Our organizing expert, Anthony Santelli, helps one homeowner transform his neglected desk area.
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The Desk Before
When he moved in to his apartment three years ago, stylist Scott Horne entered into a classic design conundrum: how to make the most of a very awkward space. The built-in “office” adjacent to his kitchen was a half step up from dorm-room milk crates, jury-rigged from plywood shelves, and a shallow desktop. Lacking inspiration, he soon let it become a dumping ground for papers, supplies, and magazines. “The idea of fixing it felt overwhelming,” Scott says. “I needed someone to take the wheel.”
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The Desk After
Which is exactly what Martha Stewart Living home editor Anthony Santelli did: “Since the area shares upper cabinets with the kitchen, it needed to look like an extension, not an afterthought.” From there, Anthony set about unifying the space with an acrylic desktop to match the kitchen’s glossy Ikea cabinets, a few bursts of yellow, and an exhaustive organizing system that’s user-friendly -- no matter how exhausted Scott is at the end of the day.
Anthony gave the built-in a simple and super affordable face-lift by ironing white melamine edge banding onto the raw facing of the cubbies. Then he had an acrylic top cut to fit the existing base.
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Turning Clutter into Calm: The Desk
A robust collection of clunky items needed streamlined replacements, and all papers and supplies found attractive new homes in containers.
Before A diorama of decade-out-of-date electronics held a bulky desktop computer and an outsize lamp.
After A sleek laptop and a small task lamp free up valuable desk space. A steel wall pocket screwed to the wall serves as an inbox for those act-on-A.S.A.P. files, bills, and R.S.V.P.s.
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Before One undersize flowerpot held scissors, pens, and paper clips -- and required serious digging.
After Acrylic trays and containers for different supplies put whatever you need within reach. The homemade pinboard displays daily reminders: It’s made from a piece of Homasote fiberboard stretched with a favorite fabric and fitted into a painted frame.
Format memo tray; tank tray; and stacking boxes; cb2.com.
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Before It was a hot, heaping tangle of technology -- with a printer, a router, and a shredder crowded next to one another.
After A hardware-store roller blind retracts to expose the neat arrangement: Cup hooks on the underside of the desktop hold trays of paper. An acrylic riser elevates the modem and lets air circulate beneath it.
Room-darkening vinyl roller shade, in White, homedepot.com. Circuit letter trays; and acrylic riser; containerstore.com. Printer (3050A), hp.com. Shredder (BD-HS600), by Black & Decker, from amazon.com.
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Before Cords and chargers created a Gordian knot.
After A Velcro tie bundles and wraps excess cord lengths, at top. Secure with adhesive Velcro strips. Plywood was cut to fit the shelf, at bottom, and holes were drilled for the cords.
Velcro reusable ties (similar to shown), in Black and Gray, staples.com.
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Before Since the upper cabinets have doors, they enabled the bad habit of just cramming papers in willy-nilly.
After Clearly marked storage boxes stash files that don’t need to be referred to often. Handled plastic bins are great for extra supplies.
Basics desktop file boxes, in White, organize.com. Signature 3-ring binders, in Lemon Drop and White Patent, russellandhazel.com. Bigso Stockholm CD box, in White; clear-handled storage baskets; containerstore.com.
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