Q: I’m downsizing from a larger house to a smaller one but I don’t want to say goodbye to all my furniture and artwork. What can I bring with me? Helena Cousins of Zinc Interior Design offers her expert advice.
A: Bringing some favourite pieces of furniture and artwork into a new home is an excellent plan. Downsizing is exciting but it’s also a major transition and a space feels more like a home when it contains some elements from the past.
The first step is to find out if your furniture will fit. Measure, measure, measure! Look at the available floor space, but also at the position of the windows and doors. A piece that sat comfortably under a window in one house may not fit so well in another if the sills are at a different height.
Be selective about what you chose to bring and avoid filling the rooms with chunky furniture. It will clog up the space and weigh against the feeling of making a fresh start. Pieces with slender or tapered legs tend to work better in smaller spaces, so elevate your furniture! Freeing up the floor will help create a sense of visual flow. A big heavy sofa that sits close to the ground may not work in a smaller room. If you have a suite that you love, consider keeping one of the armchairs. Likewise, if you have a set of dining chairs, keep some of them and the memories associated with them. It’s really nice to have that familiarity.
If the new home is modern, don’t be afraid of adding some antiques to the mix. Downsizing your house doesn’t mean downsizing your style! An antique will often look better when it’s not surrounded by other antiques and you can see it in all its glory. Sometimes a skilled upcycler can help repurpose old furniture for a new home. The bottom half of an old dresser could be transformed into a vanity unit or a pair of old drawers can be repurposed to become a sideboard by adding 1950s style legs.
If you have artwork that you love, do try to bring it with you, but consider changing its position in the home. A paitning that belonged above the mantelpiece in the old house may look better in the bedroom of the new one. Carry it around the house and let it find its place. Sometimes artworks look better in a smaller space where there is less to distract from them. The move can give them a new lease of life. Then, let those pieces be a colour reference for the new design scheme. Decorate with lighter colours and stick with neutrals for walls and curtains. Avoid overly busy patterns as they can maker smaller rooms feel cramped. Natural light makes small rooms feel bigger, so keep the window dressings minimal.
In many cases, downsizing involves moving from a house with traditional rooms into an open-plan space. You may not be used to that. Rugs are a useful way of delineating zones within a multipurpose space. For the living area, choose a rug large enough to anchor the furniture. It works better if the sofa and chairs can sit on it, rather than grouped around it. In the dining area, a flat-weave rug will be easier to clean than a deep-pile rug. Find one that echoes the shape of the table – a round rug beneath a round table – and make sure it’s big enough for all the chairs. It’s uncomfortable to sit around a table when only the front legs of the chair are resting on the rug.