The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the flowers are beginning to bloom. Ah, it is officially spring (borderline summer) at my interior design studio here in Austin, Texas. In the world of home design, spring doesn’t mean just incorporating florals into the latest mood boards. Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking. The spring season ushers in spring cleaning, which is more closely tied to interior design than you may think. As an interior designer, it is my job to understand the relationship between design and housekeeping. After all, the laundry room must function. The beds must be made. The kitchen must be cleaned. In order to design a welcoming home, I must create a space that can be well kept. Before we dive into the spring cleaning lessons I learned as a designer, let’s go back to the beginning…
Childhood Impressions of the Spring (Cleaning) Season
Cleaning Up at Easter
Cleaning up the winnings…
The first blooms of spring take me back to childhood Easter celebrations. Let me tell you; I was damn good at Easter egg hunts. As a kid, I wasn’t exceptionally skilled at any sport, but I would always find the “golden egg” with the ultimate candy prize. My niece, who is only 18 months my junior, was super competitive and would always cry her eyes out when I cleaned up the winnings on the lawn. Of course, I always shared!
Cleaning up for church…
I didn’t grow up very religious, but we always went to church on Easter mornings. I remember getting dressed in stiff, poofy, plastic-smelling dresses that constantly itched as I sat in the pew. However, there was a sunny spot in cleaning up for church. I got to wear my favorite patent leather shoes. Why were they such a favorite of mine back then? Well, they were perfect for sliding on the linoleum-tiled halls of the church! (Not a design choice I’d recommend now, though!)
The House of Four Seasons
“‘Yellow with purple shutters,’ cried Billy. It would be so bright in the summertime when everything turns green.’” – Roger Duvoisin, The House of Four Seasons
The books we read as children significantly affect our home design preferences in adulthood. One of my favorite books as a kid was The House of Four Seasons. The basic plot was the family repainted their house every season to match the changing environment. Spring brought a brilliant combination of yellow wood siding and bright purple shutters. I so badly wanted to live in this house, and I am still a big fan of yellow and purple today. Is it worth repainting your home as part of your spring cleaning ritual? Quite possibly! It was actually a pretty insightful design choice to coordinate house colors for the springtime foliage. Plus, those rich purple shutters brought attention to the sparkly clean windows. More on the importance of that later…
My Father’s Spring Cleaning Ritual
Of course, it wouldn’t be spring without spring cleaning. My fascination with the cleaning ritual actually began with my father. He did all the cleaning and tidying of our home and made it look effortless. As a child, my mother insisted we were pampered and excused us from the cleaning duties. Obviously, I didn’t complain then. However, not taking part in the springtime jobs of organizing and window cleaning left me clueless when it came time to clean my own space as an adult. My father passed away when I was only 12 years old. So, he couldn’t share any of his cleaning and tidying know-how with me. After his death, the cleanliness of our home went downhill, to say the least. My mother was much more into socializing and early morning estate sales than tidying up the kitchen mess from the night before. My sister and I muddled through our teen years, but I always yearned for the military cleanliness that we lost with my father. This takes us to why I so value the practice today…
4 Spring Cleaning Lessons Learned in Adulthood
Through the years, spring has represented different things to me: family Easter egg hunts, camping tips, spring break trips with the girls, and these fabulous lemon desserts I make every year. The most “adult” addition to the list is, you guessed it, spring cleaning. I am by no means a neat freak, and my home is far from spotless. However, I love the fresh start that spring cleaning represents and the closeness I feel to my father during this time. While my father wasn’t there to teach me, I did learn four important spring cleaning lessons on my own.
1. Recognize the Importance of a Clean House
First and foremost, interior design affects our mood, and a well-designed home goes beyond paint, fabrics, and furnishings. Early in my design career, I learned that cleanliness is the finishing touch on any interior design plan. A tidy and clean space is just as important as your textiles and wallcoverings for creating a specific look and influencing how you feel in the room. Plus, you need to protect your investment too! Why splurge on hardwood floors only to cover them with piles of clothes, toys, and rubbish?
I’ve always admired my sister-in-law’s flair for housekeeping. Her guest bath was always well-stocked, and the sweet scent of lemon Pledge wafted through her living room. Touches like these make you feel more at home. When I designed in NYC, I often worked alongside the housekeepers and nannies who kept my client’s homes in ship shape. As a result, I learned the ins and outs of running a home and fell in love with the regimented process. Plus, you can’t beat a clear NYC skyline view through a freshly washed window.
2. Learn the Spring Cleaning Tricks of the Trade
Housekeeping and interior design work hand-in-hand. In many ways, a home needs to be designed around the cleaning process. As a designer, it’s my job to create spaces that function for the task. In order to do so, I must have an understanding of what it means to keep a home. I need to know everything from easy-to-clean kitchen finishes to the proper way to make a bed.
“When you keep a house, you use your head, your heart, and your hands together to create a home — the place where you live the most important parts of your private life. Housekeeping is an art: it combines intuition and physical skill to create comfort, health, beauty, order, and safety. It is also a science, a body of knowledge that helps us seek those goals and values wisely, efficiently, humanely.” – Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House
Years ago, I found Home Comforts and read it cover to cover. It is the perfect kick-starter guide to understanding housekeeping. Spoiler — it’s not all that simple! In between sketching plans, I would also devour Martha Stewart Living, spilling over articles on setting the table, folding a napkin, and removing a stain. Learning the tricks of the cleaning trade is mesmerizing. Once you’re in, you’re hooked!
3. Outsource Cleaning When Necessary
Now, I must admit something. While I preach the importance of housekeeping, cleaning is not my gift. I love to read and know the principles of the practice. However, theory and practice are two very different things. What I have mastered is learning when to call in for assistance. There is no shame in asking for help, and you will be better for it. From Marie Kondo to The Home Edit, many professional cleaners, tidiers, and organizers are on standby to help you get your home in order.
From personal experience, I can say using a professional organizer is the key to happiness and money well spent. A divorce attorney is much more expensive and troublesome! When it came time for my husband and me to organize our garage, we could not agree on where to store anything. Hiring an organizer helps to reign in the chaos and provide a neutral party to what can be some pretty personal decisions. I call in an organizer almost yearly to help us keep our house running smoothly. Don’t be shy. They have definitely seen it all!
4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Crystal Clean Windows (and Windex)
“Wash the windows and open them. Spring cleaning is a great purgative. Also, try to experience the new weather. One of my pet peeves is people not opening windows.” – Tom Scheerer
To quote Tom Scheerer, the best thing you can do to make your home look better is clean your windows! No one wants a dingy sunroom, after all. Freshly cleaned windows let the light in (literally) and create the bright and airy feel many of us are after. Don’t underestimate the power of Windex.
This year, I am investing in a window deep clean. I met a window cleaner in my neighborhood a few weeks back. When I asked about his profession, his face lit up! Over the next half hour, he revealed all the ins and outs of proper window cleaning — the steps, the supplies, the scaffolding, the screen washing! The amount that goes into the process (when done right) is incredibly underrated. But, of course, I loved every minute of the conversation. He will be coming back to do my windows in the coming days.
In the end, spring cleaning shines light on your home and restores clarity. So lesson learned: clean those windows and let the sunshine in!
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.