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Watch and Learn

We can learn so much about getting a house in order from watching others do it. My must-see TV show these days is Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, Wednesday nights on the Bravo channel. The show combines remodeling, organizing and emotional counseling for the homeowners, which is an addictive mix. It’s extremely entertaining and very educational.

Books and magazines can also offer inspiration, but there’s nothing like observing a well-organized or well-designed home in person to really begin to understand how you might do it for yourself. I tagged along on the Kitchens in the Vineyards tour last weekend and came away with lots of great ideas.

One of the elements that makes homes on tours like these so attractive is the absence of clutter. It’s easy to mistake clutter for character — all those knickknacks, books, and the general detritus of daily life definitely say a lot about the homeowner, and probably not all positive. An elegant, uncluttered space can still have loads of personality.

The character comes from the furniture and art, obviously, but also the mindful selection of the materials used in the home. Every choice, from the window coverings and bed linens to containers and the font on the labels, says something about the home’s inhabitants. Of course, without clutter around, these choices have even more impact.

Another interesting thing to observe is the organizational systems in each of the homes, like book storage, closet design and kitchen layout. In one modern guest house we visited on the tour, there were no doors on any of the kitchen cabinets. So with everything exposed, the owners had chosen very simple, monotone dishes, glass ware and other items, and all of it was stored very neatly.

The really fun element of these open cabinets was the material used to make their back walls: chalkboard. The owners wrote in chalk where items should go — skillets, stock pots, and other things, which is a very playful way to label that makes it easy for guests to put things away. Designer Erin Martin seems to never be short of unique ideas like this one.

It’s easy to go gaga over the bocce ball courts, infinity pools and outdoor pizza ovens at homes like these, but when visiting, zero in on the details and design ideas that could work in your own home. It costs a lot of money to put together homes like these, certainly, but there’s also a tremendous amount of creative ideas and attention to detail that we can adapt or adopt for ourselves.

I learned from Thomas Bartlett, one of the designers featured on the tour, the importance of giving sofa cushions and pillows regular plumping up, trading tired orchids and house plants for fresh ones and keeping the art on the walls level. Cost? Minimal.

When Bartlett sent out a client’s furniture for pricey reconditioning I came home and rubbed polish into our dining chairs and vigorously employed a lint roller over our cat hair-laden sofa. Unfortunately for me and my three felines, cat hair — like clutter — is neither elegant nor inspiring.

Take advantage of opportunities to visit some of the stunning homes in the valley during events like Kitchens in the Vineyards. It’s a great way to keep from getting stuck and stale. For more information on the Kitchens in the Vineyards tours, which benefit Music in the Vineyards, go to musicinthevineyards.org/kitchens.