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9 Expert Designer Tips for Personalizing a New Senior Living Space

Transforming your space from “meh” to magnificent has never been easier these days. With HGTV, design influencers and affordably chic furniture available right at our fingertips, there’s no shortage of ideas, tutorials or options for helping you make any home look beautiful, no matter how big or small. That’s great news for seniors who are getting ready to downsize their living space and move to a retirement community. 

“The best way to make a new space feel like home is to get it all set up and personalized the way you want it,” says Kristine Tilton, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. She agrees that it can be a little overwhelming if you haven’t moved in a while or you’re dreading having to sort through your decades of memories and decide what to keep. “Fortunately, by following some expert tips, being organized and taking some cues from Marie Kondo, you can make your new place look straight out of a Better Home and Gardens magazine.”

There are hundreds of articles on the Internet about how to navigate the downsizing process – we aren’t going to cover that in this article. Instead, we’re focusing this article on top tips from designers on what to do once you’ve selected what treasures to keep, given away everything else and are ready to grab a paintbrush and transform their new space. This, says Kristine, is the fun part. 

“While downsizing can bring up a lot of emotions, both good and bad, personalizing a new senior living space is a very cathartic, forward-looking process,” she says. “It’s a little bit like the retirement process itself. Embrace this as an opportunity to create the lifestyle and living space you want, because this time of your life is all about you.”

Tip #1: Buy New Furniture That Fits

Most of us have special furniture pieces that have special meaning to us, and we want to bring them with us when we move to a retirement community. However, some people want to furnish their new space exclusively with furniture they already have, which can lead to an apartment or small home feeling cramped and oppressive. So instead of trying to make your space fit your furniture, go shopping for furniture that will fit your space instead. More and more Boomers are moving to smaller spaces, and furniture designers have stepped up to meet the need for more petite and versatile pieces. Begin by taking measurements of your new living space as well as of furniture you’re looking to buy. Be sure everything can fit while still making a room feel open and airy. Don’t forget the all-important “can it fit through my front door” measurements.

Tip #2: Soften Angles
Apartments and small homes are generally pretty boxy, which can make a space feel cold and sterile. Soften up the space by adding curves where appropriate. Look for rounded tables, curved couches and even round rugs to add some visual interest. Texture is another great way to warm up a space – consider potted plants (real or fake), patterned throws and pillows and attractive window dressings. 

Tip #3: Paint Walls White

Take advantage of natural light by painting your walls a shade of white. This makes the room look more spacious, and also brings the focus to what’s on the walls or around the room. You don’t have to be limited by plain white – look into ivories, subtle metallics, creamy wood tones and others that work well with your taste and style. You can even mix layers and textures to create a tone-on-tone pattern that’s both subtle and sophisticated. If your space doesn’t have a lot of natural light, choose a warmer color that’s still a light hue, such as a dark cream or a light gray. 

Tip #4: Take Advantage of Height

To make your windows (and thus, your room) appear taller and wider, hang curtain rods near the ceiling and choose floor-to-ceiling draperies. The window treatments you choose will help add to the illusion of space. Add height through vertical patterns, or brighten up the room with sheer white curtains.

Tip #5: (Place A) Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Mirrors do triple-duty in small spaces: they act as artwork and wall decor; they give you a place to check how you look and they reflect light to brighten up a room and make it look bigger. Choose a large mirror to make a statement, or position a mirror to reflect the light from the outdoors. 

Tip #6: Let There Be Light
Speaking of light, more is definitely better in small spaces. Multiple light sources, like sconces, table lamps and floor lamps, will open up a room much more than one single light in the center. To make the room appear even bigger, use vertical space to emphasize height. Pendants and track lighting will draw the eye upwards and keep the floor free and uncluttered. And of course, take advantage of natural light by making sure windows are clean and drapes can be thrown back to reveal as much of the window as possible. 

Tip #7: Make Corners Earn Their Keep
When your space is small, it’s important to use every square inch to its fullest potential. Create a reading nook in an otherwise-awkward corner with a comfy chair and a large plant. Install corner shelves to display photos and other treasures. Sectional sofas were invented for a reason: they maximize available space. This same philosophy can be applied in just about every corner of your apartment. 

Tip #8: Closet Your Organization
You read that right. Closets are the easiest and best way to maximize organization and space. There are many great systems currently on the market that help homeowners fit a lot of stuff in a fairly small space. While you’re making the most of your closet, take the time to go through your items and toss anything that's outdated, not the right size or you’re simply done with. 

Tip #9: Pick Out Double-Duty Furniture
You can never have too much storage space, and a great way to add some in is by buying items that have extra space already built in. For example, a bed with built-in drawers is a great place to store extra linens, blankets and pillows. A chest-style ottoman can store games, books and throws. Large and open shelving units can store your displayables while serving as an excellent room divider. Allow yourself to think creatively, and you’ll be amazed at the solutions you find. 

For more information about how to design and personalize a senior living space, please contact us at 781.235.1614.

Beautiful Riverfront Community

Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities. 

Celebrating Dynamic Living

Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.

Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors. 

Confidence of Care

The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone. 

For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.235.1614.