Facing an empty nest can be daunting and emotional, but it’s also an opportunity. Newly vacated bedrooms offer fresh real estate to usher in changes and start a new phase of life—one that’s tailored to you, not the kids.
While it may be tempting to dive right into a renovation, Sandy Kozar, founder of the Decorating Den Kozar Design Team, recommends having a plan in place before converting rooms or splurging on bathroom renovations.
“Take your time,” says the Knoxville, Tennessee-based interior designer. “Consider what your lifestyle will be, and don’t rush into anything. Rather than just redoing a room for the sake of it, you want to consider what the lifestyle is that you want and what it could look like.”
From how to upgrade the dining room to the best way to organize keepsakes, here are five tips for empty nesters looking to refresh their homes.
Don’t downsize too much
It’s tempting to cut the clutter, but it’s a good idea to take stock of what you have and what you’ll need first. Heather Smith, the lead designer on The Shivers’ Design Team at Decorating Den in Missouri, says one of the most common mistakes she sees couples make after the kids move out is downsizing too much, too soon.
“Often people are so excited to start a new chapter, they don’t anticipate needing guest space or a nursery for grandchildren,” explains Smith. “Or they get rid of the formal dining room, and there is no place for anybody to go when the family comes over.”
She advises clients to analyze what space they might need for things like holiday gatherings. “It may only be a few times a year, but if you get together often, you’ll want more family space than you might think,” says Smith.
Rather than tossing out everything the kids left behind, organize childhood treasure and mementos in plastic bins. “Label and categorize each box before storing them, so when the kids have space, they can take them and know what’s in each container,” says Kozar.
Smith recommends one bin per child—and make sure it’s a watertight container. “A burst pipe can result in a lot of lost keepsakes,” she warns. Also, avoid storing physical items by turning photos and artwork into digital memory books. “It can allow you to gain a lot of space.”
Make extra bedrooms multipurpose
When faced with an empty bedroom, Kozar always asks this: “What is it you’ve always wanted to spend more time doing? Is it exercise? Working from home? Do you have hobbies?”
From there, your extra bedroom could become a painting studio, office, sewing room, or home gym—while still functioning as a part-time bedroom. Kozar recommends utilizing pieces like a sleeper sofa that can pull double-duty to make the room suitable for overnight guests as well. Built-in storage with a drop-down desk or Murphy bed is another great option for a multiuse room, as it adds a level of customization while creating flexibility.
Level up your entertaining
Entertaining takes on a different look and feel after the kids move out. Instead of teenagers crammed around a kitchen table, you might host a few friends for cocktails. Or you might trade the family-focused barbecue for a sit-down, four-course dinner.
Kozar often works with empty nesters who want to create a more sophisticated dining room that’s suitable for formal entertaining. “They can step it up a notch,” she says. “Add extra touches like more luxurious fabrics or a new rug.”
Take the room from family-friendly to five-star with high-end wallpaper, new artwork, or a handcrafted dining table. “Treat yourself to fine furniture or velvet chairs—things you don’t think about when the kids are growing up,” says Smith.
Splurge on upgrades
Replacing worn carpets with new hardwood floors is a common indulgence that Smith sees clients make. “Flooring is a great investment and can change the whole feel of the home now that you’ve started a new chapter in your life,” she says.
Upgrades to upholstered pieces in high-trafficked areas are also common. “When the kids are out of the house,” explains Smith, “clients feel comfortable investing in nicer pieces that they’ve always wanted but were hesitant to purchase, like an ivory-colored sofa.”
Consider converting an extra bedroom into a walk-in closet, renovating the kitchen if you love to cook, or creating a room for your favorite pastime. “One of the biggest treats empty nesters can give themselves is making dedicated space for a hobby they are excited about,” says Kozar.
5 Tips for Empty Nesters Looking for A Revamp by Jessica Dailey | House Beautiful