Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza

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Jura Koncius,Terri Sapienza,Chris Plantan
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 11:00 AM

Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza

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Jura Koncius: Today we are here to answer your questions about organizing your papers and we have a great chat guest Chris Plantan. Chris founded Russell & Hazel, a brand that has brought new style and color to the plain manila world of home offices. This long weekend ahead is a great time to get motivated. So let's get going.

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Megan Buerger: You can find today's Local Living cover story on how to get your files organized, here.

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Where to purchase russell+hazel products?: Ms. Plantan, I have seen a few of your organizational products at Target, and thought they were well-designed, thoughtful and attractive. However, there were only a couple of items available on the shelf, so I looked them up on the internet hoping to order online. Alas! It seems that is not possible. Where will I be able to find the complete line of products?

Chris Plantan: Good Morning! The collection of products you found at Target were part of an exclusive line that was designed for Target. So it is difficult for us to know what stores still have inventory. The best way to find our full collection of products is to visit the website or call our flagship store @ 952 279 1360. Our store manager will know where and/how to direct you to what you need.

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What about other papers? : I really enjoyed today's article on filing. However, my problem is a trunk full of sentimental papers I've been saving most of my life. How in the world can I organize this? I can't picture what I want the end result to look like so I am having a hard time setting up the steps to get started. Did you address these sorts of papers in that article you wrote on organizing your attic a few years ago? Thanks for your help!

Chris Plantan: Don't despair...there is away to save sentimental papers until you are ready to either pass them along or throw. Use a letter sized or a drawing sized box, big enough for 11x17 papers, and either label them by year, or by person and/or project. Check the specifications on the box construction to determine if you need ligne free and/or acid free. You can separate the pieces into categories by slipping sheets of tissue paper between or by putting them into sleeves. All items can be found at art supply stores. These boxes can be displayed on a book shelf or tucked away in a closet.

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Linen closets: I am inspired to organize my linen closet. The top shelf goes way up to the ceiling, behnd the doorway molding. I am looking for some sort of shelf system to maximize use of that space. Right now it is just a tall stack of things that go 3 feet up and there is no organization to it. Any ideas? Also thinking of painting inside closet a pale blue - prettiness can be inspirational.

Jura Koncius: Organizing a linen closet is very satisfying. First of all, take everything out of it. Painting it a fun color such as pale blue is a great idea. You can also buy attractive shelf paper. Would you consider adding another shelf or would it be too hard to access? Container store sells clear plastic shelf organizers that work for sweaters or sheets. These might help you keep your piles in check. Have fun.

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scan: surprised you did not address those receipt scanners, or the use of computer scanners to capture, save and file paperwork.wrestling with the piles seems so 1993. scanned docs. can be quickly files and annotated - taxes, SAT scores, grandma's medical bills - and backed up for rock solid retention.are you aware of these means?

Jura Koncius: Yes. I didn't have time to go into as many of the filing solutions as I would have liked. But thanks for bringing those up.

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painting the interior of the closet: Hi- thanks for taking my question. I would like to paint the interior of my very small walking closet- any suggestions? Right now I am drawn to a light pink or bubble gum (the closet system is white). I want something fun that won't add cast a lot of color onto the clothes. Thank you!

Terri Sapienza: The interior of a closet is the perfect space to have fun with. I say go with whatever color (or even wallpaper) you love. It will make you happy everytime you open the door.

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Organizing Photos: Chris & Jura: Thanks for your story on organization. I am planning to spend time this weekend organizing our home office. Do you have recommendations for how to store photos? I inherited a lot of photos from my parents (not all of them are great quality) and I'm paralyzed over where to begin with them. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: since we have so many photos in shoe boxes hidden away. The professional organizer I wrote about used something called www.scanmyphotos.com. Good luck.

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All items can be found at art supply stores.: You can also find archival storage boxes through library suppliers, such as Gaylord and Brodart.

Jura Koncius: Thank you good tip.

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Paper storage: My favorite thing for sorting and storing papers is a storage cart from Homedecorators.com like this one. The drawers are just deep enough to keep a year's worth of statements, tax stuff, and receipts, as well as labels and what-not for the printer. At tax time, I sort through the statements and shred things I no longer need like quarterly reports, then file the rest.

