I’ve moved 3 times in the last 5 years in an effort to find the perfect-size house to be my forever home. But size is a moving target. Going from 6000 to 4500 to 2800 square feet was an adjustment.
Downsizing in itself is relative to where you’re moving from, what size family you still have coming and going, and a whole host of other factors. For me, it was about having enough space to not feel claustrophobic but not so big that I couldn’t handle the maintenance, taxes, and operating costs on my budget. Having room for my sometimes he lives here, and sometimes he doesn’t son, an office/studio as well as a comfortable room for guests, were must haves.
So the quest for my rightsized forever home began. With an open mind I looked at everything on the Atlanta market within my budget. The homes ranged from 1500 sq ft in town, to 3500 in suburban locales closer in but still outside the perimeter. Yes, I looked at 1500 sq ft. and NO that wasn’t going to work for me. My furniture was too big and I had way too much of it. Even after selling nearly everything I owned a space that small wasn’t feasible for my needs. Where would the Christmas tree go – or where would I store it for that matter? And don’t get me started on where to put my photo gear. I considered upscale in-town apartments where clusters of former suburban empty nesters transitioned while deciding their next move. But the rents were substantially more than my mortgage and nothing to show for it at the end of the lease. I still believe that real estate is a sound investment with good returns if done right.
I decided on a newly built home with an open floor plan about 2800 square feet in a lovely cluster style neighborhood. As luck would have it – it also happens to have a muscadine grape vineyard running through the middle of it. My new home is walkable to a charming, artsy, and diverse community full of shops, restaurants, cafe’s, concerts and a farmers market. It feels spacious and welcoming, elegant and charming and there is almost enough room for all my stuff that I haven’t quite been able to get rid of.
There were a few – starting with a master bedroom upstairs. You can still find smaller homes with a master on the main level, but I was short on time and in this neighborhood there wasn’t anything available in my budget. I have a 14 year old golden retriever who can’t climb stairs – and let’s face it once you have a master on the main, it’s hard to go back. Something else on my list of wants was plenty of easily accessible storage. My last house had walk up unfinished storage big enough to keep several rooms full of furniture and all the holiday decorations you could imagine. This one has a pull down ladder to the attic – not something I plan to use for storage. I love a big wrap around porch and a window over the kitchen sink. I didn’t get the kitchen window but there’s a double story veranda overlooking the mews courtyard. It’s perfect for morning coffee or cocktails in the evening. I prefer to sit on the upper level for the enchanting views.
To get the neighborhood, new construction, and a price I could live with there would be compromise. What exactly did I get? I got a heaping dose of reality. If you aren’t custom building, you aren’t going to get everything you want. Experience taught me that spec homes are full of compromises. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a beautiful home that ticks off 90% of your boxes. I had to rent a small storage unit for now until I figure out how to unload some of the stuff I probably don’t really need. Even though it doesn’t have that window over the kitchen sink, it’s a bright, light filled home with soaring ceilings that feels bigger than it is.
What I got was more than enough space to live in — space to entertain and cook — room for house guests and visitors as well as the occasional returning son for a night or two. I have a home I can easily afford, reasonable taxes and almost no maintenance. It’s new, it’s convenient, and it’s a beautiful, right-sized home.
I tweaked my space to make it work for me. There were built-in bookcases on both sides of the stacked stone fireplace. These would have collected clutter so I pulled them out and put up a trendy shiplap wall and industrial wall sconces to highlight some of my own photography.
I carried the shiplap through to my office, which is still a work in progress. I love my new white leather office chair… a little splurge after mine broke during the move. I used the wall space to feature my photos from a safari trip I took a few years ago. With the lack of storage I had to order new office furniture that’s still in transit. For now I have these plastic rolling bins to help keep me organized – yuck!
I designed the space with small, cozy vignettes like a place to sit by the fire on cool autumn mornings and read a book while sipping a hot cup of coffee or tea.
From this angle you can see that the open concept floor plan allows for interaction between the rooms and the spaces flow together nicely.
Having a spacious kitchen that doesn’t have pinch points at the oven, fridge or dishwasher was not on the compromise list. I love my big, open concept kitchen. I am right there with my guests when entertaining or cooking for family and friends.
Even though it’s galley style, it is super wide. My dog can lay around in here without me tripping over him. I replaced almost all of the lighting as soon as I moved in but that is something that can be changed at anytime.
Between the eat-in breakfast nook and the spacious island with counter height bar stools, 7 people can dine casually here for breakfast or lunch. I designed this space to feel like a mid-town bistro with images of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park and the mid-town skyline hanging on the wall.
In my last home I opted to not include a formal dining room. But since this was a spec home it was already there. Rather than fight the urge to ignore this room altogether, I dove right in and accepted it for what it is. It is now one of my favorite spaces in the house. I splurged on a table from Restoration Hardware, and got chairs and a crystal chandelier from Arhaus. I can’t wait for the holidays to have a family gathering in this cozy, but elegant dining room. An added bonus was the large butler’s pantry between the dining room and the kitchen. That was welcome storage for all my serving dishes and barware.
This room is filled with beautiful natural light from the covered front porch. It’s not very big but makes up for the size with high ceilings, tall windows, and elegant fixtures and furnishings. I love it!
My pantry and all my closets had limited wire shelving. Since storage is at a premium in this house, I had this custom pantry built. This is the empty version before I filled it to the gills! Now I have more than enough storage space and this will add value to my house if I ever decide to sell.
I had the master closet built out as well which more than doubled the hanging and storage space. It’s a his and hers but this is one is all for her! I don’t own a dresser so this nine drawer built-in was a practical use of the great space available.
Like the pantry, it’s not empty anymore… When I moved in there was one wire rack on both sides of the closet. Now I have four double racks, lots of shelves, and plenty of room for shoes, scarves and handbags.
Just 10 steps from my front door is a beautiful muscadine grape vineyard and walking trails. The community harvests the grapes when the time is right. In the early morning and evening hours the deer come wandering through to nibble on the vines. My sweet old dog gets giddy with excitement.
I think it must be getting close to harvest time – the sweet scent of the muscadine is filling the morning air. The area where the vines grow is under a permanent green space protection put in place by the developer so it can never be disturbed for future development.
The two story veranda on the front facade of my house allows for relaxing in the evening with views over the mews courtyard and the vineyard a few shorts steps away.
I’m pretty sure a porch swing would be a perfect fit in this space. I wasn’t expecting to have this much outdoor living space but I can picture hanging baskets of seasonal, colorful flowers and maybe even some outdoor curtains to soften the edges and provide some added privacy. There are endless options for making this space ideally suited for me.