There is a trend toward embracing smaller living spaces, and it can be a challenge.
Downsizing. The word alone sounds ominous. More and more people are downsizing their homes for a variety of reasons. Some are empty nesters and no longer need a family-sized home or just want to simplify their lifestyle. Some want to relocate to a more expensive area, or lower their cost of living for retirement. If you are considering downsizing to a smaller space, there are many tips and tools to help you make the leap to a smaller home. Interior designer Cari Blanchard, with Signature Interiors & Design, offers some helpful strategies to make a successful transition.
“There is a huge trend toward embracing smaller living spaces lately and I have to admit, it can be a challenge. My clients worry that they will have to give up items they love, like their beloved heirloom furniture, or that they will feel cramped and unorganized. The decision of what to keep and what to eliminate makes them uncomfortable,” says Blanchard. How do you choose what to take and what needs to go?
Blanchard suggests deciding what the “must haves” are and what can you feel you can comfortably compromise on – then, write it down and let that guide your decisions. “For example, if you cannot sleep in anything less than a king-size bed, then you need a bedroom with at least a 120” wall.” Knowing basic space minimums in advance will help you avoid selecting a new home that won’t meet your needs.
Once you have found a space that meets all the minimums, think about what items will relocate with you.
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“I am a fan of creating lists and assigning values to your furniture,” says Blanchard. “It can help you see the full picture of what you have and then you can objectively decide what items will bring value and what items no longer work for you.”
There are three types of values, according to Blanchard. “There is the sentimental value, the scale and functional value, and the aesthetic value. When you really take time to consider what a particular item adds to your day to day, it becomes pretty clear how to proceed, what to keep and what needs to be purchased.”
Blanchard feels the biggest mistake people make when moving furniture from a larger space is trying to fit large-scale furniture in a small-scale space. For example, “Oversized sectionals and sofas take up precious floor space and look heavy and out of place,” Blanchard says.
That said, you don’t have to forgo having a nice place to sit. Design showrooms like Signature Interiors & Design have an assortment of smaller-scale sofas and sectionals that don’t sacrifice comfort or style. They are able to customize furniture to fit any size and any personal décor.
Sometimes we hold onto pieces because they represent a moment in time, a place travelled or a memory made. Often, these objects are hard to get rid of and doing so causes real anxiety. And then, there is the “stuff” that no longer serves a purpose but we hang onto it anyway. Blanchard shares a pretty straightforward rule on this one. If you don’t love it … leave it behind. The best choice is to find it a new home but if the nostalgia of the piece trumps all else, a professional designer can help design around your cherished item.
Making a big change like downsizing can inspire many to start anew with their décor. “Everyone occasionally dreams of re-inventing themselves,” says Blanchard. “The same idea applies when you are creating from scratch. What are my minimum requirements? How do I expect my space to function? How do I want it to look and feel? It may seem more tedious to do it this way but the overall effect is creating something unique and highly suited to the way you live.”
Blanchard believes downsizing can be a great opportunity to design a home specific to your new, compact lifestyle. It is a chance to reflect the new stage in your life. Blanchard’s favorite design projects are small spaces because she feels every little detail is important and every piece of furniture serves a function. She loves the challenge of finding furniture pieces that are not only well built and beautiful, but that are thoughtful and functional.
Life goes through many stages and changes. We grow into houses as our families and incomes grow – and then we downsize as circumstances change. Consolidating to fit into a smaller space becomes an opportunity to re-invent your items, your self-image and your lifestyle. Seeking help from a professional interior designer can be invaluable. Remember to be patient with yourself, be selective in what you decide to bring with you and don’t be afraid to hire someone to help you if you need it – you don’t have to go at it alone.
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