Multiple Uses for Spare Room

By Christine Brun

January 20, 2016 5 min read

A spare room is a genuine treasure in a small home. No matter how tiny it may be, it is always better to have it than be starved for extra space. I like the idea of investing energy and resources into creating multiple uses for auxiliary spaces. There is no reason why the spare space cannot serve several purposes.

Often empty nesters with a three-bedroom home sleep in just one, and have two underutilized additional bedroom. Each person wants a private space which is understandable, but often these rooms deteriorate into unattractive "catch all" areas. Husband and wife have an office. One office also doubles as the guest room, but piles of bills or hobby items abound. Before you know it, you are embarrassed to have anyone even see your extra rooms.

One of the first rules of revamping any space is to force yourself to walk into the room and pretend as if you are seeing it for the first time. Notice everything from grime to chipped baseboards to a broken cord on the window treatment. A large part of fixing the problem relates first to purging. Organize, clean out and throw away things that are not necessary. My sister did this yesterday and brought over two books that she was supposed to pass onto me in 2013! Many people allow "stuff" to just pile up. This part of the process takes no money and just requires personal discipline.

After you make a list of what you want to change — room color, furnishings, lighting — and then start with the permanent and most sloppy improvements. For example, if you want to install French doors so that a user might access the backyard, that improvement would be the most disruptive. New flooring and any electrical alterations, along with a new paint job would follow afterwards. As I've noted many times, paint is one of the most inexpensive tools in a decorating repertoire that can deliver a substantial change in character.

A larger budget might allow for custom built-ins as shown. How appetizing would it be to create a family craft and hobby space to be shared with the common home office? In this instance the access to water allows for a sink and cabinets were constructed to specifically serve small children. Check to see if your laundry room might be made larger by removing a wall. Perhaps an old back porch or mudroom could be enlarged. Consider using a bathroom plumbing wall to easily introduce a sink into your spare room so that you too could enjoy a craft room while your children are small. If your kids share a bedroom, the third room might be a good candidate for such a multi-purpose area.

Such a room might expand its use by also having a trundle bed or a comfortably designed futon. A rare guest could also use a quality air mattress that compactly stows away in a closet. My favorite is the Frontgate Ez-Bed, but there are dozens of models for sale. Note that the way to make any air mattress more comfortable is to buy the memory foam toppers that turn a plastic air-filled mattress into a thick and dreamy surface. Never skimp on the quality of your guest bedding. Use some of the cabinet and closet space to houseguest amenities such as luggage racks, choice of head pillows, and thoughtful personal toiletries.

In some households an infant's room becomes the spare guest room and on those occasions the baby is moved into Mom and Dad's bedroom to sleep in a Pak n'Play. My home office doubles as our guest room and I regularly force myself to clean up stacks and piles. The second desk in the space is available for my guest's laptop. I offer robes and a luggage rack. During the day I slip upstairs and conduct my business without disturbing my guest's belongings.

Photo Credit: Master Brand Cabinets

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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