Peri Wolfman in her Manhattan apartment

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Queen of Her Domain
Although every inch of New York designer Peri Wolfman's downtown loft is organized to perfection, she can't help straightening up as she gives a casual tour. An already neat row of shoes gets nudged into more precise alignment; a tidy pile of mail is shuffled into an exact stack. "Staying organized is like gardening," Wolfman says, leading the way past a closet whose contents are arranged by color, then to a sunlit kitchen, where she opens a junk drawer that would rival a Container Store ad. "You're constantly weeding; it's part of your routine." She sits at the kitchen table, her crisp white blouse matching the pristinely shelved dinnerware behind her; if the Greeks had given organization a patron goddess, she could have gotten the gig.

Wolfman has long been known by friends and family as "the neat one." As a child she kept her sweaters impeccably folded, while her sister simply dropped clothing on the floor. She went on to write a book on stylish storage (A Place for Everything: Organizing the Stuff of Life), as well as five others on decorating and design, and is now designing a collection of tableware for Restoration Hardware. Throughout her career, Wolfman has developed simple, effective, and sometimes counterintuitive organizational tenets, which she and her husband, photographer and furniture maker Charles Gold, put into practice when they moved to this SoHo loft 19 years ago. For example, instead of storing everything in drawers and dressers ("If you shove it away, do you really want it in the first place?"), she believes in finding beautiful ways of displaying everyday objects. She feels that designating a home for everything is essential. "We have a saying in our house—'Where does this live?'—and we make sure whenever a thing is used, it's returned to its spot."

But Wolfman's impulse to organize isn't merely aesthetic. She loves the fun of thinking up attractive solutions for organizational challenges—and she gets a sense of peace and calm from the well-ordered spaces that result. "We don't have a lot of control in life, but we really do have control over the objects in our homes," she says. "So when the world is spinning too fast and you feel completely crazed, just get the things around you settled." She looks at a row of pens on the table; taps one into place—"It makes you feel better.

White Out

"I prefer using open shelves because I love dinnerware, and I want to enjoy seeing what I have," says Wolfman, who adds that there's a trick to keeping all those visible items from looking chaotic: collecting by color. "Decide what your palette will be and stick to it."