What To Do With That Spare Room
One of the best design problems I have the pleasure of solving for clients isn’t helping them style accessories or choose paint colors or organize odd space…it’s been helping them decide what to do with their “extra” room.
Talk about a good problem to have.
Whether it’s because someone moved out or because they simply have a large home, whenever people find themselves having a room that hasn’t been assigned something specific, they find themselves defaulting to what’s expected of them — a home office if they’re an entrepreneur, a guest bedroom if they have lots of out of town family, or something else “common”.
I like to go deeper than these surface solutions because maybe you do need a guest room or an office, but maybe you don’t. Then what?
Here are 10 different rooms you can put that spare room to use in ways you’ll actually use:
Thank you beauty influencers!
Can you believe I’ve done two of these? And BOTH were conversions — a spare bedroom after a longtime roommate moved out and an unused “formal”dining room primed with natural lighting. In both instances, they were in desperate need of a space to tackle their craft, allowing them to reclaim their bathroom counters and bedroom dressers.
Is this you…?
You have a stash of beauty products that could easily rival any small retailer?
You’re constantly rearranging your room when friends (or clients) come to you for hair & make-up?
You create beauty content — from skin care routines to makeup tutorials — and you don’t have any where to actually film & create?
If you answered yes to one or all of these, then clear out that bonus room and convert it to your own beauty studio! This is your version of a home office, because you’ll still need surface area and storage. And as I said, now you can finally free up your bathroom and/or bedroom, really separating the different pieces of your life.
While you may have thought this to be fairly obvious, for some it isn’t. Some families like all the family activities to happen in their main living room, while others — maybe yours — would much rather keep all of the game nights, arts & crafts, and whatever else corralled in one dedicated room.
The family room, while it can totes be furnished & styled like a living room, will be serving a completely different function. You won’t be playing host or hostess here. Instead, this is where you’ll be spending quality time with the family. So some key differences in how you’ll approach the design may be:
using performance fabric on your upholstery so that they can handle all the family fun you have planned
curating the space with a more personal touch with family photos and/or sentimental decor pieces
using more pieces in the space, compared to your living room, to create a fun environment, such as an entertainment system, dry bar, or tons of extra storage
Like a family room, a game room or movie room is definitely more personal but this takes it a step further. If you’re a heavy gamer or a movie enthusiast, why take over your living room with all your fancy-schmancy entertainment gear when you can have a dedicated space just for that?
Totally create an entertainment experience by getting equipment and furnishings that says, “I came to play…literally!”
Here, you can go balls to the wall with everything from a pool table to 4 leather recliners, all to give your self your own at home billiard or movie theater.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that common need for a guest bedroom. Whether it’s for family or friends, if you host a lot of overnight guests, it would totally be in your interest — and theirs — to give them a space all their own.
Having a guest bedroom is a way better option then shuffling around furniture (and people) to accommodate your guests in other parts of your home.
Unlike your master bedroom or the other commonly used bedrooms if your own, this is the space where you’re designing with someone else in mind. This, in turn, will play into the choices you make — everything from your color palette to the actual furnishings.
This isn’t about you!
So where you may prefer a television in your room because you enjoy binging in bed, maybe you don’t want to make that type of investment in rooms only get seasonal usage. Or where in your room you prefer very minimal bedding, to make potential guests feel cozy and welcome, you splurge on a full bedding ensemble.
Other key differences will be:
having additional seating — be it a bench or accent chair — so that the room can feel a bit more like home
wardrobe accessories will be paramount, in addition to storage, so this means accounting for things like a luggage rack — I’m sure you don’t want their suitcase on your freshly placed linens
decor items will be less about personalization and more for comfort and general appreciation, whether it’s your in laws or old college roommates that’s visiting
Half Bathroom Addition
When you live with multiple people — especially when you live with multiple people — can you ever really have too many bathrooms?
I think not.
My very first bathroom project, which was also one of my earlier projects as a designer, was a bathroom conversion — turning a hallway closet into a half bathroom for the kids to share. I thought this was such a genius use of space, because while the closet was simply a dumping ground for clutter, there was a family of 4 struggling to share one bathroom. This conversion allowed the parents to have their bathroom and their two daughters to have their own.
While this is definitely a more costly option, from plumbing to fixtures, it may be one worth considering if it’ll improve your family’s quality of life.
