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Jun 19, 2019

How to Edit a Room and Why You Would Want To

Brian Neal Clark
Professional Interior Designer

As an interior designer, I encounter a common scenario with clients: They hire me to help with a room because they don’t like how it looks. Usually, they have a good space with a lot of great items—too many great items. When a room gets too full or busy, it makes it difficult to enjoy or live in the space.

At this point, we need to edit the room.

What Does It Mean to Edit a Room?

Editing a room is about curating what fits and removing what doesn’t. Often we just accumulate items, and after a while, they don’t mean anything to us anymore. Editing allows us to clear away the items that don’t have meaning and create a more functional space.

When a room has too many items, you don’t know where to look. In contrast, what happens when you see a great piece of art? Usually the artist has done something to help you know where to focus, like using lines to draw you into the piece or creating a focal point with color. A well-designed room is the same way. We use items to tell guests and occupants where to look.

Focal wall

For example, in my son’s room, we tell occupants to look at the headboard. It’s bold and interesting. We created a feature wall with the bookcase, the headboard, and the woven-belt bulletin board. You notice this wall first, and from there you notice the other little details in the room.

Editing Exercise

Here’s an exercise to try if you’d like to declutter and make your space more meaningful. Take all extra items out of the room and put them somewhere else, like your basement or attic, for the next two weeks. This includes books, baskets, figurines, wall hangings, rugs, lamps, plants, and so on. Clear off any walls, tables, and bookcases. Leave only the basic furniture and bare necessities.

For the next two weeks, pay attention to what you notice. At the end of the two weeks, put back only the items that you consciously noticed were missing. If you found that you didn’t look for that plant in the corner or that painting on the wall, then leave it out. Donate those items to DI so someone else can enjoy them.

During this exercise, you may also discover issues with your big furniture items. Once you’ve cleared all the décor, you may realize that you don’t like your bed frame. Finding a new one might help you create a more meaningful space.

If you take time to do this exercise and edit your own room, I think you’ll be surprised with what you find.

Keeping an Edited Eye

When we’re putting together a room, we want to keep an edited eye from the get-go. This allows us to avoid overdressing the room and accumulating too many items.

For example, I kept the bedside table in my son’s room really simple. The only decorations are a couple of books and a trophy. I even used a hanging light instead of a bedside lamp. This provides some space on the table for my son to use for a phone, a wallet, or spare change. Keeping an edited eye helps us provide space for functionality and avoid extra clutter.

Think of dressing a bookcase. A lot of people would pack the shelves with books, but then the bookcase itself becomes, visually, a little bit lost. Don’t fill up every nook—leave some space. Look for ways to add texture and shape to make the bookshelf pop. You might do this with interesting found objects (things that aren’t typical décor or design items, such as a vintage camera).

On my son’s bookshelf, we used the two cameras and the round basket full of baseballs to add some interest and dimension. These items are meaningful to my son because they represent his interest in filmmaking and photography and his love of sports. So keep an eye out for found objects that can add personal meaning instead of clutter to a room.

A well-decorated room is a work of art. And just as with painting or sculpture, we can use these editing principles to provide focus to the space.

Want to see Brian’s editing skills in action? Check out Project DI and watch him redo his son’s room with a $500 budget and items purchased solely at Deseret Industries.

Brian Neal Clark graduated from Utah State University with a master’s degree in interior design. Brian has designed spaces from New York City to Washington and on budgets ranging from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. His design style has been described as varied and stylish, bringing life, beauty, and functionality to each of the spaces he designs.