10 Decorating Tips for Downsizing Seniors


You want your home to feel cozy, but you don’t want it to feel cramped; you want it to feel clean, but not like a hospital. You want it to be open, but you also want your privacy. But most of all, you want your new place to feel like home. When you’ve been living in the same space for a long time, downsizing can be nerve wracking. The good news is that with some calculated decorating and organizing, you can make your new place feel like home, no matter the size. Only a few adjustments can make a small space feel a lot bigger.

1. Go Vertical

There are two great reasons to go vertical. The first is that it’s great for storage, and the second is that it can help to make your room look — and feel — much bigger. Much of the space up by the ceiling goes unused because the area is hard to reach and above eye-level, but if you have a small living area, you don’t want all that precious space to go to waste! Having enough room for storage is important, and tall furniture can help to give you this space. Invest in a tall bookshelf, wardrobe, china cabinet, breakfront, stacking bins, or shelving unit that reaches close to the ceiling.

Worrying about what you’ll put on the top shelf? There are plenty of options! The top shelf is a great place for storage. Anything that you don’t use very often can go there, making it the perfect place for family heirlooms and items with sentimental value. The top shelf of a breakfront with a glass door is the perfect place to store heavy items that you don’t use but love to look at. Need a different kind of storage? With the right containers and a reliable step stool, you can store almost anything. Find some boxes you enjoy looking at, fill them with your extra linens, and place them on the top shelf!

A reliable step stool and lightweight boxes can make reaching shelves a lot easier and a lot safer. If you’re thinking about storing frequently-used items in high places and are worried about falling, consider wearing a medical alert system like the Alert1 In-Home + Fall Detection Medical Alert which can automatically detect falls and call for help.1 When stowing away items that see little use, consider asking a friend or relative to assist.

2. Draw the Eye Upward

Going vertical will not only give you more usable space around your room, but make the room look bigger, too. We typically place art at eye level to make it easier to look at, but placing art higher on the walls will draw the eye upward and make the room feel tall. When placing wall art, consider arranging a few pieces up high. Pieces that drape or hang, such as macrame, tend to look good when placed high and help draw attention to the full height of the room. Having tall bookcases, or other furniture pieces that reach toward the ceiling, will also show the full height of the room and make the whole place feel much bigger.

3. Use Light Colors

According to My Move, “In the design world, it’s well known that light paint colors make a room look bigger and brighter.”2 Light colors and widows help to open up a room. Windows let in natural light, but light-colored walls will help reflect that light, making the room feel bright and open. While white walls are great because the neutral color will go with anything, if you’re looking for color, pastels also work great. If you have walls that are already a darker color and are in no position to change them, hanging or mounting mirrors on the walls will also help to reflect the light and brighten up the room. Mounting heavy mirrors can be dangerous, though. It’s best to have someone with you while you hang décor on the walls, but if you’re doing it yourself, having a medical alert will help to keep you safe. At Alert1, once a member sends an alert, our emergency response team stays on the line with them until help arrives, something that most companies do not do.3 With Alert1 by your side, you’ll never be alone.

4. Don’t Over-decorate

If you have light-colored walls, you don’t want to ruin the effect by covering them up. You want to keep that light and that sense of openness without making the room seem empty. Try to stagger decorations around the walls, leaving plenty of space between them to let the color of the wall shine through. Staggering around the decorations will also bring attention to all the different parts of the room, which helps it look roomier. While staggering your decorations, it’s important to keep things balanced. Each side of the wall should have a similar ratio of wall space to covered space.

5. Handmade Makes it Homey

Finding it difficult to decorate? Don’t know what to put on the walls? Nothing gives a homier feel than homemade art! Sentimental art from relatives and handmade creations from children and grandchildren can warm up a room. Even the messiest finger painting can look clean and neat in an elegant frame, and three-dimensional art can be hung in a shadow box. You can even hang your own creations or find local artists who need your support.

6. Stagger the Furniture

Just as you should stagger your decorations, you should also stagger the furniture in your room where possible. The main objective is to open up the room by showing off its full size. Sometimes a little bit of asymmetry can help with this. Let’s say that all of your furniture is lined up against the back wall, or that you have an entire wall that is lined with drawers. In these cases, the furniture blocks off your view of where the floor meets the wall, making the room seem smaller. Instead, try to stagger the furniture that’s around the walls. This will open up one side of the room at a time. Rather than making the room look big when you first walk in and then smaller as you go further, having some furniture closer up front will open up the space in the back of the room, showing off more of its full size. Just make sure that people can still comfortably walk into the room without bumping into anything.

7. Go with the Flow

Showing off the continuous, uninterrupted flow of the room is what makes it look bigger. When we stagger the furniture, we show the continuous flow of the room by showing off how big it is in different places. Conversely, when it comes to putting things in the middle of the room, it is best to have a continuous, straight flow. One thing that can make or break this flow is a rug. A soft rug can instantly make a room feel cosy. Large rugs can cover the entire floor of the room and prevent slipping. But sometimes small rugs can break up the flow of a room. Sometimes this is a good thing, as small rugs can draw attention to a certain area of the room. They can be used to differentiate certain areas, such as showing the boundaries of a sitting area if it connects to an eating area. However, sometimes a small rug can break up the flow of the room.

Similarly to how a horizontally-striped shirt can make someone look shorter, a small rug can make a room look smaller if it’s positioned in a way that interrupts the flow of the floor. One way to combat this is to use a large rug instead, one that covers the floor from end to end. In addition to being stylish, this is also a very comfortable choice. It’ll feel nice to have a rug under your feet, as well as making your room look bigger. Rugs can also prevent slipping. While hardwood and tiled floors can be a slip hazard, the edge of a rug can be a trip hazard, but wearing a medical alert pendant, like the Alert1 In-Home Classic Medical Alert, will help to keep you feeling safe in your new home, regardless of your floor design.4

8. Keep it Clean

While it’s extremely important to vacuum your rug and sweep your floors, this is more about organization. Clutter and chaos will interrupt the flow of your room that you worked so hard to achieve. Luckily, smaller spaces are usually easier to keep clean. The only drawback is a possible lack of storage which can lead to clutter, but storage bins and organizers can help.

9. Be Comfortable

Sometimes people think that if they put a tiny chair in the room that it will make the rest of the room look bigger, but if your tiny chair is also too small and uncomfortable to sit in, you’ll never use it. It’ll just be a waste of precious space. If you want a chair, get a comfortable chair. If space is a big issue, it’s better to find something that’s comfy that you will enjoy than something that’s painful that will go unused.

10. House Plants Add a Finishing Touch

According to Texas A&M, “Flowers and ornamental plants increase levels of positive energy and help people feel secure and relaxed.”5 House plants are good for our mental health, and the oxygen that they release is good for brain function, making them the perfect finishing touch to a happy and healthy living space.

According to Heritage Design Interiors Inc., “Many elements of interior design have been associated with improved mental health.”6 Your living space should be a safe-haven where you can feel comfortable, and hopefully with these tips, every inch of your new space, although smaller in size, will feel just like home.

Alert1 wishes you happy and healthy decorating!