How To Use Optical Illusions For A Visually Uncluttered Home

How come stuff some people's homes just looks so harmonious and pulled together, while yours looks like clutter ? How can you get that calm and stylish ambience without actually throwing most of your stuff away ?

Here are my tips:


Remove labels 

   ... from shampoos, conditioners, containers, condiments... especially in the bathroom and kitchen. you'll be surprised what a big difference this makes. Containers are rarely pretty, and labels are made to scream for our attention. Once the labels are removed, a lot of "noise" disappears form the room. The naked containers are usually not too ugly.
    If you have a separate products for every family member, label the containers prettily with a waterproof marker, to prevent mix-ups. Do this also, with stuff that might be unrecognisable when naked. But mostly a ketchup bottle still looks like a ketchup bottle, even without it's label.

Keep it white (or neutral)

   White stuff just blends into white walls, and kind of disappears off our radar. (If your walls aren't white, you have another neutral in your home: find it !). Even mismatched dishes look great if they are all white.
   My rule when buying goes: "either gorgeous or white". That means if an object of daily use (think toothbrush holder, dishes, desk lamp,) isn't available in 'very pretty', then I get it in white.
   Yes, white does show dirt, but believe me: an uncluttered white looks cleaner and more peaceful than a jumble of colours anyway.

Have a minimum of colours & materials

   I admired a friend's modern kitchen: every surface, electric appliance, utensil and thingie was steel. This uniformity gave the space a minimalist and very sophisticated look; though in reality it was neither minimalist nor very expensive. The steel was contrasted by the white walls and wood beams, and it all looked so effortlessly stylish.
   You can try for the same by establishing which colours, materials and patterns you want in each room. The wall and floor colours are a good place to start. (Mine goes like this -- bedroom: medium walnut wood + brass + sunset-hued fabrics + deep blue; living room: pine wood, glass, turquoise).
   Boring ? Of course you add a splash of colour, but let this splash be something beautiful(like my friend's mustard-coloured couch), and not the trash can or toilet brush.


   One red thing in the room looks like an afterthought at best. Three red things look like a beautiful colour accent ! So take a look at your space, and look for colour, material or style orphans. Either support them with more of the same, or keep them in closed storage.

Group like things together

   Gestalt psychology states that our mind groups similar things into "one" unit. So a group of glass vases look less uncluttered than randomly scattered ones.
Just don't do it like the Germans do, they have a penchant of lining up three exactly matching vases with three exactly matching flowers... and making it look terrible. Do repeat, just remember to make it slightly off-balance, add an element of whimsy. Like the full jar, or the variety of colours.
   Japanese aesthetics states that odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye than even ones !

Trays and Bowls

   A bunch of random objects, placed on a tray... call it an arrangement. I love to use shallow wooden or brass bowls for my collections of crystals or knickknacks. In my kitchen it's little wooden fruit boxes. A tray or bowl instantly pulls together a bunch of things that look otherwise scattered.

Uniform storage boxes & containers

   They simply look, duh, uniform. That's why I love IKEA; you can always buy more of the same later on.
   Do this with boxes and baskets in the living room, toy storage containers, herb jars and laundry supply boxes.

Hide visible cables

   This is probably the single best thing you can do to a room. There are many ways to hide, eliminate or at least organise cables, just Google for ideas. Just don't follow this to the point of obsession, and think of electromagnetic waves before going completely cable-free.

Somewhere, leave an empty space   It could be just a part of the shelf. A bit of space that looks like it's still free, still capable of holding more, makes the whole area look lighter somehow.
Don't think of empty space as screaming to be filled up. If you can't read up on empty space in photography, painting or Japanese aesthetics.

Some things just have to hide

   Certain items which simply look cluttered, no matter what you do with them. Common culprits are piles of papers (put them in magazine holders), kitchen sink paraphernalia (try tip-out trays) and packaged foods (no cereal boxes on top of fridge, please ! Identify them, and try to keep them in closed storage.

   Have I exhausted the list ? I don't think so. I'd love your comments, your tips and photos of how you do it at your home !

PS. Sorry for posting Weekend reads on Thursday (FTW?) I don't even have an excuse, except a wooly head.

Click on photos for sources    

Check these out: