Moving is exciting at any stage of life and doing so at the age of 55 is no exception. Some of these buyers have spent their entire adult lives dreaming of buying a newly constructed home. Others are downsizing now that the kids are out of the house. Others are looking for active adult communities where they can spend more time doing the things they love and less time on home and yard maintenance.
No matter which category a 55 plus homebuyer falls within, one thing they all have in common is a need to furnish the home appropriately. This homebuyer bracket generally has more flexibility than other types of buyers. They typically have more disposable income than first time buyers and parents with young kids still in the house. They also have likely acquired a lot of furniture and home décor items in their lifetime, whether they have been handed down through generations or purchased for prior homes. All of this presents unique furnishing and decorating challenges for the 55+ homebuyer.
Challenges in Furnishing Your New Home
What Stays, What Goes
55+ buyers have a lot of life experiences – and a lot of life’s “stuff”. One of the biggest challenges in outfitting your retirement home is deciding what moves with you. It’s a challenge; on the one hand you’ve invested all this time and money into designing your brand-new dream home but, on the other hand, you’ve got decades worth of furnishings and home décor items that have stories and memories associated with them – even if they don’t quite fit the style you’re striving for in the new home. It’s totally natural to want new furniture for your new home, but that might mean getting rid of some of your current furnishings.
Not sure how to get started? Consider this advice from professional organizer, Christina Giaquinto. “Your possessions should have three purposes: function, aesthetic purpose, or sentimental value. Pick up each item in your home, and ask yourself, ‘Why do I have this item? What does this item do for me?”
Knick Knacks, Accessories, and Collections
If you are a collector, you’re going to want to display your collection in your new home – and that can present another type of challenge. Many people haven’t planned how their collection is displayed; it’s just been acquired over the years and pieces are set out here and there…wherever there is space. But when you’re moving into a new space, you have an opportunity to consolidate the collection. This benefits you by keeping the collection neat and organized, creating an interesting focal point in the room, and showcasing a bit of your personality – all huge pluses when moving into the blank canvas of a new home.
If you haven’t been displaying your collection together, now is the time to do it. China cabinets are a classic choice, but depending on the collection, you may opt for open shelving, a wall of artwork, or a themed room. If you want the collection visible throughout the house, break it down into the “rule of three” – select three items to arrange in a grouping and display them how you’d like, where you’d like.
This is a problem for people at every age and stage in life. At best, the room looks cramped and too busy; at worst, it can create fall or trip hazards. When you have so many pieces of furniture and décor coming with you, it can be a challenge to get it all set up right away, but you still resist doing so. Add a piece here and there and give yourself time to see how it fits in the room and if it’s in the right location. You’ll avoid overcrowding the room and get to know your new home better in the process.
We love this advice from Andrew Fisher, “We don’t believe in moving to a new place and replicating the one you left behind. Where’s the fun in that?”
New homes deserve a new look, one that complements the home’s design. So take your time decorating. This will help ensure you get the design just right and help prevent you from overcrowding the space at the same time.
Not Measuring Your Space
Another challenge all decorators face is getting the scale and spacing of the room right. Furniture that is too small can end up looking lost in the space, while overly large pieces can dominate a room to the exclusion of everything else. These mishaps can be avoided by measuring your space before you make any purchases. Many people focus on the square footage or the length and width of a room. Definitely measure your floor and wall space, but also measure your ceiling height. Knowing these three dimensions (length, width, and height) will help you design the room with appropriate scale and can even help you disguise a room’s true dimensions as explained by interior designer Todd Romano, “Create strong verticals and avoid the horizontal. I adore large mirrors because they add scale to a room. I also keep the furniture low-slung, so the rooms seem taller.”
Aim for a mix of heights to draw the eye to different areas of the room and pull it together. Don’t limit yourself to using only furniture to draw attention. Consider appropriately sized and placed artwork or wall hangings that can draw the eye upwards, while area rugs, side tables, and lamps of varying heights balance the lower section of the room.
Furnishing Your New Home is All About Balancing Past and Present
Furnishing a home later in life is a matter of balancing your past with your present and future. Buyers at this stage of life have likely accumulated pieces they can’t imagine living without, as well as pieces they are all too happy to say goodbye to. Our best advice is to start with what you love and get rid of the rest.
This is your time. Your new home is a dream that you’ve finally made come true – now it’s time to live that dream filled with furnishings that showcase your personality and meet your needs.
Sarah Kinbar is a writer and editor with a passion for design and images. She was the editor of Garden Design magazine, curating coverage of residential gardens around the globe. As the editor of American Photo, Kinbar worked with photographers of every genre to create a magazine that told the story of the photographer’s journey.
She has been writing about architecture, landscape design and new-home construction for NewHomeSource since 2012. During that time, she founded Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides content for website redesigns, blogs, inbound marketing campaigns and eNewsletters.