Angelo Surmelis shares
Clean Sweep secrets
By Judith Stock
“Every show has tears,” Surmelis continues.
“This is the thing we work for. At the beginning of You don’t have to hide your things to be
those two days it’s tears of frustration, and at the organized, says Angelo Surmelis; they just
end it’s tears of joy. We’ve never had anyone say, ‘Put have to have their own place to go.
my stuff back.’”
AS ONE OF THE design-team members on The
Learning Channel’s Clean Sweep, Angelo Surmelis
has pretty much seen it all. The TV show gives a
couple two days to sort and toss out clutter while
two rooms of their home are redesigned by the program’s interior designers.
“A lot of people who appear on the program
haven’t seen their floors or walls in years,” Surmelis,
a Costco member, tells The Connection. “One couple
had a family room that hadn’t been entered for 15
years. It was like an archaeological dig.”
Until he joined the Clean Sweep team, Surmelis
admits he had no idea that clutter could be so overwhelming for so many people.
“It’s not that easy to get rid of stuff,” he says.
“There’s an emotional aspect to keeping it.” The real
challenge comes when he attempts to make big
changes in two short days.
While taping a show, Surmelis often sees a
tremendous transformation. “There is this incredible moment—there’s resistance, then frustration,
then the emotional breakdown and, at the end, all of
a sudden they are plowing through the mess.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SWELL SPACE
Born in Germany of Greek parents, Surmelis
grew up in Chicago. He demonstrated his future based in Los Angeles, to design interiors, outdoor
career path when, at age 7, he rearranged the family’s spaces and events.
living-room furniture and it actually looked better. Surmelis himself is the poster child for “a place
As a child, Surmelis read all the architectural for everything and everything in its place.” He con-
design magazines he could get his hands on. He fesses, “I have the opposite ‘disease’ from the people
majored in architecture, but later switched to fine art on our show. I’m a neat freak.”
and design with a minor in theater. While working as What people learn on Clean Sweep sticks, he
an actor in Chicago and New York, he also began notes. According to Surmelis, 70 percent of the peo-designing window displays. ple keep their homes neat and organized after the
Nine years ago, Surmelis opened his own lights, cameras and the TLC design team leave. In
design firm, Swell-Space (
www.swell-space.com), fact, Surmelis discovered that often couples would
feel so empowered by what they’d accomplished
during the show that they’d take on organizing
The Costco Connection other rooms of their house. C
If it’s time for you to do a clean sweep,
you’ll find various products to help with your Judith Stock is a Los Angeles writer who’s written for
organizing needs at Costco warehouses and USA Weekend, National Wildlife and AARP. She
costco.com, such as rolling storage racks, lam- promises to stop lining her furniture up against the
inated shelving, plastic storage tubs and more. walls and has sworn off painting her walls white.
ANGELO SURMELIS shares
his design philosophy.
■ People spend so much
time in spaces designed for
the public, such as offices,
banks and schools. Your
living space should be about
you. But you can’t know
what you want in your space
unless you get out and check
out the world. Put down the
glue gun and start looking at
public spaces as inspiration
for your own home.
■ Your home shouldn’t
look like you purchased
everything from the Pottery
Barn catalog, page 12. Find
your own style. If you’re
creatively challenged, look at
home-design magazines and
books, watch design shows
and ask your more creative
friends for inspiration.
■ A lot of people are
afraid of color and end up
with white walls. It’s just
color—it can’t hurt you!
Experiment with color
choices. Have the paint store
mix a pint of the color(s) you
are thinking about and paint
at least a 12-by-12-inch
square on the wall to see
how you like it. The color
you love at 9 a.m. may not
be so great at 9 p.m.
■ Move your furniture
around and look at your
space in a new light. You
know what you like; you just
haven’t paid attention. Stop
taking your furniture hostage
and putting it in a lineup
against the wall. Move the
furniture away from the
walls, let your room breathe
and create better flow. If you
don’t like the way it looks
after you move it, try another
layout or move it back.
■ If you share a space
with others, it’s important to
respect the people you share
a home with and take into
account how they want to
live as well.