Create a library or hobby area with unused space

May 23, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: We have a rather large entry hall, but we almost never come in the front way because the garage is back by the kitchen door. I'm trying to think of ways to put that space to better use. Any suggestions?

A: Any space, anywhere in the home, is too precious to lie fallow.

Decide what may be missing in your home life. Do you need a photo gallery for family pictures? How about a hobby center, a place where you can keep all the accoutrements handy for your pastime?

Or -- my personal favorite in this video-dominated era - a library. An area to collect books and showoffs. Add a comfortable reading chair or two, plus a good lamp, and you've turned your unused pass-through into a real destination spot.

For inspiration, have a look at the pictured room. It, too, was once an under-used hallway, featureless except for that small, fixed nine-pane window. Now a grid of shallow bookshelves has been built wall to wall, repeating the "simple geometry of the window," according to Sarah Nettleton, author of "The Simple Home," which is jointly published by The American Institute of Architects and the Taunton Press.


A practicing architect and professor of architecture, Nettleton devotes her entire book to the pleasures of "simple geometry," uncluttered spaces and sustainable home design. Her prescription for simplicity includes six sensible steps:

1. Your home should have "just enough." As Nettleton points out, there's no need to heat, cool or clean extra spaces that never get used, such as that front hall in your home.

2. Rooms should serve multiple purposes. In your case, that could be hallway and library.

3. Living should be thrifty, both in economic and ecological terms.

4. You should choose a timeless decorating style, one that doesn't go out of fashion in 10 years with a need to be replaced.

5. Ditto for the design elements you choose. Opt for sustainable ingredients.

6. Refine the spaces you need and how they will be used - you really should expand the role your unused front hall can play in your home life.

Q: Want a real zebra-skin rug with a clear conscience?

A: Click on You'll find zebra, giraffe and lion skins as well as kudo, gemsbok and wildebeest horns from animals in South Africa's Kruger National Park. These items are made into benches, wing chairs and light fixtures.

Before you get up in arms, you need to know that all such products support African game parks. As the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) maintains, there has to be some direct economic justification to protecting the wildlife, or the natives of any area may view their local fauna as a threat to their crops, their living space and their livelihoods, rather than a marketable asset.

As a result of such revised thinking, decorators around the world can now have some of the most exotic and dramatic home decorations since the Raj, as displayed at the latest High Point Furniture Market. We're talking lampshades framed in porcupine needles (approximately $400) and well-tanned zebra-skin rugs for under $5,000.

Expensive? Yes, but as the spokeswoman for the Trophy Room Collection points out, tanning techniques vary widely. The best rugs come from Botswana, where, she says, they are tanned under the same governmental eye that watches over the health of the animal herds.

o Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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