11 February 2023

Does downsizing have to be all flatpacks and baby furniture?

| Ian Bushnell
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Moving in is getting trickier as we move to smaller spaces. Photo: File.

We are thrilled to be moving into our new townhouse, but here’s a tip for new players – make the tape measure your friend and check the size of your front door, hallways and staircases.

Because the plans won’t show just how tight actually getting into your new home might be.

It’s an interesting process downsizing from a standard four-bedroom home to a multi-level two-bedroom townhouse, but we didn’t think that a more minimalist lifestyle would also mean moving in would be such a squeeze.

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The excitement of fitting out the place with our first new furnishings in decades has been dampened by the anxiety of whether they will actually get through the front door, or even around the corner from the garage access.

One delivery has already had to go back to the store until we figure out how to get it in and up the stairs. Maybe the door will have to come off, or maybe it will have to sit in the garage.

A new couch – what we thought was the perfect purchase – has had to be reordered, replaced by one where the back can be detached.

Our new slender fridge will just fit through the door and into the smaller kitchen recess but there is going to have to be a backup one in the garage.

Oh, and don’t forget the packing that will add vital millimetres to the products you have just spent thousands on.

We are starting to understand why Ikea is so popular – and it’s not just the meatballs.

Flatpacks can pass the squeeze test but we wonder what happens when it’s time to move out. Allen key anyone?

We knew things would be tight, but a 68cm gap when the front door is open – don’t forget the centimetres-robbing door handle and stopper – doesn’t leave much room for even the most miracle-working removalist to manoeuvre, especially when looking straight up at a staircase.

And it’s not just us. The round of the furniture stores confirm that all over Canberra new home buyers are losing deposits on furniture and appliances that just won’t fit through the door, or up the stairs or down a hall.

Delivery drivers will shake their heads but at least console you that you are not alone.

Your new neighbours will you tell the same tales. Even one in a three-bedroom has had to leave a freezer in the garage because it couldn’t make it through.

Designers do wonders with space in small homes, finding efficiencies that create roominess. We love our high ceilings and tall windows, and the light it allows in, but it doesn’t have to be the Tardis.

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It’s not as if we didn’t put the tape measure over everything, but it’s that killer front entry that’s put us on edge for future deliveries and the big move to come.

Does a smaller home also deserve such a tiny front door – two centimetres narrower than the Australian standard?

Some of the biggest and most reputable architecture firms in Canberra are behind many of the new developments, and they should put the same thought into the access as they do with the rest of the property.

Then there is the planning authority that approves developments. As more medium- to high-density housing is built across Canberra, it should be reviewing the rules to ensure easier and safer access.

For the sake of a few centimetres, it would save us all a lot of angst and not take the gloss off what should be such an exciting time in our lives.

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GrumpyGrandpa12:19 pm 16 Feb 23

We have friends with a 3-bedroom apartment that has the bedrooms on the 2nd floor.

Their staircase is narrow and very steep. How they manage to even carry a washing basket up the stairs, I don’t know? How they’ll manage those stairs in 10 years time, I don’t know? There is also no bathroom on the ground floor, meaning you are up and down the stairs many times during the day.

In my opinion, the design is dreadful.

As for being forced to store the freezer or spare fridge in the garage, a lot of complexes only have communal garaging, plus a small storage cage!

We looked at a single level
3-bedroom apartment a few years ago. In hindsight, we should have purchased it. It’s location was excellent and there weren’t the seemingly “obligatory” swimming pools, gyms and lifestyle luxuries that you rarely use, but pay for through higher body corporate fees.

What stopped us from buying it was the communal parking; I thought the risk of theft or vandalism in a communal garage was too high, plus it significantly restricted our ability to store things we couldn’t fit in the apartment; say, like a freezer or the spare fridge!
At least, access through doors was ok and there were no stairs to navigate.

I’ve been paying for the decision not to buy that apartment every day since! Happy wife, Happy Life. 🙂

HiddenDragon8:10 pm 13 Feb 23

Sounds like it might have been better to keep putting up with those naughty possums and leave the shrinkflation accommodation for the Barefoot in the Park demographic.

Tom Worthington4:41 pm 13 Feb 23

Modular furniture, & pidgeon pair fridges are the way to go. My sofa and chairs came in pieces. Three flat bits to sit on, separate plug in arms and backs, plus legs to screw on. Not only did this make it easy for delivery, but the components can be rearranged as needed, or turned into a sofa bed. A slim fridge was also easier for delivery: it was unwrapped in the street, a very large delivery person then placed a hand each side and carried it up. If you need more space, get a pigeon pair: a slim fridge, and a matching slim freezer.

Capital Retro5:05 pm 13 Feb 23

They don’t make a modular gurney.

Capital Retro7:23 am 13 Feb 23

Timely article with many retired and elderly people looking to downsize into something more manageable with a single level design and wide front door access to ambulance and care services.

It would appear that this demographic and their needs are invisible to the ACT government planners as nothing like what I have described is being built and those that are like described are about 20 years old.

The government appears to have outsourced our needs to the assisted care industry which isn’t ideal and it’s too expensive.

And how about a stamp duty concession, also?

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