much do we need?

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Interior design, Just cool stuff 10 Comments

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I was in a woman’s home a few months ago. It was quite beautiful in a way that most people would find beautiful. I found it overwhelming and felt my senses overloaded. Massive scale and boldness emanated from every corner. I liked many of the items; but not all together.  It felt perhaps a bit like a shop rather than a home. Do we need all this stuff? And, is lots of stuff artfully displayed equal to good design?

As a designer, my job is to make sure room layouts are maximized, traffic flows in a space, colors work ,harmony is achieved in the overall design aesthetics….and….arranging “stuff”. We all like stuff and buying stuff feeds the consumerism of our country. I enjoy it too. I freely admit this but I have a rule; if stuff comes into my modest home, then stuff goes out. Whether knick knacks or clothing, everything is replaced not added ….and then I donate what I do not want to charities that can make it available to be reused by someone else. This is my easy way of recycling.

I have a beef with the crap peddled at market that is mass produced, overseas products that is simply junk to occupy space. Yep, that is how I feel. I have a ton of the catalogs on my desk at this very moment and I may discover one or two cool “finds” but most is just junk to add to your clutter and detract from good design. And good design, despite what some people may think does not mean overly styled rooms with enough cheap accessories to start a thrift store with!


I have likened the Atlanta Merchandise Mart to one big Kirklands…stacked on top of each other over and over. PLEASE folks, do not buy the crap at Kirklands. (For those of you who do not know Kirklands, it is a shop full of useless knick knacks made in China)  Maybe a thingy or two might be “ok” but do not outfit your home in will sure as heck look like it and there is nothing worse.

Just say NO to Kirklands!

SAVE the accessory budget and use it purchase art that is useful or decorative. Go to local or regional fairs where artists will sell beautiful pottery or vases made by their own hands.  Often these unknown artists can have affordable and stunning artwork. Trust me, your space will telegraph the artistry and the handmade persona will resonate throughout your house.

Put your kid’s art in a gorgeous frame, matte it well and hang it on the wall. This is art. Not the 29.99 paintings they sell at Kirklands…or wose those awful Holiday Inn sales.  (My sister in law went with me to market and saw a beautiful painting she coveted…but decided she could achieve the same look….herself. I only saw the painting half done but so far, it is as gorgeous as it’s inspiration.)

Take your own photos and enlarge them and hang them on the wall…even if they are not ideal,they are better than mass produced poo foo. And, they can be  art “place holders” until you can afford something you like better that you will live with for a long time. And remember  good art can be affordable too. Try a superb site called UGallery for up and coming artists displaying their work for sale. (This gallery was started by 3 guys who attended a great school, the University of Arizona which happens to be my alma mater as well! )The site is rich with awesome pieces. And affordable as well.

From U Gallery

You can try local vendors and art fairs too and online sites like Etsy for some unique finds that are handmade or just repurposed vintage.  Visit garage sales one Saturday morning and look for an unloved piece you can bring to life…furniture can be painted and reupholstered. Small knick knacks can be spray painted with some cool color and used in a different manner than originally intended. Like, hung on the wall or grouped with similiar objects to form a unique tableau.

Mixed Media for 20.00 on Etsy website. if Framed well it could be fun for a funky living room, bedroom or a powder bath! Whimsies Folksies

The ideas are endless. Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I like “stuff” as much as the next person but I am picky about the quality and the quanity of my “stuff” and I like pieces to have a provenance…even it is a made up one I just bestowed upon it:)

Do you have a favorite piece you have rescued or repurposed? Share it with me and I will post the ideas!

One of my fave “finds”…a cheap 30.00 chair with a coat of chrome spray paint!
A great Lane chair for 50 bucks. Original fabric but want to change it to this awesome fabric …see next pic!
Florica pattern from Clarke and Clarke

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Comments 10

  1. I have a fair number of items in my study that people gave me over the years, but only a few that I purchased myself. For a while I was very interested in sea shells, but I’ve not added to that particular collection for over 25 years now. We did purchase a number of art items from wonderful artists that cost us a fair amount of money, considerably more than the $25 knick-knack you berated. One of them was a mixed media painting which we commissioned and have owned some 18 years now. We still love the piece. The other thing we did was get some posters we really liked, which I then matted and framed with frames I made myself. It’s amazing what you can do with a ten or fifteen dollar poster, although if I did it for hire, I would charge four or five hundred for the work! But if it’s something you really like and would like to have set off in the best possible way, what the hell! If you get a cheap poster frame, though, that’s how the end result is going to look: cheap!

  2. Thanks for this post. I often wonder about rooms I see in design magazines, where every side table has a stack of antique books (probably never read); shelves are full of old apothecary jars (I admit to owning a few but my grandfather found them on his job as a city engineer); vintage fencing masks adorn coffee tables (even if the homeowner doesn’t know the difference between an epee and a foil); and kitchen counters are cluttered with metal roosters, massive hydrangeas, and large bowls of pristine produce (that have to be removed from the room for any real prepping or cooking to be done).
    I might think these rooms are quite pretty, but I also think they look unlivable, especially if you have pets or kids or like to relax in your own home. Most of all, I wonder… who does the dusting?

  3. Here! Here!!

    It’s about living with what you love, not one stop shopping. I always die a little inside when I walk in a room and everything has been purchased at one store on the same day — I know there is a time and a place for the Targets of the world, but when it’s made in China (laden with chemicals that in the future we’ll find out make us sick) and are totally lacking in personality — what is the point?

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  4. Hi Cheryl!

    Glad you enjoy the site! Alex, Stephen and Greg send a “Go Cats” your way 😉

    Be sure to check out our new sister site Paperwork – – and let us know what you think! It offers limited edition sustainable bamboo prints by our artists starting at $20. Every week we release 2 more prints.

    We also offer a designer discount and if you’re ever interested just shoot me an email

    Bailey (Ugallery)

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