Downsizing tips for empty nesters
If you feel like you're rattling around in a house that has become too big for you, there's a good chance you're ready to be a downsizer.
Many retirees find moving into an apartment frees up leisure time they would otherwise have spent maintaining a larger property and provides a new, comforting level of security.
Interior architect Edwina Glenn said downsizing your home should feel liberating.
"It's an opportunity to experience a simplified life in beautiful surroundings," Ms Glenn said.
Ms Glenn was involved in styling the interior schemes for the penthouse and a second large apartment at the George & Powlett apartments in East Melbourne.
Ms Glenn said the key to successful downsizing came down to preparation and forethought.
"Start researching the work of architects and developers that appeal to you well before it becomes a necessity to move, to avoid making hasty decisions," she said. "You want to make this transition as enjoyable as possible."
Be realistic about the space you will need. Ms Glenn said don't go too small or you might compromise your lifestyle.
If you like to entertain, for example, you'll want room for a dining table. Ms Glenn suggested having an extendable table to make better use of your space.
"Flexible furniture is great when space is at a premium," she said.
If budget permitted, she recommended having an extra room for a study or hobby room.
"Social distancing has meant these spare rooms are now having to work much harder than ever before," she said. "These rooms are now essential places for pursuing your favourite socially distant activities such as yoga, online bridge, Zoom calls and listening to music."
To keep or not to keep
Ms Glenn recommended only retaining furniture and decorative pieces that would work cohesively with the apartment's scale and architectural style.
"I love that downsizing presents a chance to find a new sense of self by reducing the amount of emotional baggage that comes with having acquired too many things over time," she said.
When decorating the new space, she suggested starting with the larger pieces and working down from there. Tempting as it might be, overfilling a room was not advised.
"It's OK to have some blank space and empty spots - it gives you a chance to take things in," Ms Glenn said.
Scale should always be at the forefront when deciding what pieces came with you.
"Be sure you're not forcing something into the new space for sentimental value only," Ms Glenn said.
Nice and orderly
It might have less storage, but a well-designed apartment should feature efficient ways to keep things orderly, Ms Glenn said.
"Remember, many new apartments have built-in joinery, which will reduce the need for some existing freestanding furniture pieces."
She recommended looking at floorplans that offered residents a basement storage room or cage.
"These can be handy to keep bikes, golf clubs and other sporting equipment or your wine collection that might otherwise crowd the living space," she said.
Ms Glenn has found the greatest concern for downsizing retirees was how to curate their collection of furniture, art and objects into a smaller, modern space.
She recommended seeking advice from an interior designer who would help create the best possible layout using existing pieces while sourcing new items to make the apartment feel stimulating and personal.
In terms of colour, Ms Glenn suggested using a neutral palette for key furniture pieces, then layering with warmer elements such as diffused lighting, textural weaves, luxurious silks, earthy timbers and leathers.
"Muted grey tones alongside deep blues and olive greens always appeal to me as a way of connecting with the landscape in an apartment setting and can be highlighted in artwork and other decorative pieces," she said.
Here is some more advice from Ms Glenn on apartment downsizing:
• Look for an apartment with a living room facing north. Even though the space might be small, it will be naturally lit and inviting.
• Take a measuring tape on inspections to check whether your furniture will fit.
• To make rooms feel bigger, use reflective features and finishes such as mirror, stainless steel, polished plaster and brass.
• Keep photos and measurements of pieces you plan to put in storage. This will help you incorporate the pieces into your new place if you want to down the track.
Originally published as Downsizing tips for empty nesters