Maxwell Ryan is a firm believer in the power of Home Making. For more than ten years, his blog Apartment Therapy has been celebrating even the tiniest homes and the positive impact they can have on our lives. Read our Q&A to hear why he quit his first design job and learn his favorite home-organization trick.
What was your very first job?
My first job out of college was in a design studio on 7th Avenue in New York City. It was a busy, bustling place, and I was excited to be there. A few months into it, though, I started to feel like all of their designs had no purpose.
I’ll never forget the day my boss sent me to buy plastic fruit. When I brought it back to the office, we rolled all the fruit in glue and glitter. My boss loved it. He decided to send it to China to be manufactured. That was my turning point, when I realized it wasn’t the place for me.
After that I went back to school and became a teacher.
Was there a defining moment when you decided to turn your passion into a profession?
As a teacher, I taught at a school where teachers sometimes visit the children at home. I saw a definite link between the home environment and the child's success. It wasn’t about money: the most well-adjusted kids weren’t the richest, but their homes were tidy, organized and well-lit. There was a place to gather together for a meal and a place to do homework.
That’s when I started wanting to help people achieve the kinds of homes that would allow them to live their best lives. I started helping friends and realized how gratifying it was to help them set up a healthy, beautiful and organized home that they loved living in.
So after seven years of teaching, I decided to take my amateur design business professional.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were just starting out, what would it be?
Look for your own path – and don’t worry if it’s twisty and turny. We’re all looking for our own road, and sometimes it’s not a straight shot. Mine has been full of unexpected detours, but I’ve followed my passion and am enjoying the ride.
When you meet people and tell them about your job, how do they react?
Most people ask questions right away about their own homes. Home is the most important place in our lives. It’s always evolving, and everyone is looking for resources and ideas to help make their own home more joyful and restful.
Starting an interior design project is fun but can be overwhelming. What are your best tips for tackling projects?
I love a good DIY and for small paint or building projects, I usually like to just dive in headfirst and figure it out as I go. I like getting my hands dirty, and I enjoy the process as much as the product.
For bigger projects, though, I’ve learned to plan things out ahead of time. Like reading a recipe before you start cooking, you should understand all the steps, what you need and how long each part will take.
When I painted the floors in my small summer house, I completely messed it up by laying the second coat on too thick and painting on a rainy day – both of which totally ruined the finish I was going for. When I sanded it off and started over again, I knew to take my time, paint thinner coats and wait for a day with better weather.
What's your favorite at-home organizational or space-saving trick?
My best organization and de-cluttering trick is the landing strip, which has been one of Apartment Therapy’s core lessons since the beginning.
You’ll need a doormat and coat hooks or a closet. Set up a hook for your keys, a bowl for change and your wallet, and a surface to sort the mail and other items as they come in. Two other helpful components are a small wastebasket where you can recycle your discarded incoming stuff and a mirror for last minute checkups on your lovely smile and fashionable attire. :)
Your goal here is to stay ahead of the mail, bills and items coming into your home and, importantly, have smoother sailing on your way out.
Once you’ve set up your landing strip, use it every time you come home. You’ll see that it takes only a few minutes but reduces both stress and clutter – two things that take up too much space in any home.
Any clever tricks or favorite ways to use Mrs. Meyer’s products?
I respond a lot to scents, so I like to use Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender products on my laundry and as my Hand Soap – I really do find it to be a soothing, relaxing scent. For my Dish Soap, I like the Basil scent, and I’ve been using Lemon Verbena Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner for my counters.
If you could be a Mrs. Meyer’s product, which product would you be and why?
How does Mrs. Meyer's inspire you and your Home Making?
I’ve always firmly believed that the best homes are clean, creative and environmentally-friendly. Mrs. Meyer’s products were created with that kind of home in mind – free of harsh chemicals and chemical smells.
The idea of taking pride in Home Making is also a dear one to me. Your home matters. It makes a difference every single day. I love seeing Mrs. Meyer’s inspiring people to take care and pride in their homes.