How you can downsize in style

Interior design for older residents should be inspirational enough to create aspirational living spaces, says specialist interior designer Julie Ockerby. She says that downsizing is the perfect opportunity to design your ‘forever home’ exactly the way you want it. She offers these simple rules for downsizing perfection that can last a lifetime.

1. Only keep the things you love. Downsizing provides the perfect opportunity to rid yourself of anything in your home that doesn’t fill your heart with joy. It may well be that you’ll need to buy smaller furniture items anyway, so consider this as an opportunity to sell tired old pieces and replace them with the pieces of furniture that you’ve always wanted, especially when you don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but yourself!

2. Don’t be afraid to be bold. When picking fabrics for any new furniture, throws, bedspreads, curtains or cushions, don’t be afraid to go bold with colours and textures, as this can help bring smaller spaces to life. To really future-proof your new abode, pick fabrics that are stain resistant and with waterproof backing.

3. Height matters. Make sure that any new furniture is at a height that suits you. Ensure your bed is not too low or too high, while sofas and armchairs should not be too low, for ease of access as you get a little older.

4. Give yourself space. To create a home you can live in for as long as possible, space is essential. This may seem counter-intuitive when downsizing, but even though you’re probably losing two or even three bedrooms, make sure your rooms are not too small to allow good access around your bed, dining table, chairs and sofas. You’ll be especially thankful for this if you or your friends end up needing a walking stick.

5. Deck the wall. One area you might need to edit a bit but don’t need to cull dramatically is your artwork. Create a dramatic feature wall by covering one wall with favourite pieces that combine art from several rooms.

6. Avoid clutter. Clutter is the enemy of good interior design and easy living. Cluttered tables and shelves are harder to keep clean, easier to mess up or knock over, and can actually be confusing on the eye and thus the mind. You’ll appreciate and enjoy having just your favourite trinkets on display – even if you have to rotate them every now and again.

7. Don’t slip up. Use non-slip tiles wherever possible. Definitely use them in the bathroom, but also consider the kitchen and laundry, where spills can quickly become just as much of a hazard as a wet bathroom floor.

8. Light up your life. Good lighting, especially in often neglected areas like the shower or the dressing space in front of your wardrobes, can make a huge difference to the functionality, aesthetics and safety of essential areas that are used daily.

9. Say no to sharp corners. This applies to all ages, so it’s an especially handy tip for when visiting grandchildren are toddling around.

10. Spoil yourself. Finally, and this is my personal favourite, splash out a bit with the financial equity you free up when downsizing on an interior feature you’ve always dreamt of but could never quite afford. Perhaps it’s a top-of-the-line steam oven, his and hers vanities or a stunning statement piece of art.

That last tip brings us to my personal crusade (as well as banning beige forever). While I’m encouraging you to create your own dream interior, the more you cater for your family, the more often they will visit. Have a games cupboard, put delicate objects up on shelves out of toddlers’ reach, use wipe-clean paint and make sure your wifi is fast enough not to send visiting teens running for the hills (or nearest hotspot). If you only have space for one screen, make sure you have headphones so kids can watch or play video games, while still allowing you to engage in easy conversation.

What can you add to Julie’s downsizing tips?

Julie Ockerby is creative director of Meli Studio Australia, an interior design firm that specialises in sophisticated living for seniors. You can contact Julie and her team at Meli Studio.

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