Elegant, Practical Interior Design for Boomers

From this Philadelphia interior designer’s perspective, beauty, elegance and ideal function must go hand-in-hand no matter which lovely family I’m designing for – from a Princeton family with four kids under the age of nine, to the retiring executive in Bucks County who wants a smaller but just as lovely environment, to the New Hope couple who are building their luxury dream home. I must always marry high style, with your style, with high function.

Design by Interiors by Donna Hoffman
David Van Scott Photography

Today’s focus is the downsizing boomer…

I’ve been helping a fantastic couple downsize from a fairly large and elegantly appointed home to something that has about 4,500 less square feet – still large – but quite a change. My job is to make their new residence feel equally as spacious and elegant while adhering to the safety and design standards for Aging in Place. Here’s what was on our to-do list before move-in day, in order to update, refresh and make the home feel larger:

  • Renovate the kitchen, re-stain some cabinetry, build a new island, and open up a wall
  • Renovate the master bath: enlarge shower and create a more spacious feeling in the room
  • Re-stain floors on the first floor
  • Reuse every piece of existing furnishing we can while adding – due to color and size – new upholstery for the family room
  • Face lift for the powder room
  • Reset and add some windows to increase light and view

On the list after moving day:

  • Interior design for the master bedroom
  • Convert the living room to a his-and-hers study that also functions as a living room

With an eye toward Aging in Place, I have:

  • Maintained specific widths for traffic patterns in and around furnishings.
  • Specified one-handle, elegant faucets for ease of use
  • Was careful to light all environments well, increasing lighting in virtually the whole main floor and stairwell
  • Focused on extra safety in the Master Bath: we did do an uber elegant tile plan in natural stone, but the master bath now boasts a larger shower which includes a seat and a discreetly-placed grab bar. All floor stone was intentionally honed for good traction when wet

Rule Breakers or Benders

In design for Aging in Place, one designs with respect toward diminishing eyesight and balance. So here I did bend some rules, but I did so with the full knowledge of the clients who had asked for these things:

  • For Aging in Place, pattern on the floor can be challenging to our eyes, and thus balance, as we age. However, my clients fell in love with a striking area rug for the family room. I explained that it broke convention with design for aging in place, but they loved this rug and with good reason. They decided that if they need to replace or remove the rug in 16 years, they will.
Design by Interiors by Donna Hoffman
David Van Scott Photography
  • For Aging in Place, one does not work in monochromatic interiors, however this client was drawn to monochromatic interiors! (The issue with a limited color palette for Aging in Place is that it is more difficult to perceive depths and distances when colors are too closely related.) So, to indulge the client’s preference and “split the middle,” I created striking visual contrasts with deliberately darker floor color as well as banding some chair bases, and we selected some drapery that would really pop against the wall colors.

Design for Aging in Place that is spectacular looking is a delightful challenge. As I look at this elegant, refined home all I can think is: You’re not getting older – you’re getting better!