Picture frames as far as the eye can see. Trinkets, trophies, tchotchkes stuffed onto shelves. Silk flowers and dusty candles in every corner. If you're guilty of this decorating style (you know who you are), interior decorator Nate Berkus has one word for you—edit.
If there's a room in your house filled with so much stuff that there's no space for friends and family, Nate says it's time to clean house.
"You have to edit your rooms. It's a maintenance issue," he says. "We don't load up our sink and leave it for 15 years, but we load up our bookshelves, and we leave them until The Oprah Show sends me to clean it out."
Christina, a woman from Louisiana, says her mother, Lois, needs Nate's help to clear away some of the clutter in her family's den.
Christina says Lois has been filling the family's outdated den for years with everything from exercise equipment and potted plants to bulky bookshelves and hundreds of picture frames.
Nate travels to Thibodaux, Louisiana, to see this den for himself. After one look, it's obvious this room needs a complete makeunder.
"There's too much stuff in this room—the texture of the paneling, the texture of the brick, busy rug, busy draperies, tons of stuff all over the place," he says. "I can't even see what I'm looking at in here."
Now that Lois' daughters are grown up and out of the house, she says she feels closer to them when she sees their pictures, which cover almost every wall and shelf in the den.
While it's important to personalize a room with family photos, Nate says that when there are too many, you don't really see any. "I want to take the focus off of everything and put the focus on what really matters," he says.
With just 24 hours to transform this crowded space, Nate sends Lois away so a crew from Lowe's can begin clearing out the room. Meanwhile, Christina and Nate start paring down the pictures. "I use a Post-It process to organize what stays and what goes," he says. Anything that can go into a photo album or a storage bin gets marked with a Post-It note.
Then, Nate heads to Lowe's to buy a few items that will help streamline Lois' den. "A softer rug and lighter curtains will brighten up the space," he says.
Before the makeunder, Lois's windows were decorated with heavy, red curtains, and the floor was covered with a busy, floral rug.
In the old space, wood paneling competed with exposed brick walls. To reduce the number of textures, Nate's team put wood panels on every wall and painted over them with light, neutral paint. "I wanted to unify all of the walls," he says. "Now, we have a backdrop."
Don't be afraid of paneling—Nate says you can paint over almost everything these days. "You just have to ask an expert at a paint store. Tell them what it is that you're painting over, and there's a primer that will work."
Instead of scattering photos around the room, Nate creates one gallery wall. "I know Lois' photos mean the world to her, so with a little reframing and focus, they'll stand out even more," he says.
If you want to create a photo gallery at home, Nate suggests using paper cutouts of the frames to create the layout you want before you start hammering.
To create a stylish, multipurpose room, Nate cordons off Lois' exercise equipment with a wooden screen.
"The room is already starting to look completely different," he says. "Look how different it feels. It's brighter, it's lighter, it's understated."
After a busy, 24-hour workday, it's time for the big reveal. Nate and his crew step aside as Lois and Christina see the edited-down den for the first time.
"It looks beautiful," Lois says. "It's really pretty."
After a little rearranging, Nate was able to use most of Lois' furniture, including her sofa, fireplace, television and part of her bookshelf. "I was allowed to keep a lot of your original furniture because I changed the background," he says.
"It's still my junk," Lois says. "But now it's elegant."
Lois says this experience has inspired her to edit more rooms in her house. "I got so pumped up and excited that I said that this has inspired me to go into the rest of the home and to take your advice on redoing it and lightening up the walls," she says.
Christina is also pleased with the results. "The fact that, in 24 hours, he was able to capture so much of our essence and hone into what's important to my mom and our family, it was incredible," she says.Products used in Nate Berkus' den makeunder
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