Jura Koncius: Thats a nice looking organizer.

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Color suggestion..: I need a color suggestion for a front door. My house faces south. Painted brick - pale gray/taupe. Black shutters and roof is very dark gray/almost black. Would like a blue front door. Any color suggestions? Am open to variety of shades. Thanks

Terri Sapienza: Take a look at Benjamin Moore's Bird's Egg. For a darker blue, try Blue Ground by Farrow & ball.

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Basement "decorating" and organizing: We just finished off our basement, which is very small, about the size of a two-car garage. The primary function is now an exercise room, but we also include storage in a closet built under the stairs, with lots of shelving. I plan on storing holiday decorations, some china and crystal, etc., possibly some other things. Is it ok to store paper (i.e., family photos, documents, etc) in a basement? It is on the same heating and cooling system as the rest of the house, and we don't have any problems with excessive humidity or dampness.

Jura Koncius: It should be okay. You should keep everything in a basement in plastic containers to make sure moisture does not get in.

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Paper overload: Love the chats! I am looking for attractive storage for paper items in my small rowhome? I've looked at Container Store, Target, and while they have nice flat boxes for vital records and kids artwork, what seems to be missing is larger storage for items like health insurance explanations of benefits, bank statements, retirement statements, tax statements--all that stuff that accumulates monthly and yearly. At this point, it has gobbled up an entire dresser, and it's just not a sustainable filing "system." Also, I've heard conflicting information on how long to keep that stuff--do you have any thoughts on when it's safe to toss old papers, or is there a resource I can refer to? Thanks!!

Chris Plantan: Other than scanning, I hope this helps.

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I am always the one who suggests : turquoise for a front door color!

Jura Koncius: And we love you for it....

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PAINTING INterior of closet: Seems like a great opportunity to take advantage of those random paint cans that are marked down at Lowes. The returns, wrong colors.

Jura Koncius: If you like surprises...

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Lavender paint color: Good morning ladies. I'm remodeling my reach-in master bedroom closet with new paint, lighting and an Elfa closet system. Can you recommend a subtle lavender paint color for inside the closet? I prefer BM colors. The walls of my bedroom are painted in BM manchester tan but this might change. I recall an article from a couple of years ago where designers named their favorite lavender paint colors. Can you post that article? Thanks.

Terri Sapienza: We'll post the story in a minute, but here are some colors to consider in the meantime:Misty Lilac by Ben MooreBreathtaking by DronIdyllic by C2

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Megan Buerger: In 2007, Terri wrote a fabulous article on the color lavender. You can find that story here.

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Old Clothes: What I can do with clothes that are too old/ugly to give to charitable organizations? I live in MoCo if it makes a difference!

Jura Koncius: Dare I say throw them out? If they are that old and that ugly and worn out, I think it's disrespectful to try and pawn them off for someone to wear. I'm sure there will be others of you out there that will say donate them, but the thrift shops only sell clothes that are saleable and I don't think your old worn out tee shirts are really wanted by anyone.

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File boxes: Office Depot and Staples carry a wide variety of file storage boxes, made of cardboard or plastic. Some of the plastic ones accept the hanging folders, and all of them stack neatly in your closet.

Jura Koncius: Yes. I have several of these in my attic.

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What's too chic for office supplies?: Chris, I've browsed the Russell & Hazel website and love your office style. I'm a bit of a girly girl, and a sucker for trendy accessories like the stuff from Paper Source. I work with mostly men, though, and it's hard enough to get taken seriously without the floral sticky-notes. Your company manages to strike a balance between chic and professional. Any tips for how to achieve this on a regular basis for us shoppers?

Chris Plantan: Good Morning! Ahhh....the challenges of personal expression. Think wardrobe. If you are concerned about being taken seriously, start with the basics and layer the color, pattern and accessories. We offer basic black and white binders but you can add some color and style with post-it notes, fun pens and pencils and certainly in your choice of notebooks. If you have to have the basics on the outside, consider the inside of your notebook like the inside of your jacket or purse and draw all the girly notes you want...they shouldn't look inside!

