Multifunctional rooms make efficient use of space

February 25, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUN /Copley News Service

Today's homes serve many functions. Not just a place to sleep and eat anymore, houses do double duty as gyms, home offices and entertainment centers. And whether you're a young professional in your first small apartment or a retired couple wanting to downsize and live a simpler lifestyle, getting the best use out of premium space is bound to be an issue.

A good resource is a little book called "Spaces for Living: How to Create Multifunctional Rooms for Today's Homes." The authors, Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell, share their design experience and provide some 300 full-color photographs that show stylish solutions for how to use every inch of available space.

Sometimes the way to be happier in your old home is to take a hard, realistic look at some drastic ways to revamp the space. By evaluating 19 real-life cases, the authors present hundreds of ideas for innovative room-planning, clever storage and dual-purpose furniture.


Consider the basic office in the photo shown here. This little desk zone was a tiny bathroom used by the previous tenant. By opening the area up, the new owners restored the light of a huge window to the landing. The desk is narrow enough to allow the chair to scoot under and out of the way of people running up and down the stairs. While the space is by no means adequate enough for a full-blown home office, it certainly would satisfy computer needs for many people.

Another possibility is to turn a mudroom and laundry area into a back entryway that might also be a craft room or office - just enough room to get projects done out of the way of others who live in the house. Perhaps building a slim bookcase, just the width of a book, positioned along the narrowest of corridors or around a door or under a window can allow for retaining some of a precious book collection.

The book contains ideas on how to carve out a little home office in the dining room or how to fashion discreet storage right in the middle of more public living space. For those with more abundant space, it offers ways to convert secondary bedrooms or bathrooms into "luxury" spaces - a fly-tying space for the avid fly-fisherman, a sewing room for the amateur quilter, an exercise area for an older relative who is working to reclaim muscle tone.

"Spaces for Living," published by Clarkson/Potter, features real houses and apartments that have been designed by both professionals and homeowners. It's an excellent place to begin carving out the niches you need in your small but multifunctional home.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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