Downsizing successfully

Editor Mary Jane Harris has advice and tips on moving to a smaller home


Having just helped my mother move from a large three-bedroom flat to a one-bedroom apartment, I’ve learned a number of secrets to downsizing successfully.Large pieces

One is to establish how you like to live and make sure that you have the same facilities in your new smaller home. If you like to read, watch TV and entertain, you need to have a comfortable chair, a place for the TV that doesn’t dominate the room and be able to accommodate at least four people in comfort. You may have lost a dining room, a couple of bedrooms and a TV room, but you need to ensure that your main living space is still as stylish and comfortable as the one you left behind.

In my mother’s case, we started off by measuring the new apartment and drawing a floor plan to scale on graph paper. Then we measured the furniture, drew it on graph paper and cut each piece out. By moving the cut-outs around the floor plan, we could see what would and what wouldn’t fit in the new space and how best to arrange the remaining furniture. There’s also a website that allows you to draw up your new home and play around with furniture placement. It really helps on moving day if you know exactly where each piece is going.

Don’t discard large items of furniture like this glass-fronted cabinet. They can often create a sense of grandeur and have more impact than a collection of smaller pieces. Decor: Lisa Walters Interiors.

Another secret is not to discard the larger pieces of furniture because you think they’ll be overpowering. In many instances, a bold piece can make a room look larger and looks far more stylish than a collection of smaller items. In my mother’s case it was a large Victorian sideboard, beautifully made in golden oak. Okay, it didn’t fit through the goods entrance door and had to be carried through another apartment, but all the effort was worth it as it really makes a statement.Small bedroom

Instead of a coffee table, use an ottoman that can also act as an extra seat. And if you can find one that has storage space inside, so much the better. Note how the curtains here have been hung from just below the ceiling to give the impression of height. Decor: Charmaine Pellet.

But, if you need to replace outdated furniture, look for items that do double duty. An ottoman can be used as an extra seat and, with the addition of a tray, as a coffee table. If you’re lacking a dining room, buy a coffee table that’s slightly bigger and higher so you can have a meal around it. Nesting tables are also particularly useful in small living rooms.

A decorator friend gave us another good tip: Always hang the curtains from ceiling height. This draws the eye upwards giving the illusion of greater height and space. As the existing curtain rails in my mother’s new apartment were fitted just above the window, we asked the curtain maker to raise them and make the curtains accordingly, and the effect was amazing. But keep in mind that curtains take up space and you may be better off with blinds or shutters.

When space is tight, blinds are a better option than curtains as they don’t take up space. Decor: Jenna Penny.

Small bedroom

Headboards can also make a huge difference. In a compact bedroom, choose one that’s taller than usual and in a fabric you love. The impact detracts immediately from the small surroundings.

To give the illusion of height in a small bedroom, go for an overscaled headboard which draws the eye upwards.

Of course downsizing is not just about redecorating, it’s also about getting rid of a lot of stuff accumulated over the years. Even if you have no plans to downsize, it’s quite liberating to clear out the garage and the kitchen drawers and to limit the things in your home to those you use regularly.

Make four piles – keep, sell, donate and turf. If you have furniture and accessories in good condition you can sell them to second hand shops or online on Gumtree, Bid or Buy or OLX.

Books, clothing and other items that are still in good condition can be donated to a worthy cause such as the SPCA and Hospice. Animals in Distress is even willing to collect items from you.