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Blue accent wall in bedroom: Hello ladies I have a sage green bedroom. I'd like to paint the wall behind the bed a royal blue color. Something thoughtful and peaceful yet happy. Suggestions?

Jura Koncius: Wondering why are going for royal blue? I do like Danube by Sherwin Williams.

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Old clothes: You can cut them up and make them rags for cleaning.

Jura Koncius: You could,but how many rags do you need?

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Painting paneling: I've finally gotten the go-ahead to paint the dated paneling on two walls in the basement. My question is what color to go with? It's considered the Man Cave and we primarily use it to watch tv and movies on the big screen. One wall has been painted Stadium Red. One wall that connects to the hallway and staircase has been painted a Kilz colorcalled Tahini. I'd like to paint the remaining walls a chocolate brown, but everyone thinks that it will be too dark. My response to them is that it's a basement without windows and therefore will always be dark. My DH is fine with a dark brown, but am I making a huge mistake? Should I just continue with the Tahini?

Terri Sapienza: You may not like my answer, but I think you should forget about the dark brown AND paint all the walls the same color - that goes for the red wall, too. I would either continue the hallway color into the room or pick another, lighter color that goes with it. Tanhini sounds like it's a beige, so anything should work. Though, chocolate brown sounds too dark and four walls of stadium red sounds like it would be way too much. Any other colors you like?

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Storing Sheet Music: Are there any musicians out there? I would love ideas for organizing sheet music in a way that doesn't hurt the music (page sizes are not standard, unfortunately) but allows me to find it easily. A filing cabinet doesn't seem to work for me.

Jura Koncius: Wow. This is a great question. Any ideas out there?

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Getting Organized: Like many others between the first of the year and tax-filing time, we're trying to purge paper files, so I was excited to see your article today. However, it would be really helpful to have some guidance on digitizing much of the stuff that occupies so much of our home space. We considered a much-advertised scanner with built-in software for digitizing, organizing, and filing various documents but were discouraged by negative reviews. How about some guidance on this in the future for us organizational and technically challenged?

Chris Plantan: Good Morning! You are not alone in your questioning whether to digitize, save or throw. It really depends on your comfort level with technology and ability to retrieve the information if necessary. I would consider "practicing" on files that are older and determine if it is a practical method for you. What are you going to do for classification? How will you organize the documents? I do believe there is a future for this and consider this a great alternative for documents that you will not need to access to for years. Hope this helps!

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hammock: I have a city apartmemt with no outdoor space, but I've always wanted a hammock. Are there hammocks I could buy for inside use?

Terri Sapienza: I think any outdoor hammock would work fine indoors, if you have the space. But, you could also do a quick Google search for "indoor hammock," and you'll get lots of hits.

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Basement clean: Good morning! These chats always put me in the mood to conquer one of those tasks I've been putting off. With the long weekend coming up, I'd like to clean out my basement. I remember an article or series in the Post one of you did on an attic. You went through furniture and dishes, papers, collectibles, etc. This is my situation, too. Could you post a link to guide me through my weekend adventure? Thanks a lot!

Terri Sapienza: Happy to help. We'll ask Megan to post a link to our attic story series.

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too ugly for goodwill?: They, at one time, sold the really unsellable stuff to manufacturers who shred them into rags or something. I'd ask my local Goodwill, because it's possible they still want anything, as long as they can sell it to the rag manufacturer. I read an article in the WaPo about it a loooong time ago.

Jura Koncius: Check out www.goodwill.org for donation guidelines.

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Donating clothes to charity: This Web page has links to the Salvation Army's valuation guide for used clothing, furniture, etc. that you donate. And you are correct that charities don't want damaged clothing or broken furniture.

Jura Koncius: Thanks for this. I know some places will sell faded stretched out ugly ripped tee shirts for salvage. But I really feel those kinds of things should be thrown out and aren't worth wasting time on.

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Warm gray paint color for bedroom: Could you suggest some warm gray colors for a bedroom with high ceilings and two skylights? I tried various shades of blue thinking I would bring in some of the outside blue sky into the room, but I don't like how they look. I thought a warm gray would allow me to preserve the light airy feel to the room, and I could use color in other ways (comforter, pillows, etc.). The room has an iron sleigh bed and light colored furniture (Ethan Allen).

