Michael Murray, Rach's go-to design guru and general manager of Rachael Ray Home, knows a thing or two about great home design. He tells you how to tackle some of your biggest home projects this summer.

home landscape dog porch
1. If you’re going to google landscape questions, make sure to find responses specific to your region. A great yard in Arizona won’t work in New Jersey. Pick plants that want to live near you. 2. Invest in good soil. There’s no point in digging a hole and dropping in a plant where it’s not going to grow. Spend the money on peat moss and fertilizer to improve the quality of the soil wherever you plan to plant. 3. You can DIY a patio—for real! Start with a bag of sand and a few bricks and go row by row. If you have the budget, go ahead and hire someone. But if not, find a good tutorial and get started!
| Credit: Photography by Björn Wallander/Otto

Q: I finally bought my own house, but there’s no landscaping or curb appeal. Where do I start?

Start at your local plant store. All home-improvement stores have localized plant departments; they shop specifically for the region where you live. So go there in person and talk to the people who work there—yes, directly. You remember how to do that, right?! These folks will know what works best for your zone and your gardening goals. And play the long game with what's already in the garden. It takes two seasons to prune trees and bushes to their glory, so be patient. While you're waiting, you can put cute little flower beds around them.

Next up, do you have a patio? Do you want one? This is the most attainable of all your garden goals. There's a patio for every budget and you can even do it yourself, brick by brick. As long as it's level and supported, no one can stop you. Also, if you can make pancakes, you can mix cement with water and patch cracks in a concrete walkway. Get patching!

As for the entryway, your first response may be to add a million things, but a house can be over-adorned. So unless kitschy is your thing—and if so, more power to you!—your home will benefit from a good edit that lets it have its grace and dignity. Upgrade sconces, the mailbox, the house numbers one by one, and live with each before you move to the next. It's a good general lesson with regard to a new home: This is a process. You'll never be finished, so don't rush it. Enjoy the ride.

Q: How do I decorate a room with vaulted ceilings and, therefore, some very tall walls? 

If the ceiling goes up high, let the art go up high! Let it grow like a vine. There's no rule that says you can only go up eight feet. For any wall decor, you want a mix of sizes and styles. Have a couple of big pieces and a couple of small ones; do a mirror or two, some photography, a few paintings. The main thing is, don't put small or intricate pieces up high where you won't be able to make out what they are. Mirrors can go anywhere—you know immediately what they are. But a photo of your kids? Not so much. If you feel stuck, search "art installations tall room" on Pinterest or Google. You'll see all sorts of ideas that will spark your creativity!

Q: What are your best closet-organization tips? My two kids share and they have so much stuff!

First, install double rods—one high, one low—to double the capacity of the closet. The taller kid gets the upper rod. If both rods are high up, use vertical hangers that hold multiple clothing items and make it easy to pull things off the rod even when you're short (or just little!). Second, focus on keeping the lower part of the closet organized. That's where everything gets dumped, so find some storage bins that are big and open—not goofy little cubby-drawer things you're never going to use and that little ones may struggle with. Big baskets; big, simple bins. People overthink it and get cutesy in closets, then they end up not using half of it. Metal utility shelves are gold. They're open and airy, and you can put them in the corner, perpendicular to your rods, and stack away!

Have a home design question for Michael Murray? Email us at editor@rachaelraymag.com for a chance to be featured in a future issue!

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.