A Designer’s Top Tips for Downsizing

When a client and designer co-evolve in taste and style, they can work together for decades on projects that define various periods of a client’s life, from starter homes to retirement spaces, and from large houses to smaller ones. More than 25 years after Suzanne Tucker of Suzanne Tucker / Tucker & Marks first helped design a large family home for a client, she was enlisted to assist the same client in downsizing to a smaller home. Tucker remodeled the interior architecture of the house in Pacific Heights, San Francisco, and consolidated the client’s collection of art and antiques, which included artworks by Wayne Thiebaud, John Register, and Henri Matisse.

Built circa 1908, the structure of the new home was decidedly traditional. Tucker opened up the layout and included antiques of different eras to create a sense of balance and energy. Read on to discover Tucker’s top tips for downsizing, and tour the home to see her advice in action.

Suzanne Tucker’s Top 3 Tips for Downsizing

– “Scale and proportion are key. A smaller house does not necessarily mean smaller furniture. Carefully consider how the dimensions relate to the overall proportions of a room and arrange your furniture both for balance and flow. When the balance is spot-on, the achieved harmony will translate across every style and all tastes – casual or formal, modern or traditional.”

– “A thoughtful edit is always a good frame of mind while focusing on a handful of items about which you feel strongly. Establish a focal point and build out your room from there. Definitely go for quality over quantity, buy the best you can afford, and don’t feel like you have to complete a new space all at once. Blank walls aren’t a bad thing!”

– “Most importantly, have fun, cast aside any ‘rules’ about color and styles and enjoy the creative process of putting your individual stamp on your own home.”

Below, Tucker shows how she downsized for her client in Pacific Heights.


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“A thoughtful edit is always a good frame of mind while focusing on a handful of items about which you feel strongly,” says Tucker. In the home, a colorful oil on canvas called Train Seat by John Register brings life to the living room. In front of the painting, the custom sofa designed by Tucker & Marks is upholstered in a cotton-blend fabric from Rogers & Goffigon with tape trim by Samuel & Sons. The blue-and-gold pillows decorating the sofa add a chic baroque note to the decor; the fabric is from Fortuny and the fan-edge trim, Samuel & Sons.

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These 18th-century, Italian etched-glass mirrors were originally sourced for a house that Tucker helped design in 1985 when she was working for Michael Taylor, the famed designed credited with establishing the “California Look” in modern design. She matched the mirror here with two Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinets from the later years of the Ming Dynasty (only one cabinet is visible here).

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Above the fireplace, an oil on canvas by Wayne Thiebaud titled Untitled (Hill Street) continues the themes of travel and transportation in the artworks. Eighteenth-century French wrought-iron andirons contribute a unique antique detail to the fireplace, itself an antique, as the limestone mantel comes from 17th-century France during the era of Louis XIII. Two armchairs custom designed by Tucker & Marks are upholstered in Groundworks fabric that complements the blue of the sofa’s pillows, and feature tape trim by Samuel & Sons. Between the chairs stands an antique Biedermeier burled wood table, constructed in around 1820. The Ironies shagreen coffee table in the center of the image provides texture, as the surprising gray-green hue also updates the neutral palette. Two final details complete the room: an antique Sultanabad carpet from West Persia by Ziegler & Co., woven around 1820, and custom silk curtains fabricated from Suzanne Tucker Home fabric and embroidered by Chelsea Textiles.

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“Scale and proportion are key,” says Tucker. From the living room, the dining room is visible, and its design adds depth the rest of the space. The walnut pedestal dining table was custom designed by Tucker & Marks and fabricated by Rose Tarlow Melrose House. Tucker and her team upholstered chairs originally designed by Michael Taylor, which Tucker had safe-guarded in her personal collection, in fabric from Cowtan & Tout, and they added a braid trim from George Spencer Designs. The South Persian Bakhtiari carpet, circa 1900, underpins the design. Over the table, the brutalist-style pendant light in an antiqued bronze finish was designed by Tom Greene for Feldman Lighting around 1970.

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Here the dining room and entryway connect. The drop-down walnut desk to the right dates to 1780.

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Pine cabinets and limestone counters create a natural, contemporary look in the kitchen. The holophane ceiling pendant light fixtures are from Ann Morris Inc., and the counter stools were sourced from the Wicker Works. Antiques, however, are still present: the English mochaware country jugs are from around 1880, as is the wooden dough bowl.

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Eclectic patterns interact with each other in the family room. The custom sofa, designed by Tucker & Marks, is upholstered in patterned velvet from Suzanne Tucker Home and includes cord trim by Samuel & Sons. The lounge chairs and coffee table were also custom designed by Tucker & Marks, and contribute to an energizing layout in the room: “Arrange your furniture both for balance and flow,” Tucker advises. The designers upholstered the chairs in Claremont’s linen printed damask Alessandro, with cord trim by Samuel & Sons and fringe by West Coast Trimmings Corporation.

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Matching shades of yellow freshen up the traditional master bedroom. Tucker & Marks custom-designed the headboard and gate-leg tables; the headboard was upholstered in linen from Rose Tarlow Melrose House — the curtains were sewn from the same fabric, with fan edge trim by Smith & Brighty— and features Chinese knot tufts by West Coast Trimmings Corporation. At the foot of the bed, the upholstered bench from Formations is covered in fabric from Chelsea Textiles with trim by Samuel & Sons. The coverlet is from Suzanne Tucker Home, while the early 20th-century area rug was woven in Persia.

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The custom wallpaper was handpainted in a Georgian style by Gracie, and the patina gives it the appearance of an 18th-century wallpaper.

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A chic shagreen dressing table mirror from Newel in New York adds polish to the master bath.

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The marble for the countertops and shower walls is Calacatta Caldia, and the mosaic border on the floor is from Waterworks.

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In the guest bedroom, the headboard was custom-designed by Tucker & Marks and upholstered in fabric from Clarence House. The wallcovering is a printed linen from Suzanne Tucker Home, and the coverlet is also from Suzanne Tucker Home. The bedside tables are from Charles Fradin.

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The second guest bedroom features bedding by Samuel Scheuer Linens, a gingham bedskirt from Chelsea Textiles, and swing-arm sconces from Circa Lighting.