiny Kitchen

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After Adam Keller’s flash mob proposal to Jared Marinelli at Joy Ride Studio (viewed by 14 million people), life changed dramatically for these fitness instructors. In addition to cohosting an online series called “Joy Story” for Hooplaha – Only Good News, they moved to a new home, and basked in an outpouring of affection from the LGBT community. When our mutual friends from Hooplaha told me “the boys” where struggling with a small kitchen, I was happy to pay them a visit in New Jersey to help them manage the space.

While their new home had an extensive yard for them to walk their dogs, the kitchen was a fraction of the size of the one they had left behind. Since this space was limited, they were using the counters to compensate for the lack of a pantry, and the kitchen was overrun by clutter. When organizing the space, I followed my typical approach:

  1. Take everything out of the cabinets
  2. Group like items together
  3. Separate duplicates and purge
  4. Put everything back in an organized fashion

As I cleared everything out of the cabinets, I could see that inside and under the cabinets were not being used properly. To maximize space, I outfitted drawers with inserts to organize utensils, flatware, and utility items (tools and batteries). Items on high shelves were placed in bins, so that they would be accessible, and the surfaces were cleared. Accents in orange were placed throughout, resulting in a charming, cozy kitchen Jared and Adam can enjoy. See a video of the makeover here.

An Empty Nester “Upsizes”

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I met Carol Becker in early 2020 after she won a two-hour organizing consultation I had donated to the Park Avenue Synagogue benefit. Carol was planning on putting her apartment on the market the following summer and wanted assistance purging and organizing prior to the move. We started with her home office, and then in subsequent weeks tore through closets, pantries, and drawers at a rapid pace, each week giving away, selling, donating, or discarding bags of unwanted items. Organizing can be an intimate journey, and there were many stories Carol shared as we sifted through 20 plus years of memories and forged a friendship along the way.

Like many of my clients, Carol is a busy overachiever with a passion for life. In addition to owning the iconic William Greenberg Bakery, she is a biker, golfer, traveler, marathon runner, sports enthusiast, philanthropist, board member at Syracuse University (with a dog named Boeheim), die hard New Yorker, and a lifelong learner who will celebrate her bat mitzvah this spring. She’s also a single mother to Emily and Alison, both in their 20’s, and a warm and devoted friend to many.

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Living Room Facelift

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One day, as I sat in my living room answering emails, I realized that I couldn’t stand my rug. Over the course of that afternoon, I became obsessed with replacing it. Immediately. So, I raced to the D&D building in NYC, selected three potential rugs, and brought samples home to review in the space. While none of them seemed right, and all of them cost more than I wanted to spend, I’m a sucker for crossing things off my list. So I called my dear friend, Allison Peyton, for help making the decision. Allison, who has phenomenal taste and is trained as a designer, has strong opinions that she finds difficult not to express.  In other words, the exact reason we’re such close friends.  When I texted photos of the rugs I was considering, she let me know she “hated all of them,” and I would need to clear my calendar in 3 weeks to spend the day with her.

On the appointed day, I took an early train to meet Allison in Connecticut. Our first stop was the Elizabeth Eakin sample sale in Norwalk. When the doors opened, we burst inside, and 45 minutes later I had purchased two rugs that cost a fraction of what I was going to pay for just one rug a few weeks earlier. Feeling excited about my new purchases and the money I had saved, I asked if she thought I needed anything else. Continue reading “Living Room Facelift” »

Organizing a (Very Small) Laundry Room

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Any home improvement project entails compromise, and the recent renovation of my kitchen and dining room was no exception. In order to enlarge the dining area in the limited confines of my New York City townhouse, I took my formally spacious laundry room and made it half of its former size. Fortunately, I knew how to maximize storage capacity and organize this smaller space to meet my needs.  Here are the steps I took:

  1. Purge After careful consideration, I decided to eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary for cleaning clothing, floors, or surfaces. This meant that I moved light bulbs, dog grooming supplies, tools, and other home maintenance items to other areas of my home. 
  • Design With small spaces, it’s important to think vertically. I started by replacing my washing machine and dryer with stackable models. I then designed high shelves around the perimeter of the room, installed a rod for hanging hand wash (a towel rack repurposed and hung from the underside of a shelf), and created space for a vacuum cleaner, and laundry baskets. A pocket door saved additional space.
  • Organize I used white Nordic Storage Baskets from The Container Store to store cleaning products, laundry products, microfiber cloths, sponges, floor cleaners. Frequently used products such as laundry pods, fabric softener, and microfiber cloths were decanted in clear acrylic canisters. A horizontal desk organizer was used to hold pens, notepads, a folding board, and a scissor. 

Watch Barbara on Only Good TV as she helps freshen up and gain more space in our laundry rooms with helpful organization tips and small decor changes that make things neat and efficient.