Unpacking the “KonMari” trend: The personalization of ultra-home organizing

A tidy, minimalist kitchen in with open shelving to keep cookbooks close at hand.

A tidy, minimalist kitchen in with open shelving to keep cookbooks close at hand.

Before Marie Kondo, there was William Morris, a renowned 19th-century British designer who lived by this philosophy: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Kondo has a more stringent and less personalized approach. She encourages followers of her KonMari method to grasp each item in their hands and evaluate their body’s reaction to it. If it makes you feel uplifted, put it in the keep pile. If it causes you to feel weighed down, in the donation bin it goes. But here’s the thing — there’s no one-size-fits-all organizing method. Whether you prefer a pragmatic approach à la William Morris or Kondo’s emotionally-guided decision-making process, figuring out what works for you and your lifestyle is paramount.

Floating shelves provide vertical storage in this compact home office featuring an impressive view of the Santa Monica shoreline.

Floating shelves provide vertical storage in this compact home office featuring an impressive view of the Santa Monica shoreline.

“The method of organization should support the client’s daily routine and activities,” says interior designer Sarah Barnard, who specializes in healthy, happy, personalized spaces. “What items do they use most regularly? How do they envision the space? Having a clear goal will start to inform the plan.”

Barnard provides organizing services for clients in every stage of life, from young professionals with little spare time to retirees with reduced mobility. “One of the main reasons people ask for our help is because they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start,” explains Sarah. “Our goal is to streamline the process by setting up personalized systems that can be easily maintained.”

A tidy studio bookcase keeps favorite books close at hand. A painting by Abby Sin, sculpture, ceramics and antiques lighten and brighten the display.

A tidy studio bookcase keeps favorite books close at hand. A painting by Abby Sin, sculpture, ceramics and antiques lighten and brighten the display.

Sarah recently tackled a two-week-long organizing project for a busy family of five. Recognizing that the experience can be quite invasive, Sarah and her team went to great lengths to ensure the family felt comfortable. Shoe covers were worn to prevent anyone from tracking in allergens, and cotton gloves were required when handling any personal items.

Very possibly the best boys' bedroom ever! Newly built walls allow for custom-made American walnut bunk beds and floating desks for each boy.

Very possibly the best boys' bedroom ever! Newly built walls allow for custom-made American walnut bunk beds and floating desks for each boy.

Clearing away unnecessary clutter was the family’s aim, and Sarah’s team employed the ‘keep, toss, donate’ method to get it all done. “We sorted our client’s clothing by season, removing the winter wear and storing it in the hallway closet,” says Sarah. “Now, primary closets contain only half the amount of items, making them more spacious and easier to navigate.”

Personalized tools for staying organized! Each boy's desk includes a utility wall with a chalkboard, pin board, metal panel for magnets and wipe off board calendar.

Personalized tools for staying organized! Each boy's desk includes a utility wall with a chalkboard, pin board, metal panel for magnets and wipe off board calendar.

In addition to freeing up closet space in the home, Sarah Barnard Design took on the organizing of a child’s craft room. “The client’s youngest son had received arts and craft gifts for each holiday of his young life,” notes Sarah. “This resulted in a wonderful collection, but also a lot of bits and pieces— to the point where the craft room was largely unusable.” The team carefully combed through his many art supplies, donating lesser-used items to create space for the most cherished ones.

An articulating desk lamp adds a pop of aqua to the teen girl's study area. Oil painting by Allie Ihm.

An articulating desk lamp adds a pop of aqua to the teen girl's study area. Oil painting by Allie Ihm.

Once an organizing project is complete, Sarah’s clients have a renewed sense of self. Decluttering is a lifestyle change, but the benefits are well worth the effort. “It often inspires a newfound appreciation for their possessions and increased productivity in the space,” says Sarah.

A creative space with a custom sofa in wool felt, side tables made of natural maple and steel and a desk chair designed by Mauro Lipparini. Sculpture by Renae Barnard.

A creative space with a custom sofa in wool felt, side tables made of natural maple and steel and a desk chair designed by Mauro Lipparini. Sculpture by Renae Barnard.

Adopting a personalized approach to organizing will spark far more joy than bingeing an eight-part Netflix series and assuming your tidying habits will change through osmosis. Decluttering is hard, both physically and emotionally — it’s not something that comes naturally to most people. Seeking professional organizing help is an investment in yourself, saving you time, energy, and unnecessary stress. And hiring an expert to create customized systems that fit your lifestyle will help you stay organized in the long-term — no self-help books required.

Written by Rachel Roth

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall and Chas Metivier

“Scandifornian” design goes coastal in the Pacific Palisades

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Scandinavia and California don’t have much in common (the weather, for starters) but when it comes to interior design, these two regions have strikingly similar taste. This is exemplified through the use of neutral color palettes, natural fibers, sustainably-sourced wood, and intentional accessories in both decorating styles. 

