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Conjuring Style | By Rebekah Sanderlin

On a recent fall morning Stephanie Boysen arrived at a cluttered, disorganized VanStory house armed with nothing more than a vision for neatness and order. Mere hours later her vision had become reality – just like magic, or at least that’s how it seemed to the home’s residents. The truth is that in order to make the magic happen a team of helpers arrived shortly after Boysen, bearing a few pieces of new furniture, a lot of baskets and bins and an endless supply of patience. Boysen’s company, Design Wizards, does this sort of thing all the time and she said they never tire of transforming homes – and lives. For this to happen, Boysen meets with her clients in advance – a meeting for which she asks that they not clean their house. “I have to see how they really live,” she said, noting that if they clean before she comes she won’t be able to ascertain the real problems. “You have to go through the clutter to have balance and function,” Boysen said. “People feel so much better when they come home and everything has it’s place. It’s not overwhelming for them anymore.”

Once she understands the problem areas – maybe it’s kids’ toys, or junk mail or maybe just a lack of places to display cherished items Boysen develops her plan. Sometimes she orders new furniture to help the clients but she often uses what they already have in a new way. “I want to use what the client owns and is sentimental about but I want to make sure it fits with their lifestyle,” she said. “You can have a nice home with a lot of panache and it still be liveable.” Boysen has spent most of her life helping people beautify their homes. She began working with home interiors while living abroad in the 1980’s. She lived in Stuttgart, Germany for six years and worked in a store that sold furniture and rugs. “In Europe, living spaces are small so they’ve always made furniture with a place for everything,” Boysen said, adding that this concept is just beginning to catch on in the United States.

The former Army brat moved back to Fayetteville in 1989 and was employed by Ethan Allen as a designer, a job she held for 10 years. She started Design Wizards in 2000. Since then she has helped homeowners in Raleigh, Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Southern Pines, Pinehurst, New York City and in several Wilmington-area beach towns. She said most of her clients want organization and decorating services, not one or the other. After the initial consultation she comes back to the house and starts clearing out the mess. Typically this means packing all the extra items into storage containers for the client to sort through.

Boysen said it is impossible for her to know what the client might consider valuable. “It’s overwhelming to do everything in one whack. It’s better to start with a plan and just a few rooms at a time,” Boysen said. “Space clearing and organization go hand in hand with design because if you have clutter no one will even notice the design.” Clients hire Boysen for a variety of reasons. For some she does move-in service, unpacking all of their belongings and putting entire homes together, from arranging furniture to hanging pictures. For others she arrives shortly after they’ve moved in to offer the client a fresh eye and an opinion on where their belongings should be placed. And for still others, like the VanStory family who utilized her services recently, she comes in after the clients are well-established in the home and helps them better organize their lives and lifestyles. She also does home staging for people trying to sell a house.

She said that working with military clients is usually an extra challenge because they move so frequently. “They don’t know what kind of furniture to buy because they don’t know what size will fit in their next home,” Boysen said. “Often a piece that worked well in a previous home won’t fit in their new space.” Hard-working organizational pieces are essential for kids’ rooms, she said. Children often have the smallest rooms and lots of items, like toys and trinkets, that need to be stored but also need to be accessible. In order for the rooms to stay tidy she said everything needs to have an assigned place. Boysen often recommends furniture with cubbies and pull-out baskets to organize kids’ rooms because the baskets are light enough for children to lift without assistance.

“Kids like the idea of having ‘their space’ so I also invite the kids, and not the parents, to help me design their rooms. If they feel like they’re taking part in the design, they’ll take better care of the space,” she said. Boysen is fond of using organic materials, like straw baskets and old crates for storage because she thinks they are interesting and attractive. For hidden storage, she said that ottomans can be godsends and old armoires can be repurposed in a kitchen to function as a pantry. “People think they can’t have a nice house because they have children,” Boysen said. “That’s not true. You can have a nice house and children and cats and dogs. It’s all about what pieces you have for balance and function. You can still have a Pottery Barn look or whatever your style is if you have the organizational element.”