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Making the Most of Your Space: Top Tips for Designing Multipurpose Rooms

Space is at a premium at the shore, and sometimes a room will need to serve two or three purposes. Whether your dining room is also your office or your guest bedroom is also your gym, there’s an art to designing a multipurpose room that looks cohesive and organized and not schizophrenic and mishmash. Here are some tips to bring order to those Swiss Army knife rooms in your home.

Many Uses, Same Four Walls

Also called a flex room, a multipurpose or dual-purpose room is a simple way to get the most use out of all of your home’s space. These spaces are the perfect opportunity to combine hobbies and daily routines to carve out spaces that encourage both. The key consideration to planning a multipurpose room is determining what functions it needs to meet. Of course, larger rooms multitask easier than small spaces, but you can make most spaces work with the right organizational tools. First, think of what you want to use a room for, and determine if the space will fit the function. For example, it’s probably not practical to use a laundry room as your home office since the space is likely smaller and hot at times.
Converting spaces can be as simple as:

  • Adding a few low shelves to store toys to create a kids’ play area in your home office
  • Moving a desk hutch into the dining room to create a pop-up homework space
  • Arranging gym equipment in the guest bedroom to create a hybrid workout room
  • Creating a “man cave” or “she shed” area in the garage or basement

Tips for Using Garages, Basements, or Enclosed Porches

  • A garage or enclosed porch can be transformed into a multipurpose room. However, these indoor-outdoor areas may require extra electrical wiring or HVAC work to make them suitable all year.
  • To convert a basement into more usable flex space, install ceiling fans and air conditioners to provide healthy air circulation year-round. Air purifiers and space heaters also can improve comfort.
  • If the space has concrete flooring, which can be cold and unforgiving, consider installing level, moisture-resistant flooring. This can be as simple as an area rug or as substantial as tile, luxury vinyl, laminate, or carpet.

Read our recent articles for more ideas for designing a mudroom or laundry room or creating outdoor living spaces.

Tips for Using Interior Spaces and Guest Rooms

  • If the space allows, designate separate areas for different activities. Look at the shape of the room and consider how people will move through the space.
  • Consider how loud the room may get, especially if you’re designing a room that will partially serve as a playroom, gaming room, or music room.
  • Also, some areas of your home may be busier or noisier than others, which may make them difficult to repurpose into spaces that require quiet or privacy, like meditation or yoga areas. Look for areas with tucked-away corners with minimal foot traffic.
  • Start with the biggest wall in the room and plan out the spaces from there. If the room has a built-in architectural element or focal point, like a large window, built-in cabinetry, or a fireplace, incorporate those features into your design, too.
  • Start with the largest zone first and fit the smaller zones around it. For example, if you wanted a space where the family could watch TV, read, and play games, start with the seating area around the TV, then add a reading nook and game table on the periphery, using square footage that doesn’t make sense for the main zone.
  • Use rugs to mark off different areas and add a room divider if more privacy is needed.
  • Use ottoman cubes on casters to store things like blankets and games while also serving as a cocktail table, extra seating, or a footrest.
  • Install ceiling tiles and wall paneling to help dampen the sounds in a noisy room.

Tips for Combining a Guest Room and Home Office

  • Pairing a home office with a guest room is a simple solution. For a guest room, you just need to provide enough space for your guests to sleep comfortably and store their luggage, which requires a relatively small footprint.
  • Then, add a desk, some storage, and even a filing cabinet. Consider pieces that are on casters so if your guests need more space, you can roll filing cabinets or desks out of the space temporarily.
  • If your plans include adding a sleeper sofa or other convertible bed, consider adding extra comfort and privacy with a room divider. This can help create a quieter, less active space.
  • Another option is a Murphy bed, which allows you to fold the bed up into a recessed cabinet when not in use. Some Murphy bed systems have work-table surfaces built into the cabinet, which may be more convenient.
  • If your guest room has a standard inset closet, look for a computer desk that can fit in the closet.
  • Add shelving and bookcases in the closet for storing necessary office equipment and supplies.
  • If possible, add or move electrical outlets to the back wall of the closet.
  • Then, finish your workspace with a desk lamp or undercabinet lighting to ensure you have plenty of light to be productive.

Read our recent article for more ways to organize your home office.

Tips for Designing a Multipurpose Living Room

  • Use pocket, French, or sliding barn doors to section off parts of a larger room into smaller, multipurpose spaces.
  • To add a workspace to your living room, consider a secretary desk to create an all-in-one laptop and organization station that takes up less space. Another option is to add a traditional computer desk in a corner or along the wall to maximize the space.
  • To illuminate a workspace within a living room, try a desk lamp, which will direct light exactly where you need it instead of creating a glare on your television.
  • Some office organizers, like filing cabinets, are designed to fit under the desk. This allows you to keep important paperwork close by without sacrificing a lot of floor space.
  • Look for an office chair that glides under the desk to keep the space tidy when not in use.

Read our recent article for more information on creating an inviting living room.

Tips for a Combined Home Office and At-Home Gym

  • Make sure there’s enough space and a level floor to exercise safely.
  • Consider using durable luxury vinyl floor or hardwoods to ensure a level, sturdy surface on which to exercise.
  • Focus on minimizing the office furniture to what is comfortable and ergonomic for both options.
  • Look for office furniture that can multitask while taking up a smaller footprint. For example, a smaller desk surface and a rolling chair can leave more room for a yoga mat, treadmill, or weight rack.
  • Wall shelving and narrow accent cabinets can keep items stored safely and conveniently without taking up too much space.
  • As noted earlier, with the right organizer, closets can be used for keeping files and office supplies out of the way or can be used to store loose exercise equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands when not in use.

Tips for Creating Crafting or Gaming Spaces in Living Rooms

  • For a crafting space, you’ll need multitasking storage, a desk or table, and lighting that doesn’t interfere with the dimmed lighting requirements for watching TV.
  • The larger surface area of an executive desk or an office desk can be useful for measuring and assembling craft projects and can double-duty as a place to store tools like glue guns, beads, and paintbrushes.
  • Desk lamps and floor lamps are good ways to direct light where you need it. Additional track and rail lighting on the ceiling or wall can be used to pinpoint light further.
  • To add a gaming area, select furniture that integrates technology into the room, like tables or sectionals with USB ports and electrical outlets.
  • Choose accent cabinets that can hide controllers and remotes.
  • Wall shelving and bookcases can be used to store game cartridges, consoles, and DVDs. Add baskets, file boxes, or desk organizers to keep materials orderly and easy to find.

Read our recent article for more tips for choosing interior lighting.

Tips for Adding a Playroom or Learning Space

  • One of the quickest ways to create a play space in an established room is to add a sturdy bookshelf and equip it with storage bins or baskets for toys, books, and art supplies.
  • Consider buying a coffee table with a lift top that pops up to function as a desk.
  • Mark off the area with colorful, kid-friendly rugs.
  • Add a mini-fridge to keep juice boxes and snacks easy to reach.

The modern family not only lives in their homes but also often work, play, and entertain in them too. The key is to create dedicated, well-thought-out spaces for these activities to ensure spaces still look tidy and cohesive.


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