It’s easy to fill your home with items you cherish — family heirlooms, antiques you’ve collected, gifts you’ve received or memorabilia you’ve collected from your travels. However, it’s hard to have to part with some of those items after you make the decision to downsize.
For two local couples, downsizing was hard to do, but the right decision for them, and they couldn’t be happier.
“Downsizing is a difficult thing to do both physically and mentally,” Mary Ellen Saks said. “There are a lot of things you can’t take with you. A lot of things have sentimental value and if your children don’t want them, you’re forced to part with them.”
Mary Ellen and her husband, Gordon, are both New York natives who moved to Frankfort in 2005 to live in the Kentucky Bluegrass.
“One Sunday in the New York Times there was a spread on the Kentucky Bluegrass and the pictures were beautiful,” Mary Ellen said.
The Saks lived in London, England, in a cottage on the River Thames in the village of Bray in Berkshire for 16 years before moving to Miami in 2000, then Frankfort in 2005. Gordon worked as a publisher of fine art books.
“The idea of the company was to specialize in art from Eastern Europe and bring it to the west,” Gordon said.
The couple traveled all over Eastern Europe — Russia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic — meeting artists and engrossing themselves into the art scene.
“We’ve manufactured books all over the world,” Gordon said.
On their travels, the couple bought souvenirs that they filled their home with — large paintings from artists around the world, statues from Bulgaria, a chess set from India, an opium pipe from Hong Kong and other artifacts.
“Everything has a story behind it,” Mary Ellen said.
By the time they moved to Frankfort, they had plenty to fill the 3,000-square-foot home they bought on Big Eddy Road.
“I saw the house and fell in love with it,” Mary Ellen said. “It was my dream house. It was big with lots of space. We had a study and a lounge with bookcases.”
The home had three bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Gordon liked it because it was on the Kentucky River. “In London, we lived near a river,” he said.
The home served its purpose for the Sakses for 14 years before things started to go wrong, Gordon said.
“We had to start doing major upgrades and it was too much for us,” he said. “We were tired of paying a gardener, paying taxes and the maintenance.”
On Feb. 22, they officially sold the house and were ready to move into their new 700-square-foot condo at the Capital Plaza Hotel.
The condo has two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, kitchen and washer and dryer.
Each room is filled with art and artifacts that they just couldn’t part with when downsizing.
The second bedroom has a comfortable sofa with a large painting by Italian painter Antonio Saliola; bookshelves cover one of the walls, which holds just a portion of the couple’s collection.
“We gave away 700 books to the library,” Mary Ellen said.
The living room has paintings on every wall, including two illuminating paintings by artist Ivan Lackovic, from Zagreb, Croatia. Lackovic paints in a style where artists paint in reverse on the inside of the glass with a mirror behind them so they see image as they paint it, Gordon said.
On the floor is a 50-year-old large area rug from Iran. On a table sits a chess set from India.
The Saks enjoy their new home at the hotel, which comes with amenities. They receive light housekeeping twice a week, free access to the pool and exercise facilities. They also enjoy the community.
“There’s a group that meets at 5 p.m. every evening on the ninth floor,” Mary Ellen said. “They bring a glass of wine or a drink and they catch up on who did what that day.”
For 14 years, Mike Webb and Caroline Taylor Webb lived in a 2,000-square-foot home on Fourth Street, but after Caroline had heart surgery in 2014, the couple decided to start making the steps toward downsizing.
Their home had two stories with a basement.
“The washer and dryer was in the basement,” Caroline said. “I had to go up three flights of stairs a lot.”
They started sorting through their things and giving stuff away to family and friends, or donating it to the Franklin County Humane Society’s thrift store New Leash on Life.
“That was a process,” she said. “I had to let go of a lot of stuff I had held on to for no reason really. It was just baggage — too much stuff.”
A couple of years ago, the Webbs decided that they not only wanted to downsize but wanted to move to the country.
“We both love Peaks Mill,” Caroline said.
The Webbs’ friend David Thompson lives in Peaks Mill and offered to sell them a piece of his land on Stillhouse Hollow Road. In April 2018, the construction began on the 800-square-foot home that sits on a hill overlooking a valley with a creek below. By the following September, they were moved in.
“There are pretty views out of every window,” Caroline said.
The home sits on a quarter-acre and has a manageable yard. There is one bedroom with a walk-in closet, a living room, kitchen, laundry room and large bathroom. The Webbs recently enclosed a back porch with windows, which now serves as a guest bedroom and library.
Jeff Purvis served as the Webbs’ contractor. He put many special touches on the home.
“He put shiplap in here and he built a barn door to separate the living room and bedroom,” Caroline said. The bed in the master bedroom is built into the room and has drawers for storage underneath it.
The cabinets in the kitchen came from an old vacant farmhouse on the property that they stripped and painted.
The bathroom has beautiful tile work with a large walk-in shower that isn’t enclosed. The room is so big that water doesn’t get out of the shower area, Caroline said.
The house has high ceilings and crown molding.
Caroline said the size of the house is perfect for them and even accommodates visiting friends and family.
“This Christmas, my daughter and her husband and my three grandchildren, who are all grown, they all came with their significant others and it was fine,” Caroline said. “The weather was perfect. We could open the doors and sit on the porch.”
The Webbs couldn’t be any happier with their decision to downsize.
“This is where we want to be,” Caroline said. It’s been a positive change.”