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How to Downsize and Design Smaller Spaces | Q&A with Interior Designer, Gillian Lefkowitz

How to Downsize and Design Smaller Spaces | Q&A with Interior Designer, Gillian Lefkowitz

Credenza: MidcenturyLA, Rug: Amadi carpet, Art: Shelly Stevens , Lighting: Apparatus | Photo by: Ace Misiunas

About Gillian Lefkowitz

Gillian Lefkowitz is a local Los Angeles interior designer with almost 20 years of experience in the city and in New York. Using her background in fine art painting and photography, she transforms spaces from total renovations to bespoke smaller projects. Below are her tips on downsizing and designing smaller spaces.

How to Downsize and Make Smaller Spaces Feel Bigger

Q.) What are your top 5 tips for downsizing?
  1. Go in with a plan: ie) measure, measure, measure! Measure the new space and measure all your furniture that is going into the space including rugs and art. If you have a somewhat precise idea of what goes where your move-in day will be a breeze. Anything that won’t fit …it’s time to say goodbye. This is how I move my clients to a new house and it really works. On move-in day, rugs go down first, then the furniture. Make the art installation a different day once you have the spaces set.
  2. Do a big purge before you move. Edit through your stuff and really think about what brings you joy and if you need it. Anything that feels like you’re holding on to it because you have to, get rid of it. Objects hold a lot of complicated feelings for all of us and moving can be a time to shed old ideas and feelings. Things that hold bad memories, ie) ex-boyfriend, mother-in-law stuff! You get the idea. You don’t need to go extreme Marie Kondo, but do what feels right for you and it will be liberating.
  3. This rule also goes for clothes, kids stuff (now they are grown), books, CD’s, kitchen items, etc.
  4. Honor what this house needs, not what your old house needed. Every space is different, I feel our houses speak to us, when you listen you will make the best choices for that specific space. Keep an open mind and be willing to do what is best for your new house and let go of things that feel forced. Love everything you put in your new house especially when it comes to downsizing. Objects showcased in a smaller space will make you happier, I promise.
  5. Another thing to make sure of while downsizing is to do bigger rugs not smaller ones. If you fill the space more with a large rug it makes it feel bigger. Smaller rugs in small spaces chop up the space making it feel smaller and disjointed. The same goes for window coverings. Go taller with your curtains and never let them be just above window casings; this is a big no-no. Taller curtains bring your eyes up creating the illusion of a larger space.

Bed: The Tac Room, Chair and ottoman: DWR Eames, Rug: Amadi Carpet, Side tables: Johnathan Adler, Sconces: Circa Lighting, Art Shelly Stevens, Wallpaper : DeGournay | Photo by: Ace Misiunas

What should you do with furniture that is still in good shape but you can’t fit in your new house?

A.) I would recommend against storage. If you’re in a house that you’ll be in for a while and things cannot fit, let it go. If you’re not sure, lend to a friend, donate, or sell. My new obsession these days to find great furniture is Facebook Marketplace. If selling, post to “local pick up only.” A garage sale is always fun especially with friends. Putting things in storage should be a last resort. It’s a money drain and 9 times out of 10, when you finally close it down, it’s furniture you won’t want anymore.

What colors look good in smaller houses/rooms?

A.) I am a big fan of color but fresh white is my fav for small houses. This creates a common thread throughout with a streamlined visual for all the main spaces that connect. It will make the spaces unite and feel more expansive without chopping them up with a lot of different colors on the walls. I do love wallpaper or color in a bathroom or bedroom.

Art on back wall: Shelly Stevens, Chairs: Lawson Fenning, Side table: BDDW

What is your advice when it comes to transferring art to smaller houses? Can you keep it all?
A.) I love big art in small spaces and it can really make the space look bigger. In terms of can you keep it, I think only put up what feels right for your new space. Try not to be beholden to things that are sentimental, and not right for the new space. If you have a few pieces that you love, keep them to rotate in, but for sure get rid of anything not valuable like poster art if it no longer serves you.

Do walls of more pictures make a room look bigger or smaller?
A.) I love a good Salon wall and I think when done right it can make things feel bigger. If prints are all framed in the same frame, you can also make a few pieces of art feel like one big piece. This also works well if you go high up the wall as it draws your eye up.

Art: Shelly Stevens, Sconces: Circa Lighting, Couch: Custom fabric on couch by Clarencehouse

Do you have a charity or a way of donating furniture that you like?

A.) One of my favorite charities to donate to is A Sense of Home for foster kids going out into the world for the first time. This organization sets up an apartment for them to help jumpstart their lives as adults.


Juliette Hohnen

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