- By Mary Anne
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I have been reflecting on how two years have passed since my husband, dog, and I were downsizing from our suburban five bedroom home to a two bedroom loft style condo in the heart of downtown Ottawa. It seems like yesterday that we were readying the house for sale, packing up and getting rid of possessions, planning what to buy for our new home and making the actual move.
While divesting ourselves of a house full of possessions, there was not a lot of room to be sentimental. Things I had saved because they were still good, or that the kids may want them (which they didn’t) were donated to charity. I limited myself to one large bin of special mementos of the kids childhoods and that was it. I’ve read that if you are torn about parting with something for purely sentimental reasons, take a photo and that will suffice to jog your memory. The majority of our furniture was not suitable in style, size and scale for an open space so it went to the cottage, the kids or charity. Do I miss anything? Not a bit, in fact, it has been liberating to have downsized and to be free of all that stuff!
As an interior decorator, it was exciting starting over and decorating a new home from scratch. Downsizing does have it’s advantages! Our tastes (and budget) have evolved over time from when we were furnishing our first two homes. I told my husband that we didn’t need a lot, but what we bought we had to love! I was careful to choose pieces that would all work together when seen from any room because of the openness. A custom made sectional, dining table, banquette and bedroom set were all calculated to the inch so as to not waste any precious space and also to incorporate storage. A few antique and mid-century modern pieces from my parents quite happily fit into the new design. Some great IKEA pieces like the EXPEDITE bookcases and my magenta leather dining chairs look like a million bucks.
Since we have wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows at two ends of our condo, there is not a lot of wall space for art. I decided to use the fifth wall (the floor) as a canvas and purchased a stunning Henzel rug that looks like graffiti. This was actually the starting point of most of the design and colour choices and it ties everything together. A huge iron grid floor mirror from Restoration Hardware is another big impact item as it gives an industrial edge, brings light into the centre of the space and makes the room seem larger. Personality was added with a dark textured tile wall behind the TV and graffiti tiles in one of the bathrooms.
I was able to design a custom kitchen pre-construction so that it blends into the aesthetics of the space and functions as well as a kitchen twice its size. European sized integrated appliances, walnut and glossy white lacquer cabinetry and open shelving all add up to a clean, midcentury look. More work space was created by changing the layout to an L rather than the straight run of original cabinets. The kitchen has more of a furniture feel than a typical workspace so it looks nice at in an open concept space.
Looking back, downsizing has been an exciting lifestyle change for us. With our three children grown with places of their own, we had no need, or desire, for a big house and all that entails. Living in 980 sq. feet has not been difficult, but you do have to be strict about what comes in or you will be living in clutter. I must admit we are fortunate to have a year round cottage on a lake to retreat to most weekends, so we really have the best of both worlds. Living downtown has opened our eyes to what a beautiful city Ottawa really is. When you can walk everywhere you really appreciate the little details, the architecture and not getting stuck in rush hour traffic! A friend asked me if I feel isolated living in a multi-person dwelling downtown. I can honestly say I feel more a part of the community than ever before, as there are always people around to interact with, if you make the effort. Living small by downsizing has truly given us the freedom to enjoy more of the pleasures of life in the world around us.