A brief pro-clutter interior design manifesto

I was browsing Apartment Therapy recently and came across one of their ‘Before and After’ posts titled A Granny Office Goes Modern. The ‘before’ photo does look like it could be a grandmother’s office:


After “a simple organization and renovation techniques you can completely change the style and give a space a fresh and modern makeover.” The after  photo has the hallmarks of a fashionable interior makeover: designer furniture, an accent wall, useless empty baskets on shelves, and a mysteriously cord-free computer (this was a big hit in the comments).


Yes, it’s fresh. It’s modern. But what have we really accomplished here? Every last shred of personality has been stripped from the room. God forbid anyone have to look at family photos, or (even worse) books! While I might not have kept all of Granny’s furnishings, there is something wonderful about going into someone’s house and learning about him or her through the things on display.

Clutter can get out of hand, but Granny’s office was far from being an episode of Hoarders. There is a contemporary trend in interiors to put antique cameras and baskets everywhere, and to find quirky vintage items to “curate” (one of the most grossly misused words I can think of, of late). Why not actually put your own things on display? What’s wrong with a few of Granny’s framed photos and maybe some books you’ve actually read instead of empty white storage boxes? One comment summarized it nicely,  “Where did the books go? The shelves are now cluttered with tchotchkes that don’t serve any purpose.”

Hopefully Granny’s stuff was carefully put in boxes and it will slowly filter its way back into the office.

By Mark

Mark is an architect in San Francisco.

1 comment

  1. That is truly awful – All they appear to have done is take the curved coving from the top of the shelves – which means the cupboard doors now just look naff. BRING BACK THE BOOKS…

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