Tribune Print Share Text

Your perfect space

Riderwood design experts know how to maximize smaller home living

Created date

October 23rd, 2015
Riderwood apartment home
Riderwood apartment home

Having a stylish and comfortable home isn’t necessarily about having a ton of space. If you decide to downsize, you don’t have to sacrifice style because you’re living in a smaller home.

In fact, a good interior decorator has a few tricks up her sleeve to maximize smaller spaces and help retirees seamlessly blend treasured older furniture with new, modern pieces.

Alexis Thompson and Ed Rudock work as Custom Interiors coordinators at Rid..., the Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md. They help people who move to the community figure out how to make beautiful, functional homes in spaces that may be smaller than their previous houses. 

Thompson has worked at Riderwood for more than three years. She previously worked for several design firms, specializing in commercial interiors and model homes. She ran her own business in her hometown of San Diego, Calif. 

Thompson has a bachelor’s degree in interior design. She is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. 

Rudock has a bachelor’s degree in interior design and has worked in the design field in a number of roles, including with architects and engineers, as a designer in furniture stores, and as the owner of his own design business. He has worked for Riderwood in the past and rejoined the Custom Interiors department earlier this year.

We asked Thompson and Rudock for their best tips and insider secrets on decorating a new, smaller home for retirement. 

Q: Which pieces of furniture that you had in your house tend to fit into a smaller home when you downsize? Which ones tend to look too bulky?

Rudock: I think that some of the easier pieces to go without when downsizing are large, overstuffed recliners and chairs, which can be replaced with recliners that are slimmer and more streamlined but just as comfortable. Also, large dining room china cabinets tend to overpower smaller rooms. 

Thompson: Most bedroom furniture will work well. However, many people moving to Riderwood will want to reduce the size of their dining tables. 

Q: If entertaining is important to you and your apartment home doesn’t have as large of a living or dining room, what are some ways you can entertain in smaller spaces?

Rudock: Hosting smaller, more intimate gatherings and serving hors d’ouevres and wine rather than sit-down dinners is more manageable in smaller spaces for those who enjoy entertaining.

Thompson: We also have a private dining room available for larger parties, which can be catered by our dining services team.

Q: What are some ways to make smaller homes appear more spacious?

Rudock: Continuing finishes throughout the entire space (paint color, flooring, etc.) will help make a space feel larger, but my favorite tip is to use larger area rugs, not smaller ones. It’s a little designer trick: the illusion of space is created when the furniture sits on a rug.

Q: If you have collections of art or other items that took up a lot of space in your old house, how can you still enjoy those in a home with less space?

Rudock: Create collages of art pieces on a wall as a focal point rather than spacing pieces out like one might in a larger home. 

Q: What are some tips for making rooms multifunctional that people can use to maximize space in smaller homes? 

Thompson: The second bedroom or den is often used as a multifunctional space. Having a sofa or chair with a pullout bed or a daybed are common ways to turn a space that is used as an office into a guest bedroom when needed.

Rudock: Consider some built-in furniture like a Murphy bed, especially when there won’t be frequent guests and the room is used more as an office throughout the year.

Q: What are some good ways to mix furniture styles if you want to update your decor when you downsize but have some favorite (and possibly expensive) pieces of older furniture? 

Thompson: Bringing furnishings that are both functional and sentimental is important in making a new space feel like home. An eclectic mix of furniture can add interest to a space. One can look at the various wood tones, metal finishes, and overall styles of the pieces, and then find items like lamps or accessories that incorporate more of the same tones and style will help a space feel more cohesive.

Rudock: I always like to let those pieces be a highlight rather than try to blend them in. For instance, if the pieces that you want to keep are made of dark wood, then choose lighter woods for your new furniture or pieces that are made of other materials like metal or rattan.

Q: How do the common areas at Riderwood expand residents’ living space, even if their apartment home is smaller than their old house?

Thompson: Coming to Riderwood, residents will experience a new way of living. There are many amenities that will replace the need for so much private space. If they want to host an event or luncheon and do not have room in their apartment, they can reserve a classroom or private dining room. Bringing exercise equipment is not needed, as we have several fitness centers. Utilizing the many amenities Riderwood has to offer will essentially extend a resident’s living space.