carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver


Working with a floor plan and to-scale cutouts of your furniture is a good way to explore the possibilities.


A few years back, a co-worker moved from a little apartment and into the main floor of a nice big house in Richmond. When I showed up with the rest of the house-warming party, I noticed she hadn’t quite adjusted to all this space. The living room walls were largely bare, except for some tall, narrow bookshelves jammed with stuff. She was still living small.

“You know, you can spread out a bit here,” I said. “Enjoy some horizontal surfaces.” She seemed a little startled, like she’d only just noticed the columns of clutter in all the emptiness.

It’s a nice problem to have, and a rare one if you live in Vancouver. We’re more likely to be challenged by trying to find space in half the square-footage we’re used to. Recently, I helped a client figure out a way to do just that: downsize into a townhouse after raising her family in a roomy Westside house.

She was working with a floor plan and bits of paper representing her furniture, but was stumped at how to fit it all in. She didn’t like the idea of perching on one of two stools set up at the kitchen island for breakfast, but couldn’t see a space for a little breakfast table.

Meanwhile, the den in her new digs wouldn’t fit both a TV, armchair and sewing table, so she was trying to figure a way to wedge a sewing table into the dining room. She was preparing herself for the possibility she would have to part with her luxuriously large teak dining room set, buffet and wall unit.

She was used to watching TV in a small den and doing crafts in a second bedroom, rarely venturing into the living room. I soon convinced her to take that major living space over — it’s her very own townhouse, after all — and suggested she invest in a modern recliner that matches the sofa. This way, she would not only have a great spot for watching TV; she could leave the little den for craft work that could be left in progress.

As for her breakfast-place dilemma, I suggested she embrace the kitchen island (it’s a great spot for spreading out the morning paper or having a new neighbour in for coffee) but replace the stools with a couple high-backed upholstered counter-height chairs. She was delighted to find she would have a life after all.