-- If it's broken, fix it (this weekend) or forget it.
-- If you can't remove the stains, remove what the stains are staining.
-- If it's made of newsprint, get rid of it.
-- If your ex gave it to you, throw it out.
-- If your mother-in-law gave it to you, chances are you should throw it out.
-- If the IRS sent it to you, keep it for at least seven years.
-- If the best thing about it is that it was cheap, toss it.
By Jura Koncius
If you're the kind of person who unapologetically serves pizza out of a cardboard box, likes to roll up the rug and dance in the living room or adores pink, your home should reflect that. Stylishly.
That's one piece of advice from an offbeat but down-to-earth new design book, ''Living in Style Without Losing Your Mind'' by Marco Pasanella (Simon & Schuster, 199 pp., $30).
This is not your typical coffee-table design book laden with photos of matchy-matchy living rooms or diagrams for picking the right lampshade. Explaining a few key concepts, Pasanella, a New York designer who teaches at the Parsons School of Design, is out to give you the confidence to put your own ideas into action, whatever they are.
The aim: personal -- not perfect -- homes, affordably achieved.
According to Pasanella, great design does not begin with a truckload of trendy furniture or a Platinum American Express card. Great rooms begin with editing. Make a plan, set your priorities and then jettison the excess. Too many expensive possessions are just as bad as too many crummy ones, he says, and suggests adding storage spaces as well as taming piles of stuff you just can't part with. Love magazines? Stack them in orderly piles on a grid bookshelf.
''The biggest mistake people make is to say, 'Hey I just need to go get something new. If I only had more stuff I would be OK.' Too many people just jump into buying more stuff before asking themselves the questions of how they live and what they love and what they don't love.''
Make the most of what you've got, he says, and remember that not every piece in the house has to be a show-stopper. The important thing is not to be intimidated by fear of making a mistake. He cites the case of the pizza lady, a graphic designer living in a small apartment in New York's East Village who had never really unpacked her things for five years. She didn't know where to begin decorating and had a mini-budget.
''We had to figure out how to store a billion things with no money,'' says Pasanella. He designed a fold-down table that fits inside a picture frame when it's up against the wall. It flips down to serve pepperoni-and-mushroom on vintage 1950s dinnerware.
''When the legs fold up, it looks like a painting. When you pull it down, you have a place to sit. Like everything I do, I wanted it to be flexible and to accommodate her life and not somebody else's,'' says Pasanella.
What's personal is more important than what's cool, says Pasanella. And your budget does not have to be big. Photos show a mantel embedded with hundreds of white shells, a wall covered with a grouping of framed vintage family photos. In a child's room, maps line the walls and more maps are glued to the ceiling.
Pasanella, 37, grew up in Manhattan in a family where his architect father taught him about good design and his sociologist mother taught him about bringing people together and helping them communicate.
These days, he runs a Manhattan design firm called the Polenta Group. His jobs have included the interiors of a hotel on Shelter Island, N.Y., and product launches for Clinique cosmetics. He even has created a line of rocking chairs that rock sideways.
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