According to recent data, the average American home has grown to over 2,000 square feet, costs over $200,000, has 3-4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen. In our minds we have our dream house. It has all the rooms we need and in the layout and style we want. The open floor plan or closed, two story, ranch walkout or contemporary split, we want it and dream that one day we’ll have it. The house will have a finished basement, media room, study, play room, craft corner, upstairs laundry, master suite, four season porch, finished attic, teen getaway, in-law apartment, mud room, man cave, wine room, heated garage, yoga room, greenhouse and so on. The list goes on and the dreams get bigger. Heck, after all of that, a simple separate guest room doesn’t sound so hard.
Taking these points and adding all of the rooms mentioned above, the dream house grows quickly to +5,000 square feet and costs $800,000 and upwards. That is a lofty ambition! If you live in a highly sought after metro area, double that $800,000. I’m here to discuss all of these enjoyable rooms and figure out how to get those functions into a manageable sized house and mortgage.
First, before anything, de-junk your house. Purge all unused items out of your space, it’s too expensive to fill with stuff you don’t use. Sell, donate, pass along, throw out, just make it leave. Clothes that don’t fit, rusty baking pans, old books, uncomfortable shoes, anything that doesn’t bring you joy or used daily is taking up expensive real estate in your home. Let it continue its journey and set yourself free! I recommend every season to get the stuff under control and from then on once a year to maintain the balance. (I will address storage in general in another month’s blog).
Now you’ve carved out some empty corners in your house, let’s figure out how to better utilize them. If you analyze the list of dream rooms, they can usually fall into three categories: noisy activity, quiet hobby, or functional service. Ignore the names of your house’s rooms and label them with one of the three categories instead. Next, make the room multi task. Take your dining room for example. With a kitchen table and a counter top with bar stools, do you really need a third place to eat occasionally or seasonally? “Oh but it’s pretty and elegant to have a formal dining room for holiday family dinners” you say. Meanwhile your lack of home office is taking over your bedroom, living room, and kitchen counter. Your papers are everywhere, you’ve lost your phone charger for the nth time and you can’t find your child’s permission slip for tomorrow’s field trip.
It’s not the formality that makes the meal, it’s the food you share with the company you keep and the conversation you have.
Turn your dining room into a work room. Throw a good padded tablecloth over your table, slide some pretty file boxes into your china hutch, slip you laptop into a drawer. Do whatever you need to do to make this unused space into working for you. Better yet, don’t create a formal dining room from the start, think daily functional needs. This room can be your office, homework station, craft corner, and library, then all tuck away at the holidays if you still “need” your fine china fix.
Some rooms do require a remodel such as adding a bathroom or moving the laundry upstairs. Those are a separate issue for another day. Let’s keep adding functions to existing rooms. Want a mud room? Add hooks, shelves, and a bench to a back hallway or in the garage. Make your family room the noisy, teen, game, media, man cave, home theater, music room. Your living room becomes the quiet, sewing, study, den. For upstairs, can your children share a room? Why not, you and your spouse do. BAM! Now you have a vacant room to become a guest, gym, and rec room. Don’t have a linen closet? Store towels in baskets hung on the wall and bedding in each bedroom’s closet. No basement? Go vertical in the garage. Use double beds instead of twins to increase room occupancy and tuck storage bins under all the them. Get rid of all the books, DVDs, and CDs . Wait- what did I say? These things take up tremendous space, most get used just a few times, waste resources and spend your money. Use the library, develop a swap meet with friends/family, buy an e-reader, download songs, use Netflix or Roku, keep your old worn favorites, just don’t accumulate any more new ones.
You have purged the clutter, reassigned rooms, and have started multi tasking some spaces. Niches and alcoves are carved out and hooks have been hung. Now let’s tackle the big dreams. We don’t need man caves, master suites, teen dens, and in-law apartments if we figure out why we’re trying to escape.
You didn’t start a family so you will all spend time in different rooms, doing your own activities. Bring back the ideas of sharing and family togetherness.
Alternate what’s playing on the tv, work together at the dining table, and bathe the kids while dad is shaving. The point is to share space and enjoy your home.
If and only if you have uncluttered your house, used every corner and are still bursting at the seams and tripping over one another should you consider construction. Its expensive, time consuming and most of the time a little flexibility can be used instead. However, there are always exceptions. For example, if screening in your porch is a life long dream then do it, but let it also blossom to a summer sleeping porch, play room, hobby space and garden shed. The point is to multi task spaces. Let the rooms evolve to multiple functions. Flexibility is simplicity. Formal decorated, one function rooms are for glossy magazines, yours are to live in and love.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
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