Interior designer Sarah Barnard recently overhauled a 3,600-square-foot family home in the Pacific Palisades, not far from the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Although the home was originally constructed in 1949, its revamped aesthetic is best described as ‘Scandifornian.’

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The beachy blue and white exterior hints at what’s to come once you step inside. Distressed red brick forms a path to the entryway, which is framed by carved wood corbels that are original to the house. The foyer alcove includes a live edge wood table and a curated collection of seashells and minerals, blending organic elements with simple, clean lines.

Featuring handmade, live edge tables by William Stranger.

Featuring handmade, live edge tables by William Stranger.

But what instantly captures your attention is the light-drenched living room, featuring a vaulted ceiling with exposed wood beams. “The original bones of the house were excellent,” explains Sarah. A custom concrete fireplace designed by Sarah runs nearly the entire length of the wall. It’s boxy, modern shape is tempered by irregularly etched lines that “mimic the movement of the nearby sea.” 

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The lightly-finished hardwood flooring, all natural, non-toxic sofa, shaggy wool floor cushion and wheel-thrown ceramics exude laid-back, Scandifornia style. Here, the aesthetic is minimal, but never cold or uninviting. Taking a seat on the floor is encouraged and each decorative object or family photo has a story behind it. 

A fine artist herself, Sarah collaborated with a trusted woodworker to create the living room wall sconces, carved from American Walnut. “The organic forms and natural finishes match perfectly with the coastal ambiance of the space,” notes Sarah. 

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To build these custom creations, Sarah delivered sketches and sculptural models to the woodworker to convey her ideas. The prototype was referenced throughout the fabrication process to ensure accuracy, resulting in one-of-a-kind fixtures that serve as functional works of art. 

Natural dining chairs by the Cherner Chair Company have a slim silhouette.

Natural dining chairs by the Cherner Chair Company have a slim silhouette.

The dining room was “designed to feel soft and light,” with a neutral color palette, elongated dining table, natural dining chairs and a chandelier that appears to be floating in mid-air. The fireplace surround is yet another of Sarah’s custom designs. “I chose tile glazed in brilliant blue to create an updated linear pattern neatly framed by a custom concrete mantle,” she adds.

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Sarah once again worked alongside a local artisan to produce the orb-like sconces that brighten up the space. “I often take formal inspiration from the home's location and reinterpret that within the space,” explains Sarah, who used the home’s Pacific Palisades locale as the jumping off point. She handcrafted a number of small ceramic prototypes for the client to review before agreeing on the current iteration.

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The kitchen expertly combines old and new. “There is an exposed brick fireplace that remains a decorative element in the new kitchen,” says Sarah. “We wrestled with the idea of preserving or upgrading the original red brick. We collectively decided to keep it — in the kitchen only — as a homage to the architect’s original intent.” The light blue cabinet doors feature subtle detailing and the quartz countertops are flecked with real seashells. The office nook is the perfect spot to search for a new recipe or respond to emails, while the adjacent pantry offers plenty of storage and a stainless steel French-door refrigerator.

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The ground floor is rounded out by a serene guest bathroom with a custom floating vanity, matching wood-framed mirror, and a vessel sink that sits atop an onyx countertop. Although the space consists of mostly hard surfaces, it is warmed up through the use of light wood tones, soft lighting and texture-rich pebble flooring. 

A handmade table by William Stranger anchors the space between the living room and dining room.

A handmade table by William Stranger anchors the space between the living room and dining room.

The California and Scandinavian decorating styles share many of the same values, most notably an appreciation of natural beauty and fine craftsmanship. Throughout this project, Sarah worked side-by-side with local artisans and craftspeople to realize her custom furnishings and lighting designs. “Unique handmade objects bring authenticity and personalization to a home,” says Sarah. The finished product, which she has dubbed ‘Peaceful Palisades,’ masterfully combines coastal California influences with the simplistic forms and function of Scandinavian design.

Written by Rachel Roth

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall and Chas Metivier

California Minimalism: Scandifornian Style in Santa Monica, CA

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When a government executive from the east coast decided to retire, she knew it was time to finally make her home in Santa Monica into the perfect restorative retreat. From a lifetime of travel, she collected an eclectic and beautiful array of art and antique furniture that needed to proper placement in the home she bought in the 1990s with her now late husband. She enlisted the help of Sarah Barnard Design to redesign the home, entrusting her with the task of blending the unique and personal pieces of the collection with a healthy, natural and minimalist style. Inspired by the light, bright and natural aesthetic of Scandinavian design, combined with the casual, collected aesthetic of Santa Monica, California.

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Sarah Barnard set out to create a home that was not only beautiful, but that would allow the owner to be comfortable indefinitely.  To achieve form and function in the kitchen, reordering the space to fit the clients’ lifestyle best proved to be the solution. An open-plan design was chosen to allow the owner to quickly cook, as well as to allow for easy entertaining of guests.

