Condo living minus the sacrifices
Posted in June's Kelowna Real Estate Blog on July 13, 2007
Most young couples sell smaller homes and move up to bigger spaces. It's older folks who usually sell their family home and downsize to a condominium after the kids have moved out, leaving more time to travel, dine out and enjoy the lock-and-leave lifestyle.
Ottawa interior decorator Lori Steeves, 32, and her husband Jonathan Hayward, 36, have rejected the expected. Between December 2003 and April 2006, the couple bought, renovated and sold two virtually identical three-bedroom bungalows. Rather than trade up to a larger single-family house, the reno-weary duo decided to ditch their lawn mower, purge loads of furniture and try their luck at condo living.
In April, the couple, who were married last summer in the backyard of their first home, moved into a 993-square-foot loft apartment.
"It gives us the flexibility to do more of what we like," says Steeves, an avid cyclist and skier who shares her husband's passion for globe-trotting adventure. "With a condo, there is so much less to do. We spend more time on our bikes and out walking," says Hayward.
That doesn't mean that moving from a spacious bungalow with a grassy backyard for their standard poodle Sam to a modest two-bedroom condo on the second floor of a low-rise building hasn't taken some adjustment.
"To make it work, you have to be smart," says Steeves, who held three separate garage sales to get rid of the couple's non-essential belongings. They even sold leftover building materials from past renovation projects, shelving, old doors and surplus furniture online at usedottawa.com.
"You really have to use every inch and have good organization skills," says Steeves, who owns Simply Home Decorating. Take the front hall closet, for example.
To make maximum use of the small space, the couple replaced the standard coat rod and shelf with a full bank of built-in wooden shelves to house Hayward's extensive collection of custom-made shoes, leather boots, sandals and sneakers.
Downsizing to a much smaller home also gave Steeves an opportunity to flex her creative design smarts, starting once again with the front hall closet.
To give the open-concept loft a more defined foyer, the New Brunswick native moved the closet to face the front door, creating a separation between the entrance and the dining room.
"I wanted to add some house elements to the layout," she says.
But she's quick to point out that living with less square footage doesn't mean having to choose small-scale furnishings.
To avoid cluttering or overcrowding a room, she insists you need fewer pieces, possibly with more streamlined profiles and multi-functional uses.
In the couple's lofty living room, where ceilings soar to 12 feet, she maximized the floor space by installing dark floating shelves on either side of the gas fireplace to display Hayward's vast collection of antique cameras.
Against one wall is a full-size black leather sofa. Under the window, two armless chairs are pushed together to create a comfortable loveseat and two leather footstools double as a coffee table
In the master bedroom, wall-mounted bedside tables replace conventional nightstands and built-in storage under the bed takes the place of bulky, wall-hugging dressers. Inspired by a chic boutique hotel in old Montreal, the room feels spacious, quiet and relaxed.
"Having less sitting on the floor makes the space feel bigger," says Steeves, whose favourite find for the room is a massive goose-feather globe she bought in Toronto.
In the short time they've owned their condo, both have learned the key to living large in a small space is making sure everything has its place.
"The No. 1 thing about condo living is you spend a lot less time looking for things. Everything has its place," says Hayward, who enjoys keeping watch over his new neighbourhood from the brick-red Adirondack chairs on their covered balcony. His neatnik wife couldn't agree more and insists moderation is paramount when downsizing to smaller living spaces.
"We carefully edited down our stuff that's meaningful to us. We can still have our collections -- just sparingly," she says.
Though lugging groceries up two flights of stairs is inconvenient and having no yard forces them to walk the dog at all hours, Steeves says condo living has been an easy transition.
"We like ease and efficiency, so this [condo] describes us perfectly. It's easy and efficient."
(prepared by Karen Turner/Vancouver Sun)
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