How to Downsize Your Home in Southern Style

Four ways to make a smaller space live large—and feel like you

Ginny Stimpson Fairhope, AL Garage Guesthouse Makeover Kitchen
Photo: Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

When helping homeowners who are desperate to declutter, celebrity organizer Marie Kondo often poses the question, "Does it spark joy?" But more than 100 years ago, British textile designer William Morris had advice of his own: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." And while we won't deny there's something magnetic about Kondo's brand of "life-changing magic," we love Morris's approach, especially since he gives us two ,more concrete categories to contend with when downsizing: "useful" means the plastic laundry hamper (which has never, not once inspired joy) makes the move; "beautiful" qualifies your uncle's collection of antique oyster plates to score a spot in your new, smaller pad. Here's how to forfeit square footage and shrink your stash without losing an ounce of your personal style.

Reimagine favorite furnishings.

Before downsizing, take inventory of pieces you've collected or inherited over the years, and thoughtfully choose the items that are most valuable to you. Once you've made these selections, consider how they could function differently or more efficiently in your new space. If you're attached to a burl wood sideboard that once belonged in a formal dining room you'll no longer have, for instance, consider repurposing it as a TV credenza in the living room instead.

Hand down pieces to loved ones.

Is there anything more Southern than an appreciation for family heirlooms? If you've always cherished your great-grandmother's 12-seat English mahogany dining table but now don't have room for it, consider gifting it to the grandson who's newly married or to the niece who just bought her first house. Passing down furniture to loved ones extends the life of your treasured pieces, plus it gives the recipients a little sliver of family history to enjoy.

Make a smaller footprint work well for your lifestyle.

Think carefully about your priorities in making a home work for you. If you love entertaining, consider transforming the nook behind the kitchen into a wet bar or butler's pantry suited for shaking up mint juleps or storing your extensive collection of silver. But if you don't give a hoot about dinner parties and prefer to spend your time in the garden, rework that same corner into a mudroom or workspace primed for storing muddy boots and arranging cut flowers. There's no rulebook that says your home must have X, Y, and Z rooms; how you utilize your square footage is entirely up to you.

Embrace the outdoors.

If there's one thing Southern homes do particularly well, it's fostering a connection between indoors and out. Downsizing is a perfect opportunity to get creative and extend your living space by treating outdoor areas like additional rooms. If you're living in an apartment or condo with a narrow balcony, plant some containers for a burst of color or add two bistro chairs and cocktail table for a happy-hour perch. If your smaller home still has an expansive backyard patio, invest in cushy outdoor furniture so you and your guests will have a comfortable place to settle in and chat.

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