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For Your Home: Manufacturers notice downsizing trend

Vicki Payne
The Charlotte Observer

Roughly 60 million Americans live in condominiums and apartments in U.S. cities.

Millennials, empty-nest baby boomers and people living alone are the three groups driving a boom in condominium sales.

Their reduced-size housing has created a thriving category for furniture manufacturers.

Décor-Rest introduced a Condo Living Collection in October at the fall furniture market in High Point. Each of the nine upholstered frames — in casual, classic and modern styles — ranges from 77 to 79 inches. That’s noticeably scaled down, compared to the average 85- to 89-inch sofa. The collection also includes nicely sized occasional and club chairs.

Style is, of course, an important matter for condo and apartment dwellers. In some cases I think they may be even more on the cutting edge of bravura. They are seeking furniture that better suits their new spaces without sacrificing fashion, quality and selection.

Traditional furniture manufacturers such as Heritage Home Group are embracing the demand with the introduction of a new Modern Club Chair. This chair is a fresh interpretation of a French closed-arm Bergere chair. The crisp, tailored upholstery sits on carved, tapered legs, giving it a slimmed-down, clean, modern look.

Coffee tables and end tables have undergone a size cutback as well. Many manufacturers are offering coffee tables in 24- to 28-inch widths, allowing for cozier conversation zones that better suit smaller living rooms.

Open floor plans are the trend in today’s condos, lofts and apartments. That has led to a demand for creative room dividers, open shelving and decorative storage solutions. Go Home Ltd. has a rolling bookcase that can double as a room divider as it provides storage and display space. At 79 inches, it can sit nicely behind a condo-size sofa and still allow visibility to the rest of the living space.

The biggest mistake empty-nesters make when right-sizing their living space is taking their furniture with them. Generally speaking, the furniture will be too large. To make the transition work, many ultimately trade their king-size bed for a queen bed in order to not overpower the new bedroom.

I know from experience that right-sizing can seem very daunting at first. It starts to become exciting the minute you focus on the reason you’re moving: to embrace a new lifestyle. Decorating with today’s exciting new products will help you quickly forget that old, overstuffed sofa.

When shopping for new furnishings, always pay attention to scale and size. Everything looks smaller in a big furniture store. Know your room measurements, too. Before you make a purchase, use newspapers to mark the footprint of the piece you are considering. Get the scale right and you’ll never be tripping over too large a coffee table again.

Just a side note: Make sure the furniture you are purchasing will fit into your elevator and into your new doorway. I once had to have a sofa cut in half when I furnished a client’s New York apartment. ($$$) Ouch!

Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at