One of my favorite conversions — and projects — to date was transforming a spare bedroom into a home gym. I was hired for a guest bedroom, but after our consultation I knew that this room would be so much better utilized as a gym.
This is someone who went to the gym regularly but, often because of work, would miss days — after a long day of work, the thought of then driving to the gym to work out & then drive back was painful. Not only did they not receive that many guests, there was a whole OTHER bedroom that could still be for company, making this a no brainer.
Now, regardless of the weather, the time, or any other factors, there was really no excuse for not making it to the gym.
If working out is a priority for you, why not invest in converting an unused room into your own little fitness oasis, furnished with all the things you need to satisfy your wellness needs.
Fact: I’ve only ever live one place that required me going outside to do laundry — and I didn’t live there long. LOL. From a very young age, I came to appreciate having a washer & dryer in my home, and as I got older, this became a necessity more than a luxury.
As a mom and wife, I find myself doing laundry VERY often, so I can’t imagine a life where I’d have to tote a cart up & down our third floor walk up to do so. This said — if possible, I am of the firm belief that everyone deserves an at home laundry situation.
As with a half bath conversion, imagine how much your day to day would improve if you were able to convert a room to your new laundry area. Another costly option, yes, but if it’s within your means to make this possible it’s an investment that you won’t regret.
If you’re a bibliophile, then this one’s definitely for you! The first way for you to use any spare corner of your home would most likely be to store and/or display your books, so if you have a whole room just unused in your home…I mean duh!
P.S. in case you’re wondering what a bibliophile is, it’s someone who really, really loves books.
And to that end if you have any other things that you love and collect, you can totally create your own museum/library for said things.
But back to the books…
In this age of audiobooks and podcasts, people still read books! Not too long ago, I got my daughter her first library card so believe you me, books are still a thing!
Creating your own library out of your spare room can be as simple of lining the walls with built-in shelving. Voila! Easy at-home access and reading for all your literary collectibles.
And should it be the case that your collection is of something other than books — vinyl records, artwork, etc. — the same design concept can be applied so long as you account for the best way to display the type of item you’re keeping in the space.
Maybe you work from home or maybe you just need a dedicated space for homework and bills. In either instance, if you find yourself constantly taking over the dining room table or living room floor to get work done, let’s stop that now.
If you have a spare room waiting for guests that only show twice a year, do yourself the favor of using this space as one for work instead. I don’t care how you define “work” but if you know you need a separate space to be productive, let this be it.
In this way, you’ll be vastly improving the feel & function of the rest of your home because that means so more shoving paper in a bit when it’s time for dinner or reaching under the sofa for that one really important document that got kicked under there last night. It means having a distraction free area and knowing that when work is done, you can close the door and walk away.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Yeah, Albie Knows.
This might just be one of my favorite ideas because, to be quite honest, between my husband and I, we can just never have too much closet space. From our clothes to our shoes to our accessories — he really loves hats! — we seem to always be right at the point of busting through our closet doors.
While we’ve always been fortunate to live in apartments with generously sized closets, I don’t know anyone that would turn down a walk-in closet should they have the means and space for it.
Maybe you’ll call it a dressing room or maybe it’ll be the bedroom right next your existing master bedroom that you connect with a new entry way. However you do it, whatever you call it, if you have a wardrobe that’s in desperate need of some breathing room, I am all for putting that spare room to new use.
What will you do with your bonus room?
In addition to the ten options I mentioned, there are so many additional ways to put an empty room to use:
Kids Playroom: keep all of their projects & toys contained to one area
Craft Space: finally try all those Pinterest DIY projects you’ve been saving
Gift Room: organize all of your gift-giving supplies, including gifts, for any occasion throughout the year
Storage Room: store all of your seasonal decor items for easy cataloging
There are so many options that we don’t think of because it’s not what’s expected but really, when you have a spare room in your home, there are a myriad of ways that you can ensure that room serves you. You can even combine some of the ideas, depending on the square footage and footprint of the room.
I hope I’ve given you some things to really consider, instead of going straight for the usual options. If you do need a place for guests, then for sure, you should make that spare room a guest bedroom, but if that isn’t the life you live, then I encourage you to challenge what’s expected and go for what makes sense to you.