Doing More with Less: Downsizing on the Upswing


Downsizing and “right” sizing are no longer terms we hear only in the workplace. They’re becoming the buzzwords we use when talking about where we live. No longer is a bigger home better. We want to live smarter and that means smaller.

Advocates of this pared-down philosophy range from empty nesters and seniors who want less maintenance to folks of all ages who want to reduce expenses in a sour economy.

In response, designers are offering services that help downsizers decide which items will fit in their new homes and which they should eliminate.

Downsizing does mean getting rid of things, but Boca Raton designer Donald Workman always asks his clients what they can’t live without and he works it into his plan. He creates room for the “emotional” items, such as family pictures and videos, by building a floor-to-ceiling closet with adjustable shelves.

“You have to stop being emotional,” said Workman. “You are changing your lifestyle and you are changing your life. It’s time for a new life and a new beginning.”

Lauri Ward, author of “Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well in a Smaller Space” has made a career out of helping clients make the most of what they already have. Her business, Use-What-You-Have Interiors, has offices in Boca Raton and New York City.

Ward said she started seeing the trend toward downsizing escalate about a year ago, but she said many of her clients can’t move now because they can’t sell their homes, so she helps her clients by decluttering their current homes.

If her clients love an object or use it, she tells them to keep it. “It comes down to a question of restraint,” she said. “If you have several of mom’s pieces, pick out one or two favorites to keep.”

Here are 10 tips to help you cope with your smaller space:

1. Paint color: Open-plan rooms should have a single paint color to make them look larger.
2. Window treatments: Avoid heavy, elaborate curtains. Keep the window coverings close to the color of the walls. Good choices to make a small room appear larger are plain linen or sheer panels.
3. Flooring: Avoid using too many area rugs that break up the space in homes with open plans. Leave all the floors bare except for one rug in the living room to anchor the conversation area.
4. Unclutter: Take everything off the floor that’s not furniture. This means removing sports equipment and stacks of newspapers and magazines.
5. Seating: Add additional seating with armless chairs or put matching ottomans on casters under the coffee table.
6. Storage: Put trunks or baskets under tables to add storage.
7. Beds: Forget the footboard to make your bed look as if it takes up less space in the room.
8. Extra chairs: Place a pair of extra chairs for dining in the hall flanking a chest.
9. Lighting: Recessed and track lighting hug the ceiling and can make any space look more expansive. Avoid chandeliers and ceiling fans.
10. Walls: Avoid hanging too much art on the walls. Instead, rotate your art from storage and leave one wall bare in each room to allow the eye to rest.

By the numbers:
-89% of home builders are building lower-priced homes.
-88% of home builders are building smaller homes.
-58% of affluent Baby Boomers are likely or somewhat likely to move to a smaller home within 10 to 15 years.
-52% of brokers said the desire to downsize was cited by empty-nester clients as why they are moving.