As families change, so do households, and a common mid-life transition for homeowners is to downsize: living in a smaller home with a simpler inventory of possessions. New ideas for more compact kitchens and baths are an important part of that change.
When working with clients who are contemplating downsizing, designer Jessica Nelms of Wilmington’s Markraft Cabinets advises them, “Take inventory. Determine what are the absolute necessities” for their desired lifestyle. That inventory isn’t just about “stuff,” but is also about how the clients want to spend their time.
For example, she said, some couples might intend to do less entertaining and less cooking at home, and to spend more time “meeting friends out and about.” A preference for having coffee in the morning before dashing out for the day could dictate a different kitchen layout from someone who’s used to preparing elaborate meals.
Adapting to smaller spaces, Nelms noted, means, “You’ll have to downsize your belongings, as well.” Deciding what to get rid of can be emotional, though. It raises the question of what to do with pieces that have more sentimental than practical value. Aside from passing those heirlooms on to the next generation, Nelms offered an artistic design solution: “Make that special item a focal point on an open shelf or behind a glass door.”
However those dilemmas are solved, careful planning is required, Nelms said. “A smaller space forces you to be more thoughtful about what goes into that space.”
One important thought is about what sorts of appliances make sense. In a smaller house, townhouse or condo, “You may not have the oversized kitchen to fit any and every accoutrement,” Nelms said.
For example, she said, “I have seen people do a single dishwasher drawer instead of a full-height dishwasher.” These new, compact appliances were pioneered by Fisher-Paykel and are now being offered by more manufacturers.
A similar idea, a microwave drawer, can save space and is easier to reach than a countertop or an over-the-stove unit.
A smaller kitchen may not have room for the traditional “work triangle” of sink-stove-refrigerator, but is likely to feature work stations, and possibly multi-function spaces, that are designed for specific tasks. And the smaller the home, the more likely it will feature an open plan by which kitchen, dining area and living space flow together.
Planning for a downsizing is likely to include matters of concern to older residents. The concept of comfortably and safely “aging in place” implies maximizing mobility and accessibility.
Big drawers and other pull-out storage units can minimize stooping or stretching to reach needed items. Designing the master bedroom and bath on the first floor makes it easier for older owners to stay in their homes easily. To address vision challenges, designers are emphasizing contrasts in color and tone between floor, cabinets and countertops, Nelms says, and “including more light, more specialized light, such as under-cabinet illumination and pendant lights in work areas.”
Visual contrasts also are being designed into bathrooms. For greater safety and comfort, designers are minimizing thresholds on showers. In addition, manufacturers are designing functional hardware like grab bars to harmonize with towel racks and other traditional fixtures.
When the time has come that less is more in terms of living space, the first step is to think about the lifestyle you want that space to accommodate. The second step is to talk with a professional designer about how best to match layout, function and specific pieces to that lifestyle.
You can get advice about how to comfortably downsize your kitchen from professional designers at Markraft’s Design Center. Markraft’s designers do consultations by appointment, but drop-in visitors are always welcome to come in and browse. The Design Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 2705 Castle Creek Lane, just off Castle Hayne Road.
Since 1985, Markraft has specialized in cabinet and countertop design and installation in residential and commercial construction and custom remodeling. To learn more about Markraft, go to www.markraft.com. Contact Markraft at 910.762.1986 and like Markraft on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MarkraftCabinets.