The upside of downsizing in home design

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The idea of going smaller — or rightsizing — is the goal of many empty nesters, but it can be quite a challenge to make the spaces feel grand and ensure there is enough storage. Local designer Lauren Grabak happily took on the job for clients Karen and Tony Moreno in their new 1,200-square-foot condo.

Lauren had worked with the couple on their longtime family home but was surprised to get a call so soon after they sold that residence. “It was the home their kids had grown up in and she and Tony said they were going to take their time to find the right property and would just rent for a while. Karen was adamant that they were not going to rush into anything. Then two months later I got a call from Karen saying they had put an offer in on a place,” Lauren says. 

But for the Morenos it was almost perfect — right on the lake by the Winter Park scenic boat tour, easy walking distance to Park Avenue and a quick commute for Karen to get to her Bar Method studio — where Lauren had been a client and employee — in Winter Park Village. It just needed some work to make it the perfect fit.

According to Lauren, the ground-floor unit felt dark and dim prior to the remodel. Now, light hardwood floors from Britannia Flooring Studio and Benjamin Moore’s Vanilla Milkshake are the canvas for the family’s new and existing furnishings. “It was definitely an early 2000s design — a lot of gold and crown molding. It just felt very enclosed when you came in. There were such huge, bright windows though, so it really just needed to be tweaked,” she adds. Other than the flooring, it was mainly a cosmetic project. 

Making it streamlined and clean — think California modern coastal — without all the ornate features was key to the update. The Morenos’previous home was a more traditional Mediterranean. They brought their sectional to the condo, but everything else was brand new in the main living space.

The main living space with the wall of windows overlooking the lake is anchored by a large sectional and bathed in whites. The design came from a combination of Karen’s wishes and Lauren’s execution. “She is really good at understanding what look you want. And for this we went in a very different direction from our house. She asked me to send pictures of what I liked, and she created the room plans,” Karen says.

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