Secrets to downsizing: Designer offers tips on finding happiness in smaller spaces – The San Diego Union-Tribune

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The kids have grown up and left home. There has been a change in finances or the loss of a partner. Or you just don’t need that big house anymore. People downsize for different reasons.
The process can be overwhelming, particularly if you’ve lived in a house for a long time and have a lot of stuff. Not everything will fit in a smaller space.
How to begin? Let’s consult an expert.
San Diego interior designer Beverly Feldman founded Space Urban Resource Center, a downtown retail store dedicated to design, downsizing and multiple-purpose furnishings. It closed due to COVID-19 circumstances, but Feldman continues to help people maximize their living spaces and posts example photos on her Instagram account: instagram.com/spaceurc/.
“There’s a whole new way of thinking when someone is planning to downsize,” she says. “Most people enjoy the freedom from their stuff, once they’re able to let it go.”
Q: What is the first step for someone moving from a house into a studio or one-bedroom apartment, a condo, a mobile home or even a backyard granny unit?
A: Planning for the new space is huge. Start with a purge of your possessions; clear out one drawer or cabinet at a time. Keep only what you feel you need to take with you. After the first run-through, purge again.
It can be difficult if there is a sentimental attachment to things. We have been collecting stuff for years and never had to think about it because we had room. People keep things they used to use and will never use again.

Q: What do people most commonly hang on to?
A: Boomers keep a lot of photos, but for the younger generation, images are all digital. Those boxes and albums of photos can be scanned and digitized.
Technology has made living a lot simpler. Now you don’t have to have a big media entertainment center with lots of components. All you need is a smart TV and streaming services.
I really have never heard anyone who has purged say they regret it. Purging can be freeing.
Q: What’s next?
A: You look for a space that will fit what you have decided to keep. Visit it and visualize where things might go. Get an overall feeling of the space. You don’t want to feel too cramped. If it isn’t a good fit, move on.
You’ll know when a space is right for you if you feel energized and happy to be there. Maybe it won’t have enough room for everything. When that happens, you can go home and do another purge.
Q: A designer can do a floor plan so that the furnishings work well together. How else can you make a small space livable and comfortable?
A: Furniture selection is important. A sofa can anchor a room, but I’d advise against having oversized chairs, which take up a lot of volume. A 30-inch-by-30-inch chair made of light design and materials would be a better fit.
If there isn’t a separate bedroom, a wall bed that is a sofa by day and a bed by night is ideal. Some models are motorized so you just push a button.
There is a lot of well-designed, multifunctional furniture. I have a beautiful entry bench with casters, so that I can easily roll it to my desk if I need an extra surface or move it to my workout area. Multipurpose furniture should be functional and mobile.
For everyday dining, use a couple of bar stools pulled up to a counter. There is a wonderful console table that doesn’t take up a lot of room, and inside are leaves that you can use to expand the table into a dining surface for up to 10 people. When dinner is over, the leaves are removed and stored in the console.
I love casual stackable chairs. They can be stored vertically when not in use.
Many people think about designing for guests, but how often do people stay over? You have rooms sitting empty until a visitor comes.
Your space should fit how you live in it, day in and day out. Transform it temporarily when you have company.
Q: What about storage, especially in the kitchen?
A: Custom cabinetry can make a world of difference. It can create space for everything to be put away until you need it.
Custom cabinets in the kitchen can hide all kinds of things. We can install cabinets that hide small appliances under the countertop on a platform equipped with a motorized lift. Press a button and a section of the counter rises, so you can use the appliance like a coffee maker or the mixer. When you are finished with them, they descend back to their storage place.
If that’s not in the budget, I’d recommend buying cabinets from Ikea; the designs are compact and efficient. Ikea is the ultimate in maximizing space.
Clutter will always make a space feel smaller. But we have clever solutions to hide it.
Q: Downsizing has more elements than I thought. To conclude, what are the basics, the must-haves people need to be happy and comfortable in a smaller space?
A: I can think of three. First, a walk-in closet, the larger the better. It can be a great storage space. Install a custom closet or a closet system from Ikea so you know where everything goes.
Good lighting. The best is architectural lighting to illuminate the spaces properly without big bulky lamps.
And, last, make sure you have access to the outdoors — a patio, a balcony or a small yard where you can open a window or a door for fresh air.
Small spaces can be functional and beautiful, and if they are well-organized, it won’t feel cramped. The more planning you do, the more successful the transition.
Catherine Gaugh is a freelance writer.
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