Smaller Is Spacious: Downsizing Into a New-Construction Home

Hand-drawn vector drawing of a Tiny House Downsizing Concept. Black-and-White sketch on a transparent background.

Downsizing for more space? How does that work? A smaller new-construction home can feel more spacious because of efficient and open-concept floor plans.

  • When Teris Pantazes and his wife Kate had their first child, they did exactly the opposite of what many couples in their situation want do: rather than move into a larger home, they bought a smaller one.

    The move made sense because the new, smaller home was newly built, which meant it came with numerous benefits that made it the right choice.

    The couple, who now have three daughters, moved from a 4,000-square-foot house built in the 1920s to a brand-new house with just 2,500 square feet, a sacrifice of 1,500 square feet. Both houses were in Baltimore, the older in the city proper, the newer near the outskirts of town.

    “The new home felt just as big because the useable space was what we needed,” Pantazes says.

    Pantazes says the brand-new house was more energy-efficient and its open floor plan made it feel more spacious than their previous home. Two rooms disappeared: a rarely used dining room and a home office that Pantazes, CEO and founder of EFynch.com, a website that connects homeowners and handymen in Maryland, says he didn’t need.

    “We sold our old stuff and used the money to purchase new,” Pantazes says. “It felt like a new beginning and going smaller meant using a more efficient space. With the right planning, our new place felt just as big.”

    Pantazes has three tips for buyers who are downsizing to a newly built home:

    • Cherry-pick a favorite piece to keep for each room.
    • Plan on purchasing new furniture.
    • Choose a decorating style that fits the new home.

    Expanded kitchen space

    Moving into a newly built home can make downsizing much easier because today’s homes are designed to meet homeowners’ current and contemporary needs.

    For example, many homeowners who are downsizing still intend to entertain friends and family and cook at home and they need plenty of space for their kitchen equipment and treasured serving pieces.

    A newly built home can accommodate these needs with a spacious kitchen even if the home’s overall footprint is smaller, says Jennifar Evans, director of design services at Edward R. James Homes, a homebuilder in Glenview, Ill.

    One option is to expand the kitchen into the breakfast area, use the kitchen island for casual dining and the formal dining room for company and special occasions.

    Another example is that some homeowners who are downsizing still want to display larger artwork that they own in their new home. Evans says a newly built home can accommodate this need as well. Even though newly built homes tend to have fewer walls, builders can incorporate art-hanging spaces and extend walls to accommodate larger pieces.

    Floor plans, lists and flex rooms

    Anna Gibson, owner of AKG Design Studio, a boutique kitchen and bath design and cabinetry sales company in Reston, Va., says homeowners who are downsizing into new construction should “start early and make a plan.”

    “Take a floor plan from the builder as soon as you can, so you can start to figure out which furniture will fit into the space,” Gibson says.

    She also advises buyers to make lists of furnishings and belongings either by room or by categories, such as “furniture,” “clothing” and “keepsakes.”

    “Go (through your home) room by room and check what you have and what you really need,” Gibson says. “Some things will be keepsakes and some just need to be trashed.”

    Two more tips from Gibson:

    • Ask your builder about flex rooms that can be used for multiple purposes. For example, a home office or yoga space might double as a guest bedroom.
    • Shop for multifunctional furniture and appliances. Examples include a convention/microwave/steam oven, sleeper sofa and coffee table with built-in storage.

    Charmain Wynter, a luxury home design expert in Southlake, Texas, also advises homeowners who are downsizing into new construction to focus on things that have multifunctional or sentimental value. She says a 3-D space plan can help buyers visualize how their furniture will fit into their newly built home.

    Friends become neighbors

    Given the many advantages of newly built homes, it’s no wonder that longtime friends sometimes buy downsized homes in the same new-home community.

    “Friends who’ve known each other since high school or who were in each other’s weddings end up living a block away from each other so they can walk over for dinner,” Evans says. “A handful of friends will move into the same community and they end up loving it.”
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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