Above: Orange accents, a furry rug and contemporary art modernize this den.
Designer Carey Karlan learned firsthand about scaling back and updating a living space when she moved from a seven-bedroom house to a three-bedroom cottage years ago. “I can appreciate how difficult it can be, but also how rewarding,” says Carey. Today she works with many clients on a range of interiors projects, helping people to modernize their homes and downsize to smaller ones.
One of her clients had moved from Bedford to downtown Greenwich—where the family could enjoy the convenience of living close to town—and wanted to consolidate furnishings from several homes into their new house. They called on Carey to help them pare down their possessions and inject fresh style into the home while preserving cherished antiques and favorite items.
A Bombay chest was coupled with a contemporary mirror; their traditional dining room table and Chippendale chairs were paired with a Swain sideboard, a silver-edged mirror and a shapely bench to give the space a more transitional look. Whether you’re going through a lifestyle shift or plan to move to a smaller home, Carey’s got some great ideas.
TIPS FOR DOWNSIZING
1 LET GO OF FURNITURE THAT ISN’T THE RIGHT SCALE
What works in a very large house may not fit in a townhouse or smaller home. “I measure every piece of furniture that I think clients want to keep,” says Carey. If the style and size of the pieces work, you can reupholster. Otherwise it’s better to start new.
2 CHOOSE COLORS THAT RELATE
In a smaller home, flow becomes more important and having paint shades or wall coverings that connect one room to the next can be key. “It’s more relaxing to have a more monochromatic scheme.”
3 UNDRESS YOUR WINDOWS
Multilayered window treatments overwhelm a smaller space. Tailored, minimalist panels or plantation shutters add interest while taking up less room. You can still opt for beautiful, high-quality fabrics but a simpler application.
4 GROUP YOUR COLLECTIONS
In this Greenwich house, the homeowner’s collection of rare glass had a bigger impact once the pieces were displayed together in a custom-lighted cabinet in the living room.
5 SHORT-TERM STORAGE MAY BE YOUR FRIEND
“Shedding old possessions can be an emotional process,” says Carey. Sometimes people have to live with the wrong things before they can let go.” Other times her clients put pieces into storage. Usually after three months, they can’t even remember what’s in there. That’s when they know they’re ready to say goodbye.
6 LISTEN TO YOUR REALTOR
If you’re selling a home, don’t be offended when your realtor wants you to roll up the Oriental rugs or put away personal photos. Buyers want a clean space where they can imagine themselves living. Follow the staging suggestions and you’ll sell faster.
Photographs: Paul Johnson