Empty Nest Downsizing – Double-Duty Furniture

In my other life I would have been an organizer.  It’s my OCD thing, and I have tricked out our little 962sf flat of ours to be as comfortable and functional, even though less capacity, as our just-moved from 5500sf family home.  Challenging? Yes. Exhausting? Yes.  But, oh so freeing!  The most difficult part of downsizing is going through years of accumulation (we are a military family used to moving every 1-3 years, so this home got quite comfortable in 12 years).  Then, deciding WHAT you need and want that will FIT in the smaller home and still feel like you have a life and options.  This process was somewhat easier for us because we put the rest of what didn’t come to the apartment into storage since we will still need it to go into our Tennessee home we have yet to buy.  So, this downsize wasn’t the end state, but a transition into a smaller apartment and a second home. The process would be a lot more entailed and involved if permanently moving into one and smaller home.  However, this flat is our full-time home now, and will be lived in more than our TN home for quite a while so has to be set up for full-time living.  This move has altered our Tennessee home search in that we realize smaller is better in so many ways, so a BIG home is off our grid.  Ideally, larger than our current flat for future family gatherings, of course.  Right now, we can fit perhaps 6-8 people for cocktails, and dinner is off the table (pun intended) unless for four or perhaps buffet style.  So, since we are fresh off the downsize, I decided to share pros and cons and advice to help any other future “empty nester downsizers” out there.  Topics I’ll cover are organization, apartment selection, storage, furniture selection, accessories and decor, and a few others perhaps.  Most pros/designers would agree, I think, on several elements, but I contest a few popular rules of thought since in the end, YOU have to enjoy and love your space…and if dark is your preference over the much-touted light, go for it!  So, let’s start with the BIG one.  Furniture.

Furniture selection is, arguably, the biggest aspect of downsizing.  Organization could potentially rival this but I have tied that in with furniture in so many ways that I consider furnishings to be the most important consideration when bringing or purchasing to the new, smaller space.  Ideally, most of the furniture should perform double-duty.  Storage and function, beauty and use, visual and physical spacing, and so on need to be high on the list.  We were fortunate that we did not need to purchase any furnishings except the dreaded over the toilet cabinet (I’ll touch on that in another segment) and a chair that pulls out to a twin bed, but that means I had to carefully work out spacing and dimensions, in addition to usage and design.  We quickly decided on an English vibe accented with vintage Turkish decor, so those furnishings were the ones we “blended” from several rooms in our sold home and are pieces we’ve acquired from years of travel (and some inherited pieces as well).  I’ll touch on other elements later, but for now let’s focus with the double-duty pieces and in the main living space for this post.

Flat Topped Chest as a Coffee Table – great storage and function.

COFFEE TABLE:  Although many designers choose open coffee tables (visually non-blocking) like lucite or glass and open bases, I have often prefer ones with storage (that word again).  The space was too small for my preferred map-chest coffee table so we chose the flat-top chest that was in our family room.  It’s lighter in wood to break up the dark browns, and has great storage!  It currently houses our balcony blankets with room for items we need to keep out of sight with minimal needed access.  I placed a tray on top along with accessories like a lantern, and it can also double as a “seat” if needed when we scoot the table out from the window to accommodate more seats.

Round Table to soften the lines

TABLE:  This vintage Italian table was the first element I knew I wanted to bring to the flat.  There is a “bar” in the kitchen which serves as a pass through as well, so there is no designated dining room.  We used this table as a card/game and cocktails table in the past, and set it up as that currently with quick and easy access as dining for two by the window  .  Visually, the round shape softens all the hard-lines of the square and rectangle furniture in the room, and the open base allows the eye to visually continue to the window making the space feel more open and larger.  It’s also easy to move the table away from the window to fit four for dining.  We have an extra “desk” chair to bring out for this if needed.  I haven’t figured out what to do with the lamp yet when we do have to move for four…I may end up getting another chandelier, but for this rare occasion, it’s not a priority.  We can have our coffee and drinks here looking at the views of the ponds, eat dinner, play games, and use it for another important task, especially during COVID work-from-home, as an alternate workspace should one of us need the study/office for phone meetings, etc.  The location isn’t the intended dining area, which is nearer the kitchen, but this layout is a much better flow and the table opens up the window space.

Double Duty Dresser – Bar, Buffet and Storage

DRESSER/BAR/BUFFET:  This dresser is an antique French piece that was earlier used as our TV base and we never used the drawers for storage…we didn’t need them in the big house.  But, now it’s our bar since the TV is over the fireplace mantle (another thing I don’t prefer, but for the space and art, and physical layout of TV watching capability, over the mantle it went).  The dresser could also be a buffet (that we don’t need since we have the “bar/pass through”).  The drawers provide ample storage for our table linens, wine accoutrement, large platters, trays and games.  And we still have room since we chose carefully about what to bring here.  Who needs 48 napkins and placemats in a flat for two?  Pretty art (another topic) and blingy lighting make it a destination and much-used piece.  Or would that be the booze? ;o)

Small Dresser as end table with storage


END TABLE/DRESSER:  This little French piece I purchased years ago from a French woman in DC who was moving back to Paris and selling all her French things and keeping her American ones!  Gasp!  It provides the needed end table for lighting and pretty things, and houses our candles, games, books/magazines.  Similar style to the other dresser to keep the aesthetic pulled-together.  It anchors the sofa and is a great bridge between the chair and sofa, also defining the “living” space.  I have pillows on the floor behind that chair for color and decor that emphasizes the Turkish and cozy vibe.  Textiles are some of the best ways to tie in themes and color, and to provide a soft edge to all the hard lines.  And, they are functional since these are the big floor pillows, so great for those extra guests or lounging on the floor.  Although, kilim pillows aren’t exactly the softest on the skin…but they are sturdy.

Narrow Foyer Cabinet as focal point and dish storage

TALL AND NARROW CABINET:  The vintage Korean cabinet was used to store all our rice china in our previous dining room.  That china (amongst a LOT of dishes….oh that is so another topic) is in storage, but it was almost not a keeper for this space until I realized I needed a cabinet to put our everyday and much used dishes and silverware.  There was not enough cabinet space in the kitchen (is there ever?) and those cabinets were heavily competed for to store bulkier kitchen items and appliances.  I had a plan for the glasses, instant pot, blender, tupperware bowls, pots and pans, mixing bowls and platters, bakeware…again, I will touch on those in another post.  But, for now this sweet little THIN and TALL cabinet fit oh so perfectly at the end of the foyer as a great focal point, didn’t block any access to the living space or the study, and visually draws the eye in.  It conveniently stores the everyday dishes we use, which is right around the corner from the kitchen.  Quick and easy to grab from the kitchen or to the table and frees up much needed kitchen cabinet space for every day items that I use frequently and within easy reach of the stove and cooking areas.

I hope this helps those who are anticipating a downsize move in the future or who are struggling with the decision process!  If this process seems daunting or you have no time, come talk to me about how I can help!  Future posts of the “downsize” process and suggestions will hopefully help as well!

Until then, smile and make life fun. The “move” is only a blip of hard work and hard decisions, but the end is oh so worth it.  B


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