Five ways to rethink your underused rooms

Five ways to rethink your underused rooms

Most homeowners who have separate living and dining rooms rarely use them; Easter and Christmas are but two small sections of the year. Similarly, millions of square feet in utility rooms, hallways and even "spare" bedrooms go underused – space wasted most or all of the year.

There is a cure for the scourge of wasted space: rethinking your rooms. The fact that a room is called a dining room or a breakfast area does not mean that's the only function you can do there. Here are a few ideas for repurposing your underused spaces at home.

1. Turn a too-small bedroom into a separate dressing room, or extra bathroom

If you have a bedroom so tiny that it's barely usable as such, and only when the occasional guest comes to stay, consider getting a bed sofa and converting the little bedroom into an amazing separate dressing room. This could be easy to do by opening up the wall between the small room and the bedroom, inserted floor to ceiling wardrobe doors and then adding shoe racks, shelves, and rails at varying heights.

If you have a little more money to invest and could use an extra bathroom, a too-small bedroom makes for a good, efficient bathroom – especially if it's located next to another bathroom, so the plumbing already exists.

2. Turn a wide hallway or under-stairs space into study or storage areas

Even if every proper room in your home is spoken for and used, you might still be able to find underutilized areas and spaces in your home that you can arrange more efficiently and squeeze maximum use out of those square feet. Common culprits are wide hallways and spaces under the stairs, both of which make excellent spaces for custom built-in storage cabinets or desks.

3. Turn a dining room into an office or game room

Probably the number one room conversion I hear homeowners consider is the change of a formal dining room into an office. These days, many people work at home, at least part of the time, and running a household is a job of its own, generating papers, files and bills galore. Kids also need a study area for homework and school projects.

Now, with wifi and laptops, all these work and study activities can happen anywhere in a home. But many families find their best-case scenario is to have one room with well-arranged desks, lighting, seating, monitors and office supplies, where one or many family members can contain their work and study activities and clutter. This promotes balance and calm in the rest of the home and minimizes distractions to boost focus.

4. Turn a breakfast nook into a computer area

There's something sweet and romantic about the notion of a breakfast nook. But if you're fortunate enough to have a nook and an eat-in kitchen island or other casual dining area, you might find yourself using the nook more for organizing the family calendars and paying the bills than for eating. If this is how things go for you, it might make sense to lean on into what you're already using this space for and optimize it by bringing organization and storage solutions to the area to cut clutter and make even your bill paying a bit more enjoyable.

Consider installing a bulletin or chalk board, a table with a drawer in which you can stash your laptop and ensure you have drawer storage for your files, pens or other objects you need to handle the family business.

5. Turn a formal living room into library

Are you a book junkie? It's relatively harmless, as vices go, with one exception: It can be excessively space consuming. By this I mean, it can be excessively clutter-creating, if you don't get a handle on it. If you have a formal living or dining room that is simply not being used, consider lining the walls with bookshelves – bought or built in – and converting the space into a library. Comfortable, well-lit seating and a desk or writing area will finish the room off.

If books don't float your boat or you have switched entirely over to e-reading, this same model can be applied to any space-sucking collection that you spend more time enjoying than you spend in your formal living or dining room.

With thanks to Tara Nicholle-Nelson, Trulia for this article.

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