Downsizing, Yes, but Don’t Forget Upsizing Too

C. Brandon Ingram

Many of our clients struggle with the challenges of downsizing. Kids are out of the house, the rooms feel empty and, practically speaking, lifestyles change and it’s no longer worth keeping up a home. Especially since urban life presents so much more to offer. That’s where the action is, access to restaurants, cultural institutions, parties and events. And best yet, not having to drive into the city.

Compacting a large home full of furniture and artwork into a two-bedroom condo poses a list of challenges that we are often tasked to address.

But what about upsizing? Typically out of college, we land our first job, maybe we shack up in a trendy urban neighborhood, then get married, celebrate a first born. The home office returns to a bedroom. But then the inevitable arrives, planning for that second (or third) child?

You know what happens next. The search begins for bigger digs.

The reality of much more space for the money is thrilling, at first. Doubling or tripling the square footage: A large working kitchen, a basement, four or five bedrooms, a garage, a yard!

But now try to furnish it. Suddenly, that compact loveseat and two chairs quickly resembles dollhouse furniture in your cavernous living room. You never had an actual dining room before, so you use it for storage and think about it later. Many rooms remain empty. And there’s so many windows to dress!

And forget about artwork. The collection you’ve been building for a few years doesn’t really look like a collection of anything anymore.

But there’s excitement too: the potential you feel in what your home could be as your family grows into it.

Tips for Getting it Right

Have a Plan

Think about how you live now, before you move. Do you entertain? Is cooking a key an important element to your family or not so much? Everyone seems to want a large kitchen, but if you don’t use it, why focus on it? Or maybe toys scattered across the living room floor and you yearn for custom storage to make the clutter go away.

Now think about how you want to live: Is a media room a great way to compartmentalize? Have you always wanted a mud room? Make a list of the needs of your family which will be become very handy when looking for your ideal home.

Before you Buy

We are often asked to tag along on showings to view properties with clients and advise on potential renovations or simple (but not obvious) use of space. So many times my clients have almost overlooked what appeared to be the wrong house for them but was actually a diamond in the rough.

Also, an interesting topic that’s been discussed lately in my industry is home buyers who push their financial limits to spend on a property but have little left over for improvements. Scale it back, if you set aside a 20-30% cushion (yes, that’s right) for a fabulously designed home, won’t you be much happier than something less uplifting?

Before you Move in

We get calls all the time from panicked homeowners who are in escrow on a new home. “Can we renovate move-in ready in four weeks?”

Happily I say yes, we can, in your dreams. I can spit out the design in four hours, of course you’ll agree to paying anything and there’s a line of contractors with empty schedules waiting to be hired. And who cares about pulling permits. No! You can’t!

But here’s what you can do: stop freaking out. Breathe. The way to get what you want is to trust the design process, because it works. And you’ll be much more delighted in the end.

If you can hold on to both properties or rent for a bit, then do it. For light renovation work, this will at least give you time to re-finish the floors and perhaps accelerate a lighting plan and patch those holes, which creates the most dust-ruption.

Another thing: purge: It might seem counterintuitive moving into a larger space, but holding onto to pieces that are wrong for the space could make you more frustrated and obligated that you must use them. It’s a great time to edit, donate and give away in anticipation of a fresh start.

Don’t Unpack Immediately

It will be your first instinct, I know, and it will give you instant gratification in the short term, but will soon wear off. And it’s a mistake.

Once you unpack, it’ll be much more difficult to imagine the true potential of your space. Take your time, there’s no rush.

Resist Impulse Purchases

Don’t go to retail furniture store and “furnish” your entire house in one weekend. Sorry, that’s generic stuff made for generic people. A new home is a terrific and deeply personal opportunity to have it reflect how you want to live, not how a retailer says you should live with limited options.

You Still Need Clever Storage Solutions

Just because you have more space doesn’t mean you won’t need integrated storage. Properly designed storage accomplishes a few things. It disappears into the interior architecture. And it can also make your objects and artwork more beautiful than you ever thought they could be. And most popular, make that ugly TV disappear!

Go One Room at a Time

Design it first, it will be your roadmap and having a plan feels great. If you can’t manage it all at once, I always tell clients to prioritize rooms and focus on a few at a time. This is what will happen if you don’t: Quicksand. You’ll feel like you’re making no progress on any room at all if you dilute your efforts around such a larger space.

Much like an artist might work on a large canvas by focusing in on just one area for maybe weeks, the same goes for designing your home. Accomplishing each room to completion is a great motivator to moving on to the next.

* Rendering and design by C. Brandon Ingram Design

Did you enjoy reading this?

We can send you monthly digests. We will never send them more frequently: Our goal is to delight, not irritate.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with monthly (or so) e-mails.