When the time comes to move to smaller lodgings


April 24, 1994|By Beth Smith

When lifestyles change, rooms that once were necessities can become useless spaces that collect dust. The time comes when a homeowner wants to scale down, and sometimes that is achieved by finding a smaller residence.

Scaling down requires a lot of adjustment, as furniture and accessories once comfortably situated into a house full of rooms often will not fit in the new lodgings. The real challenge, says Susan Witman, an interior designer with Taylor-Siegmeister Associates, is "to find a way to combine things that are loved with things that are practical and necessary."

After securing a floor plan of the new space, a professional designer will take an inventory of all furnishings in the original house, usually by walking through it with the owners. During the inventory, the owners typically focus on the accessories and furniture they love. The designer focuses on what will fit into the new space and looks for pieces of furniture that can serve dual purposes, especially those that can provide storage. Platform beds with drawers built beneath them, for example, are naturals.

"Without a doubt, storage is one of the biggest problems when someone is scaling down," says Ms. Witman. "People are usually going from homes that have tons of storage space to places with limited storage."

So the designer looks for chests, breakfronts, armoires, cupboards -- and sometimes recommends new pieces or built-ins for the new residence to add to storage space.

"Built-ins are the best. They provide wall-to-wall storage and can include furniture like desks and entertainment centers," says Ms. Witman. Alternatives include modular units that screw into walls, says designer Carol Siegmeister, a partner in Taylor-Siegmeister Associates.

"We look for storage potential everywhere," adds Ms. Siegmeister. "I've designed storage closets under staircases, hung cabinets in the neglected space over toilets and even put chests inside bedroom closets for extra storage."

Storage isn't the only concern. Because dining rooms often are not included in smaller housing units, designers sometimes must be creative in carving out such spaces for their clients. They can design intimate dining areas by using drop-leaf or flip-top tables that can be pushed against the wall when not in use. Susan Witman suggests skirting a round table that is 30 inches high; it can be used as an occasional table in the living area and double as a dining table.

Most designers agree that with a little planning, scaling down can be painless. Their biggest challenge: clients who insist on bringing too much.

"You don't want to be a pack rat if you are scaling down," says Ms. Siegmeister. "You don't want to pay to move furnishings you are not going to use. Plus a room stuffed with things is depressing. Nothing makes a small space seem smaller than wall-to-wall accessories and furniture."

Here are several local projects that demonstrate how beautifully furnishings from a large house can be adapted to new, smaller surroundings.


A few years ago, interior designer Edward R. Stough helped a couple furnish their 15-room, 6,000-square-foot house in the Guilford section of Baltimore. Later, after building a house in St. Croix, they decided they no longer needed so much living space in Baltimore.

They asked Mr. Stough, of Edward R. Stough Inc., to help choose furniture and accessories to move from their Guilford house to a 2,000-square-foot condo in a nearby high-rise.

"I met with my clients and we talked about what they wanted to keep," says Mr. Stough. "A custom-designed, glass-topped cocktail table made from forged steel and an 18th-century antique drafting table were definites, along with a rolled-arm, loose-backed sofa and a floral Nichols rug made in England in the 1920s." These and a few other pieces made the move.

Just about all the old living-room furniture made it into the condo living room. The dining room was big enough to hold the client's antique, claw-footed table, an antique sideboard and a console table. The bedroom furniture -- as it does in most scale-downs -- fit in the condo pretty much as it had the house.

Two red marble candlesticks from the old living room became lamps for the library in the condo. Chairs and tables from the Guilford house's TV room found a place in the new kitchen.

"From the beginning, one of my major goals was to create a new living environment that did not look like we had just taken their old things and shoved them into the new space," Mr. Stough says.


The client was moving from a large country house in Worthington Valley to a retirement community closer to the city. She wanted ** to re-create her living room in her new home. Luckily, the new living room was spacious enough to accommodate most of her furnishings.

"I think we were able to work in every piece from the old living room except for one little chest," says James Hiatt of the H.

Chambers Co.

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