Lori Harden comes into people’s lives during an important moment of change. Harden, an interior designer for Pierce & Parker Interiors on St. Simons Island, helps retirement-aged couples through the process of downsizing from their houses into apartments in senior living communities such as Thrive and Marsh’s Edge.
The process is long, personal, and emotional, Harden says. “I want them to have a place that they love and enjoy coming home to every day,” she says.
The first meeting with these clients normally consists of walking through every room, Harden says, and allowing them to point out furniture, art, and other possessions they’d like to keep. “A lot of these people have traveled all over the world, and so they have things that have meaning that they want to keep with them, and they know that they can’t take everything,” Harden says.
She provides guidance on what to keep and what to sell, give away, or throw away. Harden then takes their favorite possessions and creates a new space for them in the retirement community. This space is often significantly smaller than the home from which the couples move — Harden says many cut their space in half — but by using their own furniture and their beloved items they’ve collected throughout their lives, it helps the transition. And for the furniture they are keeping, clients often freshen up upholstery or update fabrics to give their older pieces a modern look.
Once the couple has moved into their new home, Harden returns to help them with the finishing touches. “You make every bed, you hang every picture, and you put in every trinket that they want,” says Harden of her work on transitioning nearly a dozen clients so far. “You may have changed from one home to another, but the things that you’ve taken with you are still your things. That’s very important in making that transition and helping you stay secure.”
If clients do decide to purchase something new, Harden can locate new pieces, much of which is sold on the showroom floor at Pierce & Parker Interiors. “Here on the floor, we try to keep in mind that our primary customers are retirement age, and we try to do a really good job of having things that mix well with people’s older pieces, like antique pieces,” says Jessica Moore, an interior designer with Pierce & Parker. “Our clientele own a lot of beautiful antiques, and of course, they want to keep those. We want to have things that fit well in the same room with those pieces.”
Harden recommends devoting at least six months for planning a transition. This will give enough time to emotionally weigh the decisions so the clients feel comfortable with the end result, she says.
She spent six months working with Margie Dorsey and her husband. The couple had lived in Sea Palms for 23 years before they moved into Marsh’s Edge in October.
The Dorseys had traveled all over the world and collected photographs and souvenirs everywhere they went. Their spacious apartment in the senior living community is filled with pieces from these trips. “We’re happy here,” Dorsey says. “We worked with Lori, and she helped us make decisions about what we should keep.”
Dorsey advises others to be willing to part with unneeded possessions and don’t be afraid to seek out professional assistance. “Get rid of everything that you don’t want, and do it way before you want to move,” she recommends. “Clean out closets and drawers.”
Moore recommends any couple going through this transition allow Pierce & Parker Interiors to play a role in the process. “It’s all about relationship for Lori,” Moore says. “She really shines when she does this because she cares so deeply for these people, and I think that is the thing — that’s it not a job. It’s a relationship.”