At the beginning of every new season, it’s always a good idea to take inventory of your living conditions and make some inspired, unexpected and out-the-box upgrades. Especially since we’re coming off such a brutal winter, there’s no better time than now to get rid of clutter, experiment with new pieces of art/exotic ornaments or make some bold interior decor decisions. To help with your apartment/home improvements for spring, we reached out to the highly respected expert Maxwell Ryan of Apartment Therapy. If there’s anyone who can whip your pad into shape, it’s certainly him. Read on below …

“Use at least three light sources, of varying heights, in every room …”

Can you please give us an abridged description about what Apartment Therapy is and what it is you do?

Apartment Therapy started as a service business in NYC to help people make their homes beautiful, organized and healthy. I’ve always believed that a really good home has to be a combination of all of these three, and, since 2004, we’ve been online publishing every day to fulfill the same mission. We inspire and empower our readers to do things themselves and connect with others in our community.

What is your background in interior decor and home design?

My first love was as an artist and then working in design, but I became disillusioned with the shallowness of decorating and ended up going back to school to become a teacher. Over the next seven years I taught elementary school in the Waldorf Schools and came to have a deep understanding and respect for the power environments have on children and adults. Putting this learning together with my love of design, I began Apartment Therapy with an almost pedagogical understanding of space and a desire to teach people how to make good spaces, not just decorate. Along the way, I learned all about the furniture business and have developed an expertise in decorating basics as well.  

When it comes to your own living space, are there some basic rules of thumb you use for maintaining a chic, harmonious and orderly abode?

Create a “welcome home” spot. Every home benefits from a hospitable entry that conveys calm and order while also keeping unwanted and unnecessary stuff from creating disarray in your home. Your “foyer” should include the following…

-A doormat for wiping shoes (and I suggest taking them off).   

-Coat hook or tree to hang outerwear, bag, umbrellas, dog leash, etc.

-A flat surface (I call it a “landing strip”) where you can lay down your wallet, keys and sort the mail. This can be a small table or bookshelf. If space is very limited, look for a shelf or photo ledge to mount directly on the wall.

-Basket for recycling. This makes it easy to dump unwanted mail at the door.

Use at least three light sources, of varying heights, in every room. One should be low and indirect (like a table lamp). A second could be a standing floor lamp, which is space efficient and great for reading. Your third source could be a pendant, which both illuminates and adds visual depth to a space. Use only incandescent or the newer warm LED bulbs for electric light and switch to candles when you don’t need as much.

Incorporate storage into daily life, instead of hidden away in closets or attics. Your stuff will be close at hand when you need it, and can even been elevated to decor. Mount bikes or skateboard on the wall as art, or hang folding chairs right on the wall in the kitchen.

What is the most common faux pas you see people make when attempting to stylishly design their homes and apartments?

The big mistakes people make all too often are that they don’t have enough light in their home and they don’t finish their windows! Most homes I visit are underlit and would benefit from my three points of light rule. Even a well-cared for home or a beautifully decorated home won’t shine without good lighting and our eye will only travel where there is light, so, literally, shadows will kill your home.

Windows, as well, really need to be finished. They are big holes in your walls and a bit of a devastation to a room and should be softened and cared for my finishing them with curtains, shades or both. Personally, I like to have roller shades on every window to vary the light and curtains around the windows to soften the frame and absorb noise.

Let’s talk about your personal style. How would you describe it and what are some of your favorite fashion brands?

I used to think I was modern, but then realized that I like old things more, so I really have an eclectic traditional style. I like quality, natural materials and a handmade touch. I am very partial to Scandinavian design for these reasons. In terms of fashion, I like and wear Acne, James Perse, Rag and Bone and Armani Exchange…. a more fitted European style and not a loose, oversized American style is where I am most comfortable.

Lastly, it’s been a brutal and long winter especially on the East Coast – can you give guys out there about 5/6 tips for sprucing up their pads for the highly awaited spring season?

– Try some new Shower Curtain Art. See here.

– Get a cool new planter stand. See tips here

– Experiment with DIY Watercolor Napkins. See here

– Invest in some Macramé Wall Hanging. See here

– Add a unique touch with an Acorn Bird Feeder. See here

For more great tips, visit

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