With visitors headed to town for Hanukkah, winter break or New Year’s, a little extra space is a blessing.
If your grown son or daughter has moved on leaving you with an underused room in your home, consider a quick redo. Using what Barb Friedman, owner of Oswego Design & Remodeling, calls flexible furnishings, a room can serve multiple uses.
“Even in newly constructed homes, we’re seeing smaller rooms with flexible uses, rather than one room dedicated to a sole activity,” Friedman said. “An extra bedroom can be a home office, craft room, exercise room or library that turns into a guest room with a Murphy bed or a desk bed – a drawerless, bed-size desk that flips over into a bed when needed.”
The first step in upscaling a bedroom for guest use is to de-personalize it. Box up the posters, stuffed animals and trophies and remove any furniture that screams “girl’s room” or “boy’s room.” Guest rooms should be gender-neutral.
Neutralize the wall color and carpeting. If the guest is likely to be a son or daughter and family, take into account their color preferences but use an almost-white version of the color they like.
If guests are rare, get a fold-away bed so the room can do double or triple duty. Otherwise, choose two twin beds and put a good-sized, rectangular table between them, with two small lamps. Add another table with a chair and mirror to serve as a vanity or desk, plenty of sturdy pillows for a reading backrest on the bed and a place to set a suitcase.
Niceties include an alarm clock (that doesn’t tick), reading material, tissues, water bottle, notepad, pens and pencils, and plenty of extra blankets (folks visiting the Northwest in winter often feel the damp weather as colder than those who are accustomed to it). A TV and channel guide are thoughtful additions, and fresh flowers say “I’m so glad you came!”
Remove any bedroom furniture or turn a single bed into a sofa by pushing it against a wall and adding lots of colorful pillows. Adding a sofa bed or a daybed equips the office to serve as a guest room, too.
Choose a desk big enough to accommodate your computer, printer and so on, as well as give you open space to work. Placement will depend on where the electrical outlets and phone jacks are. For the sake of your back, get an office chair; don’t be tempted to use just any old chair. You’ll also need bookshelves and a file cabinet, but you don’t need to think utilitarian here. Furniture-style cabinets and shelving will fit better with the rest of your home décor. Place them near the desk so you can reach your work easily. Install new shelving in the closet to store office supplies and hide clutter.
Rethink the lighting. A bedroom usually has a ceiling fixture smack in the middle of the room, but that’s not optimal for desk work. Use desk lamps, floor lamps and task lighting to optimize your workspace.
“Think about changing the flooring, too,” Friedman said. “A water-resistant floor is easy to clean, especially good for a craft room, and you can soften it with area rugs.”
Those huge entertainment armoires so popular a decade ago are up for grabs on Craigslist now that thin, wall-mounted TVs and smaller and smaller media components are available. That’s a welcome gift of space for turning a bedroom into a media room for two to four people. For a more elaborate home theater, you would need a room larger than most bedrooms, one located away from the other bedrooms because of the noise.
For a bedroom-turned-media room, figure out how to totally block out light (blackout curtains), dampen noise volume (carpeting or area rugs) and provide seating (recliners are great; some come with cupholders). A rectangular room is best, one with the fewest windows, closets and vents. Use the closet to store games, movies and music.
Install a dimmer switch so you can control light levels for different activities. Place the TV on a short wall for maximum depth of the seating area and line up the seating four across or two-by-two. Place seating a distance double the width of the TV screen, directly across from the screen. If you have space, add a small table for snacks.
Portland freelance writer Jan Behrs specializes in stories about remodeling, gardens and real estate. She moved to Oregon from Wisconsin in 1980. Her work appears in The Oregonian, Better Homes and Gardens and online.