Smart Solutions: Classic tips don't grow old

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

You never know where an organizing project may lead. Each attempt feels like a journey that lets me revisit my past and decide what to keep for the future.

When I decided to address some big binders filled with pages taken from magazines and catalogs two decades ago, I never imagined I would end up salvaging some of the contents. Though much of my original design inspiration had dated, the classics never grow old. Here are a few observations from the images I saved.

Many tricks of the trade don’t have an expiration date, like the benefits that texture and repetition lend to a room.

Gallery walls featuring family photos have become more creative through the years along with coffee tabletop displays. Both add distinction to a space and help to tell your story.

A home office space that features rattan furniture strikes a casual tone.

Tranquil bedrooms never lose their luster and can be especially helpful during times like these. Cushy details like upholstered headboards are still going strong.

The same staying power seems to apply to greenery and other seasonal flourishes that blur the lines between inside and out.

Personal pieces speak volumes about the people who inhabit a home. Some of my favorites shown on the pages I kept include miniature replicas of a spiral staircase and iconic chairs.

Quirky touches like these strike a lighthearted note inside your home, as do vintage wares like bowling pins and game boards that can be displayed in different ways.

Pieces from the past always add character to your surroundings, from old typewriters to wicker dress forms and more.

The same can be said for conversation pieces that speak to you like a telescope or a birdcage that makes a statement in a space. Other classic elements include mirrors and globes, both old and new.

In addition, decorative chalkboards and embroidered monograms never lose their charm.

In fact, the significance of accessories and the way they’re displayed never seems to wane. To this day, the “more is more” approach can still be the best way to go when showcasing a collection.

For those items you’d like to hide, stylish storage containers, from trunks and crates to boxes and bins offer the perfect solution.

Giving a room a focal point, whether it’s a permanent feature like a fireplace or a more flexible element like an abstract painting makes the space feel special.

Though the home office concept has seen a recent surge, the variety of styles adds interest, from roll top desks to shared work tables.

Wicker and rattan may be linked to baskets, but these warm materials can also be found in casual furnishings that support today’s laidback lifestyles.

For instance, the rattan bookcase and desk shown from Ballard Designs also confirm the inspiration that comes from catalogs like this one along with the photos from Pottery Barn and Garnet Hill that appeared in my binders.

So, while I was able to purge most of the pages I had saved for so long, I held on to a few that continue to inspire me just like the decorative items I have around my home.  

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at