This Nashville Couple Showed Us How to Downsize in Style
As Michelle and Nick Spiva’s three boys left home and headed off to college, the Nashville couple knew they needed to start rethinking their space. And so the planning began. They took notes on everything they loved or regretted about the house they were currently in, like the wastefully expansive living room. “It took up about a third of the downstairs, and we only went in it maybe twice a year,” Michelle explains. They also wanted a screened porch. “I couldn’t add one at our old house, but screened porches have an easy and casual comfort that’s hard to replicate inside,” she says. After a few years, the list stacked up. “It wound up being about 10 typed pages of notes,” Michelle says. When the time came to build their new house, the Spivas turned to their list.
In addition to a smaller, simpler design, they wanted their home to blend seamlessly into the older neighborhood. They recruited architect Ron Farris to help build a new house that looks like it’s been on this street forever. Next, the couple called on interior designer Rachel Halvorson to create a design plan that played to the architecture and made it feel fresh and clean while incorporating some of their old furniture. Halvorson and Farris turned the Spivas’ wish list into a perfect home with lots of natural light, a zero-waste layout, and a dreamy porch. Read on for eight smart design ideas used by this downsizing duo.
Take A Peek Inside:
This Southern home is sure to impress!
Size It Just Right
“We wanted very clean lines, nothing ornate,” Michelle says. So Farris designed a home that stands at a story and a half with what he calls “very simple cottage character.” He reinforced that idea by using basic materials that call on vernacular style: a handlaid stone foundation, wood siding, and a cedar-shake roof. “Though there are much bigger houses around it, this home’s materials help keep it in character with the rest of the neighborhood,” Farris explains. Michelle wanted to have a white cottage, so they painted the exterior Benjamin Moore's Simply White (OC-117).
Make a Grand Welcome
The Spivas’ front door is about a foot wider than a typical one, a trick Farris says he loves to borrow from older homes. “This is not just an off-the-shelf door,” he says. “It’s larger, which entices people to come in.” It also helps expand the foyer. “How do you make a small entry hall feel bigger? Use a large door to get into it,” he says. A Bevelo lantern is centered over the door.
Once inside, visitors get an immediate sense of the home’s layout because they can see straight to the back. “I like to walk in the front door and be able to see through to the outside,” Farris says. Minimal decor and walls painted in White Dove by Benjamin Moore (OC-17) let the architecture in the entry take center stage.
Disguise the Newness
At the top of Michelle’s list was a sunny kitchen, so they skipped upper cabinets and installed an 11- by 6-foot steel-framed window, mixing it with other metals like the zinc light fixtures. “I wanted it to feel like they didn’t buy everything at once,” says Halvorson.
Halve Your Kitchen
Just off the main kitchen sits what the Spivas call their “dirty” kitchen, which (quite appropriately) is where they can hide dishes and unsightly countertop clutter behind salvaged sliding doors. When it comes to salvage, you might not find exactly what you're looking for. Michelle and Halvorson loved these doors, but wanted to be able to see from one room to the other, so the glass panes were added in.
Abundance of Storage
“Keeping the main kitchen entirely open is great, but it’s also tricky,” Halvorson says. “When the windows take up all of your storage space, you have to put it somewhere else. So we made this mini kitchen to house all the things no one wants to see, like small appliances.” It even includes a doggy door for the family pooch to coma and go through.
The Spivas entertain a lot and knew they needed a bar somewhere in the house. They found the perfect alcove in the living room. Michelle wanted a clean look without a bunch of bottles sitting on top, so she measured a liquor bottle and Havlorson had custom drawers made to accommodate the collection. No messy bar here.
Waste No Space
Michelle felt that having a single, comfortable family area was key. “I really wanted to make sure we had only one living room and that it also served as the home’s TV room, the sitting room—everything,” she says. “A TV room can look really nice if you hide the electronics.” Everything is hidden behind doors built into the light oak paneled wall. Slide open the large, windowed doors, and the living room quickly almost doubles in size as the space extends directly onto the expansive screened porch. One of Halvorson’s favorite pieces is the coffee table. She found an old Spanish door and had sleek iron legs made.
“Being outside creates a much more relaxed gathering space, which is how our family enjoys living,” Michelle says. To make this a year-round room, they took the porch to the next level with fans, heaters mounted in the ceiling, and a cozy stone fireplace. “During our first year in the house, we hosted my birthday dinner, which falls at the end of December, out here,” says Michelle. “Even in the peak heat of summer, guests take their coffee on the porch. I honestly think we use it 12 months of the year.”
Edit Your Furniture
“We wanted to keep the pieces that meant a lot to us and our families, but we didn’t want our new house to be overwhelmed with our old stuff,” says Michelle, who whittled down her furniture to about 10 meaningful antiques. “She wanted it to be light and fresh—not heavy,” Halvorson says. Here, the designer paired an antique dining table with new skirted chairs.
Michelle wanted a feminine, calm space for her home office. To Halvorson, feminine doesn’t have to mean frilly, floral ruffles. It can be achieved by choosing softer paint colors, adding simple draperies that soften the windows, and more organic lines mixed with straight lines. She also added layers with texture and small accessories, which softened the space even more.
Michelle knew she wouldn’t be able to use all her antiques in her home, but Halvorson had a creative solution for one piece. She suggested using the antique dresser as the vanity in the powder room. The top was removed and replaced with a sink. Halvorson says some people can be nervous about tearing up their antiques to turn into a sink, but this way you are using and seeing it everyday.
“I think so many master bedrooms today are too large, and they end up losing some of their warmth,” says Michelle. “I wanted ours to feel cozy.” To achieve that, the couple settled on a small space with direct access to a private porch. Michelle and Halvorson focused on using a warm, neutral palette to create a comfortable retreat. “Different materials—such as linen, velvet, mohair, and shearling—help give a neutral palette more interesting layers,” Halvorson says.
For a little extra space of their own, a porch was added off the master bedroom. Salvaged shutters open from the screened porch out to the private area outfitted with a daybed for reading and napping alfresco. Because it looks into the neighbors house, they opted for Bremuda shutters.
Space for the Boys
Michelle knew she would be hosting lots of boys from college when her kids came home. She wanted a space where they could hang out and crash at night. She also mentioned, hint hint, maybe future grandkids.