Sarah chose pale grey flat panel cabinetry to help the small space feel lighter and brighter. Matte white glass tiles were selected to add a quiet elegance to the minimal space. Once the project was complete, the homeowner gushed, “Entertaining here is much more pleasurable, as is cooking for one in my new kitchen.”

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The natural French oak flooring seamlessly connects the kitchen to the dining area, enlarging the sense of space in both rooms. Open shelving just outside the kitchen keeps cookbooks close and adds a sophisticated pop of color while stainless steel appliances were selected to pair with polished chrome cabinet hardware subtly. The simplicity of the color palette, the clean, natural materials, and the streamlined design created simplicity and new ease of use.

Sarah knew that repurposing the owner's treasured pieces would be essential in the home's re-design, so the owner's antique chairs and matching rosewood table from Thailand are placed prominently, bringing warmth and history to the contemporary dining space. The Italian chandelier above it contrasts the classic style and is made of laser cut metal and glass.

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In the living room, the original design included a sizeable diagonal bench that connected to the fireplace. The redesign eliminated this and other cumbersome architectural elements to create more floor space and a modern aesthetic. Sarah conceived a more straightforward hearth to feature art and items her client painstakingly collected. A serene white plaster fireplace with a Qortstone marble hearth now anchors the living room in a place where a traditional wood and stone mantle once sat.

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“I had not originally contemplated changing the living room fireplace wall, but I am delighted with the sleek new look Sarah achieved,” said the owner, who was also happy to have the perfect place for her paintings finally. “This oil painting, ‘Raspberry,’ previously hung in the stairwell between the second and third floors where its exuberant shapes and brush strokes could not be fully appreciated.” The painting, by Wendy Edwards, now hangs neatly above the fireplace.

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A pair of dark stained wood coffee tables, also from the owner’s collection, were carefully chosen to make entertaining easy, while the vintage rug anchors all the white space with vibrant color. The result is sophisticated minimalism throughout the living room.

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Upstairs, the owner requested an expansive shower, so the master bathroom became a "wet room." Sarah planned for every eventuality in the owner's future, including her long term health and well-being using universal design principles. The result was a space free of any barriers like steps or glass shower walls.

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Sarah designed the space to feel light and boundless by selecting custom cabinetry, also adding storage and architectural interest to this modern master bathroom. Plumbing fixtures by California Faucets were chosen for their pure beauty, while the countertop slabs contain small pieces of natural shell, echoing the nearby ocean. Sarah finds that an element of nature adds a touch of calmness. Above the counter, diffuse split disc wall sconces were chosen to add a soft light to the room.

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Both beauty and safety are prominent in Sarah’s Scandifornian design. Beautiful and sleek hand-glazed wall tiles inspired by sterling silver accompany durable and slip-resistant porcelain mosaic tile flooring that create a functioning and timeless atmosphere. Finally, an antique Victorian chair and a giclée print by artist D.J. Hall personalizes the fresh and crisp master bathroom.

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While continuing the elegant, sparse aesthetic from the first floor, the master bedroom suite fills the entire second floor of this beautiful minimal townhouse, so special attention was paid to make it simple and calm. As the owner explained, “I travel frequently, and the serenity of the space makes coming home very comforting.”

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The homeowner cares about her health and her environment; she practices self-care through activities like yoga and Pilates. It was essential to her that her home be filled with natural materials. Sarah was careful as always to find organic and lasting materials that would contribute to her health and wellness. The master bedroom suite now highlights the beauty of natural objects and materials while planning for maximum comfort and use. The space features a vintage leather headboard by Duxiana, and the artwork is a framed print of a painting by Marc Chagall (c. 1957). Glass orbs were chosen to provide soft bedside light that keeps the nightstands free for books and other objects.

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A second fireplace in a corner was made over in sterling silver-toned ceramic tiles, adding visual warmth. The marigold club chair beside it was made more personal with the addition of a handmade honey bee pillow embroidered by the homeowner.

Plants and flowers dot the suite, as Sarah adds plants whenever possible to create a healthy and natural environment. The unique collection mixed with healthy materials in the design of this townhouse allowed a meaningful and sophisticated style to emerge. After the completion of this redesign, the owner explained that what she loves best about her new home is “[the] serenity of the color palette and surfaces, the bold, visually arresting scale of the principal lighting fixtures, and the way the new surroundings accommodate favorite furniture pieces and decorative items.”  The newly finished home is a testament to the idea that less is more, and that health and natural design are the solutions to luxury.

by Kelsey Betancourt

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Steven Dewall.

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Kitchen

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A Park View Pied-à-Terre features an elegantly modern kitchen with ample counter space. The counter's tiered design creates additional bar top space for kitchen-side dining. A dramatic chandelier made of recycled rock crystal adds sparkle to the sustainable kitchen design.

Dark wood cabinets compliment the natural stone countertops and glossy backsplash tile. The extra-deep single bowl sink in an under mount, stainless steel design is both high functioning and lovely. The sleek design and minimalist elements of the kitchen work correctly with the home's integrated layout.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier