Downsizing in Downtown Fort Worth

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Like many baby boomers with grown children, Jane and Jerry Miller desired liberation from the family home.

No more rattling around the 3,100-square-foot home in Tanglewood, remnants of a loving family life compacted into rooms, bulging from closets, filling the attic.

It was time to downsize.

"In Texas, it's all about land, and people thought we were nuts," Jane says of their transition to a 1,650-square-foot condo in The Tower downtown. "I loved New York, loved Chicago. My husband said, 'Jane, this is as close as you're ever going to get!' Our kids and grandkids live here in Fort Worth."

But downsizing wasn't a simple matter of packing and sorting. Jane and Jerry owned impressive collections of art and wine, many pieces of large heirloom furniture from Jane's family, and multiple sets of china, silver and crystal.

Ken Jorns, the Millers' longtime neighbor and interior designer with a résumé spanning 37 years in the industry, walked through the family home, asking both to indicate which pieces were "must have." With ingenuity and creativity, Jorns and the Millers created a warm and intimate space that incorporated all these pieces, yet left the light-filled condo feeling airy and bright.

They simply "borrowed" space to create recesses and room.

A buffet found a niche, borrowed from the master bedroom, in the living area; a stunning 8-by-8-foot Sheraton secretary that belonged to Jane's grandparents commands attention in the center hall, nestled into a recess created from the master closet's excess space.

"Most people see a hall as wasted space," Jane says. "Ken takes unused space and makes it workable. I use the desk for my Bible study. My iPad is here. I picture my mother and my grandmother sitting here writing letters. It's a real tender thing."

The secretary's top houses family photos and books, and the two lower cabinets have been imaginatively repurposed as wine refrigerators for Jerry's collection.

With two full baths in the two-bedroom condo already, Jorns suggested turning the powder room into a wet bar. The now open space off the living area visually increases the square footage. Jane's crystal is in the cupboards, an ice-maker keeps the glasses clinking, and an adjacent built-in electronics cabinet became an open wine rack.

In the guest room, Jorns pushed back a large closet to allow a prized 9-by-12-foot Oriental rug to grace the floor and the Millers' original marriage bed to lodge guests. He removed a closet in the den to house Jerry's desk, several bookshelves and a wall-mounted television.

In every space, Jorns installed halogen or par lamps so that the recesses are well-lighted.

California Closets customized the condo's remaining closets to the Millers' specifications, making the hall coat closet a china cupboard, the second hall closet a kitchen pantry and personalizing bedroom closets for clothes, coats, linens and grandchildren's toys.

"We use our china and crystal every day," Jane says. "My mother taught me that if you have things and you don't use them, what's the benefit? My grandkids love it when I get the goblets out for lemonade with little silver straws."

Jorns masterfully repurposed many of the Millers' "must have" items so they'd not only have sentimental value or beauty, but also purpose.

For instance, Jane's grandparents' ottoman became her "office" when Jorns added casters and created space for files under the cushion. A handy leather-topped game table became the living space's coffee table when it was cut down. It provides extra dining space, too, during gatherings.

To honor a son who passed away, Jorns repurposed several of his favorite possessions. A round end table's wooden top was removed and replaced with glass to serve as the den's coffee table. A vintage chair was reupholstered for the master bedroom. A console table was cut in half to fit into the guest room.

To maximize visual space and seating, Jorns avoided the oversized furniture popular today and instead used four streamlined, contemporary chairs in the living area. These chairs, placed around the coffee table for conversation, swivel to face the sweeping downtown views, the guests at the adjacent dining table or the cook preparing the meal in the open kitchen.

The kitchen, while small, contains all the necessities. Details like the wood-paneled refrigerator and under-counter trash receptacle keep the open living area attractive. Movable, low-voltage bulbs on monorails focus light where needed and can be dimmed or brightened, depending on natural light and time of day. The Millers added a custom, angled unit to the existing kitchen for more storage and countertop space. The thoughtful design features a counter lower than the rest of the granite counters to keep the view open from the center hall through the living space and out the windows overlooking Sundance Square.

For the same reason, the Millers opted for recessed lights rather than a chandelier over the dining table.

Glass shelves and frameless glass shower enclosures keep bathrooms feeling open and airy. Mirrors are a frequent motif, enlarging spaces and reflecting abundant natural light.

Downsizing to The Tower has been a good thing, the Millers say.

"Less is more," Jane says. "We can't buy more. We tell ourselves, if we do buy something, we have to take something out. There aren't many times when I don't love what I [already] have. Everything has meaning."

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