The kids have flown the coup. Though seeing them go may be a both sad and proud moment as a parent, an empty nest is an opportunity to hit the refresh button.
“It’s a new start and [many empty nesters] want to have a fresh look,” said Marlaina Teich of Marlaina Teich Designs in Bellmore, who is decorating her own empty nest after her youngest son went off to college.
Turn your child’s room into a guest’s oasis, a sweet shoe closet for yourself or make little changes that will turn heads using Teich’s pro tips.
Go for it, ladies (and fashion-forward gents). Smaller rooms can be outfitted as a shoe closet, something Teich is working on in her own home. “There will be a seating area and a desk that will be used as a vanity,” Teich said. Ready-made bookshelves and clear shelves with drawers, which can be found at IKEA and the Container Store, are perfect for storing shoes. Hang hooks on the walls for scarves and purses. To create a fancy boutique vibe, put an ottoman in the center of the room for magazines or even coffee, tea and sweet treats to share during a ladies’ afternoon.
“You don’t want to alienate the kids. You still want them to come home sometimes,” Teich laughed. A guest room that doubles as a home office will allow the children to crash for a weekend while still serving a daily purpose. But it’s time to change up that hot pink wallpaper your daughter insisted on. Teich recommends making the room appealing to any guest by opting for neutral colors and keeping lines clean. Give the room a hotel feel with crisp, white linens, and use throw pillows that have a seasonal flair. Think soft pastels in the spring and red come the winter holidays.
A media room allows couples to watch TV together or separately (because who wants to watch the Jets underachieve for the third Sunday in a row?). Though typically thought of as a basement project, it doesn’t have to be. “You can take any size room and add a TV or go projector-style and turn it into a place to watch movies.” Absorb light with blackout curtains and neutral-colored walls. Textured treatments and wallpaper can add some interest. If the budget allows, soundproof walls. Places like Sights and Sounds in Seaford will work with a designer or contractor or allow customers to do it themselves.
Teich said that often, the empty nesters she works with are thinking about reselling down the road. A master bath can increase a home value by more than $100,000. “If you have a big room, a tub floating in the bathroom is gorgeous but if space is limited go for the shower.” Waterworks makes temperature-controlled showerheads, and people can even get heated floors for a little added luxury. Create a marble accent wall in the back of the shower. “It makes it a focal point…and adds opulence.” Teich recommends women spoil themselves a bit by adding a double vanity. “You need space for some pretty things. You’ve been so busy taking care of the kids, now it’s time to focus on yourself a little bit.”
For empty nesters who aren’t ready to completely revamp their homes—or footing college bills—small changes still feel fresh. Many people decorate in a traditional style when they have children, with tons of comfy furniture and window treatments, as it tends to be a timeless look. “A lot of people will [opt for] a modern style when the children leave.” This generally means lighter colors and cleaner lines.“Re-paint in a neutral, off-white tone and add colorful accents like pillows.” Swap heavy curtains for simple draping panels. New table lamps can also change the look of a place. Teich suggests a drum shade and opaque glass base. “Switch things out as you get more money, like a traditional coffee table for one with a rectangular shape and clean line.”
Keep the Memories
Even fresh starts call for a nod to the past. “I like to do a gallery wall of family photos through the years. It creates a story on a wall.” Teich recommends getting important photos professionally framed and matted so everything looks consistent, even if the photo sizes are different.