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Downsize like a pro

Linden Ponds design expert knows how to maximize smaller-home living

Created date

November 30th, 2015
Linden Ponds Custom Interiors Coordinator Donna Marcella.
Linden Ponds Custom Interiors Coordinator Donna Ma

Having a stylish and comfortable home isn’t necessarily about having a ton of space. If you decide to downsize for your retirement, 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.

Donna Marcella is the custom interiors coordinator at Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass. She helps the people who move to the community figure out how to make beautiful, functional homes in spaces that may be smaller than their previous houses. Marcella has owned a successful construction company with her husband for the last 15 years. She holds a construction supervisors license and has a certificate in interior design and decorating. She describes her design aesthetic as “traditional.”

“I like a comfortable, homey, and unfussy feel,” she says. “Less is more.”

We asked Marcella for her best tips and insider secrets for decorating a new, smaller home for retirement. 

Q: What kind of furniture tends to work best when you downsize for retirement?

A: Furniture that isn’t bulky; simple items seem to work best. Avoid clutter as much as possible. 

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

A: There are creative ways to optimize your space. You can remove things from the living room and dining room to make space. When you have guests over, store bulky, unnecessary items in closets, storage, or even behind a shower curtain in the tub.

Q: How can you make spare bedrooms multifunctional in order to maximize space in smaller homes? 

A: Day beds, Murphy beds, or pullout couches are a few great ideas to create an office or den that doubles as a guest room.

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

A: Opt for lighter color schemes and simple furniture. To reduce clutter, make sure everything has a “home” or spot.

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

A: I like that the style of mixing—for example, contemporary with antiques—is the fad now. Mixing wood colors is okay to do, too. It looks great!

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? 

A: You determine which are your favorites, and you can display those pieces on walls or in a display cabinet, so they are out of the way and everyone can enjoy them.

Q: What are some of the best things to dispose of when downsizing—the items that people tend not to miss when they move to a smaller home for retirement? 

A: Dining room sets, extra bureaus, and extra side or knick-knack tables are items that most people find they can do without.

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

A: I have worked with people who entertained in their homes all the time, and they love the fact that at Linden Ponds, they can take full advantage of all the social events and common areas, like the private dining room and full-service restaurants where family and friends can join residents for meals.