by Patti Mangan and Kendra Frisbie

I’ve been surrounded. Inundated by vestiges of travels past and travels to be. Engulfed by travel newsletters, mileage program literature, newspapers, magazines, menus, matchbooks, pottery, and other bits and pieces I’ve gathered along the way.

It’s sadly true. I had the May 1997 issue of Travel & Leisure, along with everything else, at my fingertips.

It all added up to chaos, clutter, and visual confusion. I know it. I lived it! I never had people over—it was too overwhelming to hide everything. Yet grappling with a real honest re-org has been beyond me for years.

Enter RELISH, two delightful, spirited gals who entered my home and took stock with swift, appraising glances as they settled in on just one of my (tellingly) three couches.

If you are identifying with me at this point, I highly recommend having your home RELISHed, as I did, with little or no advance notice. Had I but even one more day to contemplate or question my real need for professional help…

But I didn’t. And so, I met with Kendra and Shannon of RELISH for what I thought would be a brief but insightful meeting about what I disliked and desired. After about forty minutes of questions and answers, they were ready to start. “Today!?” I squeaked. “Yes, today—now!” I handed over the keys and walked out of my collective, emotionally charged chaos. I had no idea what Kendra and Shannon were capable of. It had to be better than my own attempts at organization.

How liberating was it to do that? Amazing. Plus, they said I could change anything back that I wanted to. Deal. All I had to do was walk away.

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Patti Mangan—The Home of a Worldly Diva

Teresa Williamson insisted I meet Patti at a recent Tango Diva event, telling me on the run that her house was in desperate need of a little love and design attention. Intrigued by this unusual introduction, and then by Patti’s worldly stories and easy laughter, I couldn’t wait for my business partner, Shannon, and I to feast our eyes on Patti’s one-bedroom SOMA apartment. And feast we did—there was a lot to see!

First Impressions
Two things immediately struck us upon stepping inside Patti’s apartment: 1) that Patti has collected some really cool pieces throughout her many travels and 2) it appeared that her small space was working overtime. After getting to know Patti a little better, we also came to the conclusion that the apartment’s décor did not seem to accurately reflect her vibrant personality, outgoing ways, and colorful persona. But we saw some great potential.

The Space
The small, one-bedroom apartment is made up of a kitchen, bath, bedroom, living area, and outdoor patio. The living space was designed to simultaneously serve five functions—formal entertaining, informal living and tv viewing, home office, storage and dining room—but didn’t seem to be particularly successful in any one of these roles. It felt cozy and cluttered, yet somehow not intimate or inviting. We didn’t know where to sit, despite the three couches, and felt very distant when we did settle in for an initial consultation. The bedroom felt overstuffed with dressers and tables and a bed—it felt intimate but somewhat claustrophobic.

The Contents
The most interesting aspect of Patti’s place was the collection of pottery and artwork that she has accumulated throughout the years. She has a unique and eclectic style; when it comes to art, she knows what she likes. She has chosen dramatic and interesting pieces of pottery and sculpture from many nooks and crannies of the world, and has supplemented them with some of her own creations. The shelves that adorned the office/dining space were packed with stories from afar. The furniture seemed to be less consistent in approach, more of a hodge podge of hand-me-downs, or collected at random. But again, she knew what she liked—the dining table/desk of her parents’ that matched the shelving unit, the newly upholstered rounded settee, the dramatically oversized lamp and shade—and what she didn’t: the entertainment center, the TV stand, and one couch.

The Relish Approach
After a detailed discussion, we felt that we understood what Patti wanted to accomplish—to pull together a look that reflected her travels and personality, to make the living space more inviting, and to create a functionally fashionable space that she would feel proud to use for entertaining. We banished Patti and got started. With such a compact space, each individual piece takes on greater importance. We looked objectively at each piece of furniture and every accessory for six things: quality, size, scale, texture, color and personality/sentimentality. If it could stand up to our test, it could stay. If it didn’t add anything to the space or the vision, it was put in the hallway for future consideration. Sometimes editing is the hardest part; ooooh it’s tough, but it’s usually the most effective way to make a positive impact. We eliminated the flimsy entertainment center, short tv stand, one mismatched end table, and a couch that felt more collegiate than sophisticated. We moved several hundred magazines, extra luggage, a futon mattress and other extraneous parts into the kitchen and bathroom. We took down all of the artwork and pottery collections from the shelves to get a better view of the space as a shell—size, shape, lighting, architectural details, etc. Ahhh, it was looking better already.

Design Solution
The next step was to choose the right furniture to go back into the space, and work on arranging it for maximum effect and function before adding the finishing touches with accessories and color.

Living room
First decision: where’s the focal point? Second decision: how do we create the best multi-functional space possible? To make the space more intimate and more conducive to entertaining, the furniture arrangement needed to be closer together, and grounded by a coffee table. We found a woven trunk behind one couch that could be the centerpiece. A clean and simple vignette with a tall table (taken from the bedroom) and dramatic lamp anchored the room. Two couches and a dining chair would provide ample seating; two more dining chairs could be pulled in as needed for larger groups. A six-foot tall iron plant stand with shelves, taken from the patio, would act as temporary storage for magazines and books, and for displaying a few special pottery pieces. Strategically placed, colorful pillows and vibrant posters (that we found hidden under the bed) added a bit of needed pizzazz and helped to visually pull the space together.

Dining Room/Home Office
The shelves were the perfect way to visually divide the dining and living spaces, and to show off Patti’s collections. Turning the table ninety degrees and extending one leaf helped to give this area a greater sense of importance and also a larger work space. We arranged the shelves with some of Patti’s favourite objects, grouped by category, by size and by color for a clean and dramatic effect. A matching sideboard, borrowed from the bedroom, served to hold the tv and provide extra storage. Clean and simple and elegant, this area became functional for formal dining or to serve as a home office. We recommended adding additional storage so that office supplies were accessible but out of sight when not in use.

By removing the sideboard and tall table, the bedroom felt less cluttered. By positioning the bed beneath the window, creating a side table out of hatboxes, rearranging jewelry & accessories, and dressing up the bed with different linens, the room suddenly felt pulled together and inviting. We recommended buying a curtain rod to hang her vintage window panels behind the headboard—creating a softer look and more private space.

Patti has collected some interesting artwork and accessories through her lifetime passion of travelling and appreciating other cultures. We felt that by highlighting these pieces differently and reducing clutter elsewhere, her place became the perfect venue for entertaining other liked-minded, adventurous people. There is a story in each piece just waiting on the tip of her tongue…

Storage was the biggest challenge. We all have that extra ‘stuff’ that needs to find a home but with two tiny but very full closets, there were few options to accommodate the clutter. It’s very possible that Patti has outgrown this space, or perhaps needs to utilize her storage unit down the street more effectively—to hold the overflow of magazines and luggage and miscellaneous pieces that are not used on a daily basis.

In the end, we recommended eliminating four pieces of furniture from circulation and buying a few strategic storage boxes as well as a piece to function as the entertainment center/additional storage. We felt that the end result was a space that better articulated Patti’s sense of adventure and was more inviting for entertaining. And we are looking forward to her first party.

—Kendra Frisbie
Relish. interiors revisited. LLC.

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Well, Divas…all I can say is, Do it! Re-entering my new abode, I was astonished. Color, my favorite accent, was everywhere. Not just everywhere: in just the right places, in balance with just the right blend of neutrals. I loved it. The space is roomier (down to two couches and minus three pieces of furniture), it’s warm, and it’s focused. All my treasures are on display. It’s everything I love, organized. The gals worked hard. They worked fast. They did wonders. And…they left me a shopping list!