Terri Sapienza: I don't think I like the idea of gray walls with your light wood furniture. would you consider a warm green? would like pretty with the blue from the skylights.

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Recycling old clothes in MoCo: The Montgomery County Recycling Center off Route 355 and Shady Grove road takes clothing, textiles and shoes for recycling. Just Google the site and the county Web page exlains how to do it.

Jura Koncius: Thank you for this idea.

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Delece Smith-Barrow: Here's our 11-part series on attic organization: Meet My Attic.

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Accessories!: Hey Chris! I'm a total stationary buff. I love anything monogrammed, personalized, and sometimes probably go overboard. What are some good rules of thumb for sending out files, resumes, or cards with your own name/initials? Is embossing a thing of the past? I don't want to seem ostentatious or full of myself, I just love personalized paper goods!

Chris Plantan:

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Bedding: I'm looking for new bedding to go with my chocolate covered fabric platform bed. I can't seem to find what I'm looking for in the department stores. Do you have any suggestions as to where to look? I have also considered having a custom coverlet or duvet made, but I do not want to spend a fortune on the fabric.

Jura Koncius: Diane von Furstenberg has just unveiled a new linen collection at Bloomingdale's. I saw it in the New York windows last weekend. Check the website. She has amazing duvets and her colors are bold and wonderful.

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how to choose paint color: Hi,I really enjoy your chats and am always interested in the paint suggestions that you make. We are repainting our son's room who is 9. We went to the Benjamin Moore stand at White Flint Mall and was overwhelmed by all the paint chips. Really, how does one make the best choice?? I know paint color is personal preference, but where to start? We are leaning toward blue for a room that gets morning sun. Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: Maybe you could pick out five shades of blue that you like for his room, then have him pick the shade (from that five) that he likes best.

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re: Old clothes: Depending on the fabric, sometimes animal shelters will use them for cloths or for animal bedding.

Jura Koncius: This is an excellent suggestion. I completely forgot about this option. I know they can especially use old towels.

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Storing old unfiled papers: For the person trying to save old sentimental papers, I use a large plastic bin with hanging legal sized folders. I have one folder per year (for one year, I have two folders because there's too much) and just toss stuff in there. I do need to go back and organize it at some point, but it keeps it neat, protected from bugs and moisture in the basement and relatively dust free. They also make large legal sized plastic accordian folders now that would do the same. I find this easier to access stuff than the suggested box with linen/tissue between layers.

Jura Koncius: Anyway, I agree that keeping the stuff in files this way is better than stacking it in a box if you do access it. I have family archives files in my attic and someday I do have to go through them and sort out what's really important to hand down to the next generation and what should be tossed.

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Favorite antique/thrift haunts: Do you all have favorite thrift/antique stores you frequent in the broader Wash DC area? I'm familiar with several in my Falls Church/Alexandria live/work zone, but would love others, esp those with reasonable furniture prices and <45 min drive. In particular, I'm looking for a vintage/antique secretary desk that needs a little TLC, and would love to pay around $300-400 for it, if that helps with my definition of "reasonable". While I love Craigslist, I love browsing shops for other things too. Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: will be open this weekend, too.

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painting walk-in closets: make sure that you have a good light source for both day and night. If you don't, then definitely do not paint with anything darker than a pastel shade as it will make things difficult. Second, if you have a mirror in there, make sure NOT to paint the wall opposite the mirror a strong color or it will make it harder to decide on colors when dressing. I have a friend who picked a color she loved and found that the color behind her when looking in the mirror made selecting outfits harder.

Terri Sapienza: Good points. thanks.

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School papers ?: Any good suggestions on how to deal with the mountain of papers that come home from school in my elementary school kids' backpacks. Mixed in with all the graded papers, ads for fundraisers there is always some important permission slip etc. How do you keep track of all of this? I feel so overwhelmed and unsure of what to keep ( graded papers for a year?). I wish for the days when schools go mostly online!

Chris Plantan: Good Morning.

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I have discovered that: your credit card company keeps all your receipts electronically stored, so if you want to review one or even make a return, you can call them and they can retrieve it for you. So you no longer need to save receipts! Also, intensive organizing sessions require a bottle of vodka. A small bottle in your filing cabinet is worth its weight in gold.

