Interview for The Denver Post By Sheba R. Wheeler
Moving to a smaller home or outgrowing an existing one shouldn’t put a damper on personal style.
There are ways to make a small space feel bigger, better and more comfortable, says Lauri Ward, president and founder of Use What You Have Interiors, which has offices in New York City and Boca Raton, Fla.
During a recent telephone interview, Ward shared some of the tips from her new book, “Downsizing Your Home With Style: Living Well in a Smaller Space” (Collins).
Q: What principles should guide people when they are downsizing their home?
A: Decluttering is a definite key. But it’s not a matter of just piling things neatly in a corner; it’s about getting it out of sight so your eyes can rest.
Get things off the floors and put them away in closed storage. Some people will buy a cabinet that’s open and exposed but not enclosed. They put stuff on those shelves thinking they’ve solved their clutter issue. But then they end up with visual chaos. Aim for cabinets with doors and shelves inside or cabinets with drawers.Remove everything from the floor that is not furniture. It’s startling when you start to analyze what you have around — toys, stacks of newspapers and magazines we keep saving for time when we can read and relax. Things stack up, so it’s important to have proper storage.
Q: What do you see as common design mistakes?
A: The most common ones are uncomfortable conversation areas and improper use of artwork. Most people take their sofa and their love seat and make an L-shaped pattern. But that set up is the least comfortable one there is.
Create a U-shaped pattern with a pair of matching chairs and a sofa. Leave out the love seat, especially if you are downsizing.
With artwork, make sure you leave one wall in every room bare. You need to give your eye a place to rest. Remember that windows are living art, so don’t put art next to windows. People never look at the
art; they will always be drawn to the windows to see what’s going on even if there is no view.Also, hold up art where you think it should go and then lower it 3 inches. If art is too high or there is too much artwork on every wall, it makes the you feel claustrophobic.
Q: Does moving to a new space mean buying all new furniture?
A: You don’t have to buy new furniture. Take stock of what you have, use it in a fresh new way and make it more functional. People don’t realize they can take things apart and use pieces of things. My favorites are drop-leaf tables and ottomans on caster wheels, a top that flips over for a tray and storage inside. A trunk makes a great coffee table. Put casters on it and it can be easily moved from one room to another. If you have a bed, keep the headboard, but put the footboard and the sideboard into storage. That will give you a couple more feet to move around. If you have a sofa with very big arms, cut the arms down, reupholster the piece or have it slipcovered. Don’t take the whole sectional, just take a few pieces of it.
Q: Why is balance essential in small spaces?
A: Balance creates cohesion and a sense of tranquility. Add pairs of lamps, pairs of urns and pairs of chairs to create balance in a space. Look for cohesion in everything. All hardware in a room should be one material, and if you have steel hardware, try to make everything else be steel, such as steel lamps. If you have a group of framed family photos, keep all the frames the same material.