Beautiful Spaces for Downsizing Seniors

I received a package yesterday with some of the prizes from Benjamin Moore that I won in the 2013 Color Trends contest on Olioboard last month. I got a couple of new paint fandecks, three gallons of paint, and a $100 paint credit for Benjamin Moore paint here in town (Kirkland Floor to Ceiling in Cool Springs, in case my local readers wonder where the nearest retailer is). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to claim the biggest part of the prize: a free pass to celebrity designer Tobi Fairley's MBA Design Camp.

floral close up


Unfortunately, the camp took place in early January right smack in the middle of a medical crisis for one of my close family members. I just needed to be here and couldn't leave town for the three-day design business workshop.  I was definitely bummed.   However, I was really glad that I instead got to use my skills and talents to help my uncle readjust to a new setting by downsizing his furnishings into an assisted living facility.  We were fortunate to be able to get him in the absolute nicest place you can imagine.  This facility has beautiful gathering places, a gourmet coffee shop, lot of great activities, and a luxurious dining room.

the cumberland nashville dining room

The Cumberland Dining Room


The one-bedroom assisted living unit is about 30% of the size of my uncle's previous home.  The space is small, but nice and bright with great windows.


Living Room Before


My younger sister and I had to make choices about what to take and what to leave.  We wanted to create a place that felt like home and that best suited his physical needs.  Of the three available sofas, we chose to take his firm leather one so that he could get up and out of it easily and could be cleaned easily if there were spills or soiling.

leather seating area

Living Room After


I would have loved to include a beautiful wool rug, but since that might be a tripping hazard, we had to leave it in his former home. We also chose a pair of blue leather side chairs for the seating area, and one brown leather chair to use in his breakfast area.  

blue leather chairs

Living Room After


Downsizing is a lot like home staging – you are looking to pair down the unnecessary and less attractive things so that the most appealing and functional things move forward in the space. When downsizing, you need to think about including furniture pieces that provide good storage, like narrow dressers and bookcases where you can store useful items and display meaningful momentos.  Below is the "before" of the bedroom:


Bedroom Before


We brought in his own bed and other furnishings, but decided to give him some fresh bedding and pillows from HomeGoods for his new place.  After a month in the hospital and a nursing facility, he's finally getting a good night's sleep.


green bedroom

After Bedroom


My uncle was a very successful businessman, and always likes to sit at a desk to do his paperwork.  Rather than a round breakfast table, I decided to purchase a small desk to give him a space to sort his mail and write.  I don't have a photo of the desk in place, but here's the one I chose from American Signature:

american signature x desk

desk from American Signature


It only took two days for American Signature to have it delivered to their store for me to pick up, which was great for the time-sensitive situation.  His leather chair looks great with this smart wooden desk.  There's a lot of leather in there, but he is a man and at least we were able to mix it up with color!

blue leather chair

I dig the blue leather!


You know, it's the little things that make a place feel like home.  Maybe it's comforting colors, familiar photos, art collected during memorable times in your life.

leather sofa


I think my uncle is really pleased with the results, and he says his new neighbors are all raving about his new apartment!  It made me happy to be able to help him create a space that feels like home.  Sometimes we need to miss out on some good things in order to take part in the important things.  Don't you agree?

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30 thoughts on “Beautiful Spaces for Downsizing Seniors

  1. Kathy says:

    Kristie, that's one of those things in life that you will never, ever regret. God gave you the wonderful gift you have and intended that you share it first with those you love …then with the rest of us!  Thanks for sharing.

  2. Elissa says:

    I was hoping to hear your recap of the design workshop and am disappointed that won't happen but I'm not disappointed at your dedication to your family in a time of need. This is what keeps me reading your blog year after year and trusting your advice on all things design. You are simply a good person with a generous heart and that is perhaps one of the most important things in life. Warm wishes to you and your family.

  3. Panna says:

    Long time reader, first time commenting. :-) Had to come out of lurking to compliment you on the outstanding decorating job. And what a blessing for your uncle to have his own niece create such a special place for him. Well done, as always!

