Luxury Living Redefined in Smaller Spaces
While these homes may be smaller, expectations remain to keep them luxurious. So Best in American Living asked three experts to share what their clientele expect when building a new, smaller home.
The Well-Appointed Kitchen
The kitchen will always be the star of the home. “The kitchen is where I most often see the home buyer’s raised expectations in quality of finishes from granite countertops, to white pine floors, to beadboard accents,” said Tony Green, managing partner of The Pinehills, a master-planned community in Plymouth, Mass.
Susan Cosentini, of New Earth Living, which creates communities in upstate New York agrees that kitchens are the rooms where people want to see finer details, notably islands.
“In fact, I’ve seen islands actually get bigger in homes where people are downsizing,” she said. Because smaller homes mean the loss of more formal rooms like dining and living rooms, islands provide additional seating and a place where more people can congregate while the home owner is cooking or entertaining.
Carson Looney, founding principal of Looney Ricks Kiss, an architecture firm based in Memphis, adds that buyers also expect quality, higher-end, functioning appliances and cabinets.
“They want their appliances to be the same as those that would be found in a home double the size and price and quality cabinets that have hardware and glides that won’t fall apart,” said Looney. “They want drawers rather than doors and shelves. And, they want the design of these items to accommodate their true needs rather than just filling up space from one wall to the next.”
Beyond the kitchen, people who are downsizing understand they are giving up physical space in the rest of their home—but they don’t want it to appear that way.
“They don’t want any of the fluff,” said Looney. “No nutty wasted space such as foyers, grand staircases or oversized second bedrooms.”
Looney has also found ways of using space efficiently. Instead of large vaulted ceilings, he incorporates quality, scaled interior spaces which function better with the furniture and home owner.
All three experts underscored the need for smart window design to help with the perception of more space. “Incorporating more windows throughout the home helps close the gap between indoor and outdoor living, giving the home owner the illusion of more space,” said Green.
Storage: The Understated Luxury
“Downsizing, no matter at what level, can be both a freeing and traumatic experience for a home owner,” said Cosentini. “They understand the need to get rid of things with the move, but they still want to hold on to nostalgic items or holiday decorations they might not need every day.” Thus, one luxury home owners will not give up when moving to a smaller home is storage.
All three experts strongly agreed on this point.
To address this with her clients, Cosentini incorporates attic trusses to make up for the loss of traditional basements or storage spaces that take up square footage. This space is often underutilized and is a great place to incorporate extra space that can be used as a loft or for storage.
Looney sums it up well. “We’re not talking about first-, second- or third-time move up buyers who want to get more,” he said. “We’re talking about folks who have experienced a few homes, who have been through the phases of life and are now empty nesters. They need to shed themselves of what they don’t need but have a great desire and need for the important things to truly work for their new lifestyle. The market is begging for real homes that can work for decades to come.”