Japanese shoji screens separate the living room from the guest room—office

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Of course, you can make a clean break with your fireplace tools (and heavy Persian rugs, elaborate draperies, hulking dining-room table, gilt-edged mirrors) and still have to figure out where to put everything you're leaving behind. "We had 30 years in 4,000 square feet," Joel says. "That's 120,000 square feet of stuff over the years. We clearly needed a decorator and a therapist." The couple found both in Robert Levithan.

An acquaintance of the Solomons, Robert is a counselor who works with Friends in Deed, a crisis center for people dealing with life-threatening illnesses. When Angela and Joel learned that he also consulted on the design of friends' homes, they signed him on to help with their transition.

"Moving is high up on the life stress list, which includes things like the loss of a loved one or divorce," Robert says. A thorough, compassionate listener by profession, he came up with a design plan for his clients that was part talking cure ("There were absolutely daily conversations"), part triage.