Do you have a room in the house that really serves no purpose? Perhaps you use it as a glorified “junk” room, or it’s just an empty space with a forlorn piece of furniture or two. There are many things that can creatively turn this into a functional living space. Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area's leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for more than 48 years, offer the following suggestions.
Walk-in closet – Line your walls with shelves, clothes racks, and dressers or built-in cabinetry. Custom closet systems include shoe shelves, drawers, pullout tie and belt racks, and even velvet-lined jewelry organizers. Consider installing an island for extra storage and as a place to fold laundry or pack clothes. (Allow at least three feet of walking space around the island.) Don’t forget a three-sided mirror and a chair or benches. A built-in ironing board will save steps to the laundry room when an item needs pressing.
Hobby/Craft/Sewing/Gift Room – Hobbyists and crafters never seem to have enough space for their supplies. A dedicated room keeps everything organized. Line the walls with portable storage systems and utilize wall space for corkboards or pegboards to hold tools, patterns, and other items you want to access easily. Keep lesser-used materials in labeled storage containers. A sturdy project table, drawing board, or easel with a chair or two that is appropriate for the table height completes the space. When lighting a room that is used for hobbies or crafts, modify the central overhead lighting to make it less dim with halogen bulbs or fluorescent cloud lights, which are energy efficient and throws a bright, clean light without shadow. Track lights are an option, directing light to the specific area needed.
Reading Room – Curl up with a good book or a Kindle™ and enjoy the quiet of a room dedicated to reading. No television, just comfortable furniture, shelving for books, a nice reading light, and escape to the wonderful world of literature. If there is room, a sofa bed makes a good furniture choice not only for seating, put then can double as a guest bed if needed.
Office/Computer Center – Every home needs a designated place to hold mail, financial documents, product warranties, miscellaneous desk supplies, and phone chargers. Keep it neat and organized with horizontal or vertical file cabinets, a computer desk with shelving for a printer, fax, and scanner. Have an electrician check the wiring to see if it will support all you want to power, and add more outlets if needed. Sitting at the computer for any extended period calls for a good ergonomic chair and adequate task lighting. Shelves or any variety of containers can hold reference books, catalogs, and magazines.
Home Gym – Having your own personal gym means you are likely to use it more, especially if it’s only a few steps away from your own bedroom. Even a modest 10 x 10 area can accommodate about four pieces of equipment. A treadmill can be placed against a wall, but allow enough room for arm movement, about 12 inches. Shelving can store weights, towels, fitness magazines, sound system, or small television. If the budget allows, add sound insulation to accommodate early-morning workouts while other family members are sleeping. Otherwise, carpeting can help mute the sound, but include a mat for floor workouts. Make sure the carpets are vacuumed regularly and deep cleaned periodically because carpets can trap moisture and bacteria. The addition of an exhaust fan will help reduce odors.
Kids’ Playroom – Creating a playroom/toy center is a great way to eliminate clutter from kiddie bedrooms and the family room. Keep it light and bright with plenty of room to move around. Shelves should be shallow so children can reach and put things back easily. Make sure shelves or storage units are securely anchored. Flooring can be stain-resistant carpeting or softer material such as cork or bamboo. Colorful, interlocking floor mats add some fun, too. Track or eyeball lights will keep it bright and can be focused on a specific activity center. Beanbag chairs and floor pillows are perfect for the age group.
Home Theater/Television/Media Center -- What makes it easy to convert a bedroom into a home theater is that most bedrooms have one or two small windows, making it easy to block out light with heavy draperies or shades. Add a dimmer switch to control illumination. Furnish comfortably, but be sure to include surfaces for food and drink. If space is available, add a small portable bar, a mini fridge, and a microwave for convenience. Hanging a flat screen frees up floor space. Built-in shelving or storage can surround the screen for a finished look and to accommodate DVDs, speakers, and other electronics.
Meditation Room – Whether it is to practice yoga, or just a place to get away from it all, transforming a room with soothing paint colors and outfitting it with floor mats and floor pillows, an interior water fountain, candles, and soft music provides a serene atmosphere to start or end the day.
Guest Room – If you entertain out of town family or friends, turn this room into a retreat for them. Instead of a double bed, consider two twin beds for more versatility. Include a nightstand, lamp, clock-radio boudoir chair or chaise, and a bench to accommodate suitcases. A nice touch is to have some current reading material on the nightstand, and some personal amenities in a basket (mini sizes of soaps, shampoos, etc.). Your guests won’t want to leave!
Cigar Room – If there is an aficionado in the household who is tired of standing in the yard to smoke cigars, a spare room can be turned into a handsome retreat. Think of rich woods, soothing paint color, a leather chair and ottoman, perhaps even a mini entertainment center with a small flat screen, and built-in humidor. The most important aspect of a cigar room, no matter where in the house it is located, is to have its own ventilation unit to keep the cigar smoke from filtering to other areas of the home.
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