Jura Koncius: haha

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Comforters: I have tried the duvet/duvet cover thing for several years now and I just never got used to it. Sure, its nice that duvet covers can be cleaned easily, but I hate how they feel. Now I just want to go back to a plain old comfortor - but they all seem to be made for dorm rooms and don't seem high quality. Any place I should be looking? I've checked BB&B, Macys (they only have theirs online) and a few other places. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Overstock.com often has good ones. Also try Restoration Hardware, Room & Board, Company Store, Garnet Hill and Bloomingdale's.

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coffee table: We need to move the coffee table frequently in our small and multi-purpose living room and so want to replace it with one that is lighter in weight, but all of the ones I've seen are too heavy for easy moving. I've tried Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel. Do you have any other ideas?

Jura Koncius: I would try West Elm, CB2, Arhaus, Room & Board, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Ethan Allen.

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Russel Hazel Design Headquarters: Chris, are you looking for any designers at the moment? If so, how should one approach the situation?

Chris Plantan: Good Morning,We are always looking for designer to add to our talent base.It is best to send your resume and portfolio link to our design studio @ info@russellandhazel.com

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Warm green instead of gray paint for a bedroom: Okay, could you suggest several warm green colors, then? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: Some places to start:Seedling, Mineral and Greige by C2Fresh Dew, Hancock Green and Colony Green: Ben MooreWaterscape, Slow Green and Bonsai Tint by Duron

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When organizing: Make sure you have good light, enough space, ample trash bags/boxes and make sure you're wearing comfy clothes. Oh, and the bottle of vodka isn't a half bad idea either.

Jura Koncius: I could only do one or two hours at a time. Then I got a back ache. Maybe I needed the vodka.

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Home Office Design!: This question is for Ms. Plantan: I'm remodeling my home and am adding a home office (SO EXCITING). I'm obsessed with blogs like The Selby that show famous people's home offices, the rooms are always so interesting. How do I give my own home office that artistic, funky look without it looking cheap or forced?

Chris Plantan: I am anxious to hear/see what you come up with!

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Working from home: Hi. My husband works from home and we don't have a room that can be a dedicated space for an office. He usually works in front of the tv. I have tried baskets, mobile filing cabinets, etc., but can't find anything to keep the laptop accessories, printer stuff, and all the other supplies that accumulates in that room neat. Any suggestions?

Terri Sapienza: How about a bookshelf stocked with books, baskets and the printer? If you have one with doors, put the printer behind the doors. The shelf doesn't have to be in the same room with the TV, just close enough that it's convenient.

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Sturdy kid's table and chairs: Hi I'm looking for a sturdy square table with 2 chairs for my grandkids to use when they visit. I've checked out pottery barn, but didn't want to pay $200 for a set. Do you have any ideas for other places to look for a set which would not "self destruct" in a few years. Quality is a real issue with furniture these days, and I've been looking in thrift stores for an older set but haven't run across any.

Terri Sapienza:

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For Old Clothes: Some communities have textile recycling events (Falls Church does), often coinciding with Earth Day, I'd encourage the poster to find a way to recycle the clothes rather than sending them to the landfill. Some items may make good comfort cloths for animal shelters or vet hospitals. Or put them on freecycle -- maybe some crafters can user them for quilts and such.

Jura Koncius: I fear that many of these items would not be worth the time to use in making quilts - and would not make for an attractive design! But I do like your other suggestions!

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Office Trends?: I love that office supplies have become more stylish in recent years. With so many electronics on the market displacing paper items like planners, what direction do you see office supply trends heading in?

Chris Plantan: Good Morning,Good question. Office supplies are like personal accessories to me. I should never have to buy another belt, but I do. I really don't need cool file folders, but I do! So even though we have technology to balance our paper needs and supplies, I still feel like supplies will evolve in function and purpose and continue to meet our style needs as well.

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Jura Koncius: Thanks to Chris Plantan for giving all of us some inspiration to tackle those papers. This weekend is a good time to begin. Let us know how you do on next week's chat when we will be discussing toasters, as well as the usual topics. Thanks everyone.


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