  4. Nancy O'Brien says:

    You are so right! Family first will always be my motto. I was very moved by your story and proud of you. How special that you have the talent to make your uncle's transition so much easier.

    I'm always grateful that I can be here in Nova Scotia and read your blog everyday. Technology is a wonderful thing, eh? Thanks!

  5. Hannah Dee says:

    Wonderful! You created such  a safe, beautiful space and by also having things that are familiar and beloved it will help your uncle adjust to his new home so easily! I have been through this several times myself with my mom, and it's a shame how some of the residents apartments are so dreary and spare.

  6. Laila Poole says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Kristie!  I know you helped make his transition easier.  I remember how difficult it was for my grandmother years ago.

  7. Lori Pruitt says:

    Like everyone said, how wonderful it was for you to be able to share your gift with your uncle.  Being able to help him during a time that I am sure wasn't easy for him, and knowing his new space was created with love should make him be able to transition better.  You did a beautiful job. 

    And I also missed out on the Designer MBA camp.  Family comes first, and this session would have had me flying out to Little Rock the day my 2.5 yr old started preschool.  Missing that was not an option.  There will always be other times, and I am sure Tobi would be very proud of what you did for your uncle! :)

  8. MarySue says:

    I'm sorry you missed design camp, but what a blessing you were to your uncle!  You've helped create such a beautiful new home for him!  Great job!

  9. Janice Locke says:

    Kristie, I recently helped my mom with the same kind of move.  Her new, small place looks lovely with her familiar pieces.  I know your uncle appreciated your time and talent!

    • MaggieO says:

      Great idea…I think Kristie deserves that…okay everybody together "rain check, rain check, rain check rain check, ( think she can hear us lol).  Your story was touching and what a great job…hope someone does that for me/mine someday…

  10. MK says:

    Kristie, what a great niece you are!  So glad that you gave your time and talents to your uncle. And, yes, I expect that all the neighbors ARE raving about how beautifully you pulled it together!

  11. Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Bless you Kristie for making the kind choice here to help your uncle. He will enjoy visits from you and your sister now even more since you made him feel at home there. Maybe Tobi will read this and let you come for free next year? Did you see that Tobi? 

    As my younger daughter says–"You're the Bomb!", Kristie.

  12. Tanya Dobbs says:

    Beautiful post..thoughtful rooms.  How nice for your uncle that he had someone thoughtful and loving enough to make his new surroundings feel comfortable and homey.

  13. Beth says:

    Kristie, what a lovely thing you and your sister did for your uncle. He is blessed to have you. I work in a retirement community that includes assisted living and I assure you that not all residents are as blessed. It is an emotional transition for him and to have you help as you did and going to dine with him with him lets him know he is safe and loved and that's what it's all about!  Beautiful apartment too!

  14. Annie Vincent says:

    Kristie what a loving beautiful room you have put together for your uncle! I am sure he and the rest of the family really appreciates it. I was sad to hear you couldn't make MBA camp too but there will be other chances, as you said. Although we create beautiful spaces, the most important thing are the beautiful memories we make with those we love and hold dear to our hearts. Love you for that!

  15. Holly says:

    What a special time and even better that you could be there and put your touch on your uncle's new home. I'm with you on the blue leather – those chairs look great. Your uncle is stylin' in his new space. Thanks so much for sharing this story with all of us.

  16. ange says:

    Kristy, Sorry that you missed out on the design camp but you made a beautiful sacrifice and I'm sure you will be blessed in another way.  You did a great job designing a space for your Uncle and he's lucky to have such a wonderful niece.  :)  Hope he is adjusting well!

  17. Kelly says:

    You are such a sweet niece and you will be blessed over 100x times for your kindness! I'm sure your uncle is happy with his new 'pad', you made it so beautiful. I did the same for my mother-in-law a couple years ago. You are a good person my friend! xo

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