There has been a lot of talk recently about dealing with aged parents and the task of downsizing them to smaller living quarters. Often our parents would like to take everything with them to their new place but of course this isn’t an option. Deciding what to take and what to get rid of can be challenging. You’re talking about sorting through the treasures of a lifetime and figuring out what goes from a house some one’s been in for 50+ years to a small apartment.

You might consider replacing the furniture with new but I encourage you to try to accommodate what they’ve got first. You might be pleasantly surprised. And by moving the old items to a new setting they will feel different and “new” again. Fortunately, much of the furniture from our parents’ era is much smaller, and often better quality than what we see today and can be nicely accommodated in a smaller space. When deciding what to keep and what to discard one must consider if the favorite pieces can also be functional in their new setting. A cherished hope chest might become a coffee table with storage, an heirloom china cabinet might be re purposed as a mini library etc. Consider keeping a favorite chair as comfort becomes increasingly important as we age. Sentimental items that can be hung on a wall rather than sit on a flat surface will be better accommodated.

Last year I had the opportunity to downsize an elderly couple from a 4 to 2 room apartment in a senior’s residence. With a little creative furniture placement I was able to create a number of different areas within the living space so that they were able to accommodate all the functions of the larger apartment but in a more compact well thought out arrangement. To their delight they were able to keep a large dresser made by a family member but as a trade off they had to discard a lovely curio cabinet, cutlery and glassware. Efficiently using what they had, I was able to give them an office area, eating area, two cozy seating arrangements for conversation, and an entertainment corner. I was able to highlight the important art, gifts and photos that comforted them, in a way that allowed them to be more visible and better appreciated, taking advantage of the many focal points that were created by furniture placement. Some of their favorite items had still been in boxes from a previous move and were being rediscovered as we unpacked them, their stories revealed while doing so.

Spending time with this family I was reminded yet again that home isn’t just a place, but also a feeling. If we can create a functional space that we can enjoy, one that allows us to welcome friends, feel comfortable and surrounds us with items that hold wonderful memories, then any place can become a home simply by finding out a person’s story and effectively using the items at hand.

Decorating on a budget can be just as fun as splurging at your favorite store when you have a laptop and some time on your hands. We recently needed to purchase a chair for our cottage. Knowing that we might spend more than a thousand dollars on a new recliner I decided to search Kijiji to see what might be available. As luck would have it we found a great used recliner that swiveled, allowing us to direct our attention to the lake view during the day and turn towards the wood stove in the evening. At first glance the color seemed less than practical but when we discovered that the seller was asking only 150.00 for it we decided that we would take our chances on the light color getting soiled. As it turned out the fabric is very durable and once we had it cleaned it was just like new. It’s now the favorite chair at the cottage and we can use the money we saved on other projects. Some of my other favorite bargain places for finding great furniture are Of Things Past and Trading Spaces . Both of these places are worth a look keeping in mind that some of the older furniture pieces can be superior quality, and can be fit with slipcovers or reupholstered to update the look. These places have more than furniture – they also sell some very unique items you won’t see in any chain store. Of Things Past offers high quality items from higher income areas of Toronto. I’m always surprised by what I find there.

Getting Connected


"Just wanted to thank you again for the redesign of my main floor. Some of the changes were more dramatic than others, but I liked each one. We now have a living room that's usable. I so like the idea of using my own pieces to get a new look. I would recommend it for anyone who has a problem with design or just needs a new perspective. I enjoyed your company and learned a few things as we worked. All the best on your future redesigns."

S.N., Milton

CRD Association

Canadian Redesigners Association