Downsize by Design 9

Area Couple Turns to Designer Leslie Tunney to Reinvent Their New Living Space in Ruxton

When longtime friend and fellow tennis player Megan Schuler asked seasoned interior designer Leslie Tunney to help with a new house, it was a perfect match.

With their three children now in adulthood, Megan and her husband decided to move from a large, sprawling home in Laurelford to a more manageable colonial cottage in the heart of Ruxton.

“We were looking for a smaller home than before, especially the outdoor yard area,” Megan says. “We also wanted a home small enough to have an intimate feel, but also large enough to be able to host and entertain guests on the first level.”

With these priorities in mind for downsizing, the Schulers found their perfect new home in the Towson neighborhood of Ruxton.

As an interior designer, Leslie has noticed that downsizing is no longer just for folks in the era of retirement or those moving to senior living communities. Rather, people in their 50s are now selling their large family homes in favor of smaller, more practical houses, and this trend means many middle-aged clients are turning to Leslie for help reinventing their new living spaces.

For the Schulers, this reinvention meant lots of coral pinks and ocean blues in their new home. Leslie found design inspiration in Megan’s own fashion style and the couple’s personality and preferences, including their penchant for vacationing on the seaside.

The home’s breezy color palette was a direct result of the clients’ personalities. Rather than going for trendy shades, “you pick a color that your client gravitates toward, what they wear, and what their family looks good in,” Leslie says.  

Megan is “crisp, fresh, classic and sparkly,” Leslie says of her friend and client. “And her house looks like that.”

The Schulers’ previous home in Laurelford had more of a traditional, formal feel to it, with lots of dark wood and oriental rugs. So this new house was a chance to craft Megan’s surroundings to better reflect her own personal style.

“She didn’t want the dark, traditional look that she had in her old house,” Leslie says. “We wanted to give this house a much lighter and airier feel.”

In addition to shifting the decor of their home, the Schulers were also faced with the practical components of downsizing—namely, paring down their collection of furniture.

“We were downsizing, so we could not bring all of our furniture with us because it simply would not fit,” Megan says. “Leslie was able to walk around the new house and then go back to the old house and figure out what would work.”

For Leslie, this process included not only identifying which of the pieces were the clients’ favorites but also discerning how each piece would function in the new home to ensure efficient and effective use of space.

Rather than having a standard, formal living room in the front of the house, Leslie worked with Megan to design a large, funky office space on the first floor because that was something that Megan said she wanted and needed. In this way, Leslie bucks tradition to make way for what the client really desires to get out of their space. 

“That’s the most important thing: How are you going to use the space?” Leslie says. “Megan had a lot of family antiques, beautiful antiques that she had collected along the way, and we had to pick and choose,” Leslie says.

One of the pieces that made the cut was the traditional, antique dining room table, which Megan insisted on keeping. Ultimately, Leslie defers to the client.

“It’s a joint venture,” she says.

Leslie advises new homeowners to live in their new home for at least six months before launching into the design process. This allows you to get to know how you use the space: Which doors to you use most? Do you often end up eating at the counter rather than in the formal dining room? Figuring out these habits before bringing in a designer gives both parties a better picture for how to best remodel the home.

For the Schulers, now entering their third year of living in their Ruxton home, this approach was a winning method.

“Every time we come home, we just breathe a sigh of joy at what we have here,” Megan says. “A simple, cozy, bright and happy home.”

With almost 30 years of design experience, Leslie Tunney is known for her crisp, clean lines and ability to simplify spaces down to their key functionalities. As an interior designer in the Baltimore area, Leslie works in two modes: staging homes for sale (a fast, practical process), and working long-term with clients, designing their homes to complement and reflect the client’s own personal style.