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Small House Designs for Empty Nesters: Downsized Living for the Over 50s

Updated on March 22, 2020
viryabo profile image

Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

Small home plans and house designs are popularly sought after by empty nesters and retirees because they have attained an age where they no longer need to live in a large family house. The children are grown up and have moved away to start their own lives and the now unused rooms in the home have become more of a liability than a necessity.

What is the point of having more space than you need? What is the point of keeping up with the maintenance costs of a big house if all you use is only half of the space you’ve been accustomed to living in for over two decades or more?

This small home design is a suitable size for empty nesters. The house plan has three bedrooms, open living spaces, a two-car garage, and all other facilities we may require as we age.
This small home design is a suitable size for empty nesters. The house plan has three bedrooms, open living spaces, a two-car garage, and all other facilities we may require as we age.

There is a large population of baby boomers who appreciate the value of downsized living. Times are different, and they don’t want to hold on to more than they need. First, it is not cost-effective and secondly, living in a house that is half-empty can bring on a sense of loss and emptiness. So, what better time to build or buy a smaller house than now?

This is a good opportunity to start a new experience, like a new phase in life. It is like being liberated and is, therefore, a time to explore and rediscover life. It is a time to do the things once desired but never having the time or finances to enjoy because of the commitments of work and/or raising a family.

This is the time to resume a long-forgotten hobby, go back to school, learn a craft, travel, and move into your small dream home. The children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, playroom, and workroom are now redundant. You can do without those unused and underutilized space.

If you plan to build a new house like this small-sized one, your architect can design house plans that will accommodate what you truly desire.
If you plan to build a new house like this small-sized one, your architect can design house plans that will accommodate what you truly desire.

Look for Small Home Plans and Let Go of the Big Family House

Empty nesters can benefit off the investments they made in the course of their lives in building or buying the big family house. The big house can be sold off, most likely with a sizeable profit. With this disposable income, empty nesters can provide for a brighter future with a better lifestyle.

Small house designs large enough for two must be stylish, aesthetically pleasing, efficient, adaptable, and practical. The house plans must come with the following features:

  • Open plan spaces that flow seamlessly into each other
  • A medium sized elegant kitchen area
  • Entertainment areas (indoors and outdoors)
  • Leisure zone
  • Spacious ensuite master bedroom
  • Dressing room
  • Visitor’s Toilet
  • Good storage facilities
  • Work-from-home station, study, or craft room

Other favourites in house designs for empty nesters are:

  • Combined living and dining areas with an open kitchen
  • Vaulted ceilings
  • High ceilings
  • Fireplaces
  • Minimal walls
  • Interior ramps instead of short steps
  • Open kitchens
  • Sun porch, patio, or deck
  • Pool garden

Small home designs must be low-maintenance and energy efficient. Being smaller than what many empty nesters have been used to, practically all their lives doesn't mean giving up on luxury touches. The fact is, now that you are planning to live in a more compact residence, you can afford to splash out on a bit of luxury, more than you could ever have dreamed of.

If you plan to build a new house, your architect can design a small house plan that will accommodate what you truly desire. The interior layout must incorporate most, if not all of the features mentioned in the list above.

While most baby boomers’ favour the open plan arrangement of contemporary and modern home designs, some prefer to opt for traditional style home designs with their typical closed-concept.

Critical Design Challenges

There are critical design challenges that need to be addressed. Because they are middle-aged, empty nesters should consider living in a one-level house than a one-storey building. A house that has a staircase will require having to go up and down the stairs several times a day, something that is not advisable as one grows older.

Living in an apartment or condo is great because they have elevators to take you to higher flats. However, within the apartment, there must be no stairs. So, for those boomers planning to downsize, it’s best to build (or buy) a bungalow or at most a house with a split-level interior.

If, however, a one-storey building is the preferred choice, it is not a bad idea but the master bedroom and living areas must be on the ground floor and the second bedroom sited on the upper floor. This can serve as the guest suite.

It is good to remember that as we age, so do challenges set in for some of us. Age-related ailments, physical challenges, and disabilities demand that we keep all our indoor activities to one floor. And for access to the deck, patio, or pool garden, it must flow seamlessly from the inside to the exterior.

As we age, we love to laze in the sun, do some gardening, or generally potter around outside so it is best to ensure that the design of the house is planned in such a way that the walk leading to the outdoors is wide and clear with no more than a few steps down.

If a member of the house has physical challenges, it is good to have a ramp incorporated in the house plans for ease of movement indoors and outdoors.

© 2011 viryabo


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    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thanks Bracaza

    • bracaza profile image

      Benedict Racaza 

      7 years ago from Phils

      simple but cute

    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks masses Denise.

      Actually i'm an interior designer and work in the building industry, doing interior design works, renovations and restorations. I do some custom design furniture as well.

      I think i might catch up (hopefully by tomorrow), fingers and toes crossed :lol:

      Thank you for visiting and for your nice comments.


    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I love your hubs about homes and home designs. Is this your profession?

      Don't worry about the catchup, you'll do it. :)


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