Repurposing Your Unused Space

By Barbara Hobbs 

No matter how perfect a home, a family’s changing situation often requires new uses of space. Working from home, having more children or having children leave home, acquiring new hobbies, taking in elderly parents all bring a new perspective to the use of the house’s footage. Sometimes moving to a bigger home is not a viable option. Location, yard size, school district, not to mention cost are some of the factors that cause the homeowner to re-evaluate the space available in his or her current home. Repurposing your unused space is a major answer to this problem and can increase the home’s usability as well as resale value.


Unfinished areas are premium targets for additional rooms. Many homes have basements, 3rd-floor space or areas over a garage that have not been built out. These are great locations for additional living areas, kids’ hangout rooms, home theaters, extra bedrooms, or man (or woman) caves. Meritage Homes recognizes the importance of adaptable space to its homebuyers. “We offer unfinished attic space in many of our floorplans,” said Shannon Robinson, Marketing Manager. “These spaces can be finished out later as bedrooms, offices, or media rooms. However, it is cheaper for the homeowner to have basements and bonus areas at least partially completed at the time of construction, even though they may adapt them later to their needs.”


Repurposing existing floor space is the cheapest way to fill needs for a home office, a craft room, a media room, an additional bedroom or a workout room as it is the most likely space to not involve much if any construction. A dining room can be repurposed into an extension of the kitchen, taking down the wall separating the two rooms, adding an island or peninsula for storage and eating space, and coordinating the flooring in the dining space to accommodate a smaller eat-in area for family meals. Many families rarely use living rooms, and they are easy targets for repurposing. With the addition of storage and appropriate furnishings, they can become a home office, a specialized entertainment area for poker nights, bridge parties and family game night, or a library.

Working from home is growing more and more popular, and spreading supplies, paperwork, and your computer on the dining table is not ideal. Take the furniture out of the guest bedroom, add a desk, shelving and cabinetry to accommodate office needs, install a Murphy bed for the occasional guest, a comfy chair for reading or for seating for office visitors, a lamp, and appropriate artwork and, voilà!, you now have great work space but can still accommodate the infrequent guest. Murphy beds are a good option for these rooms and now come in many styles which contribute to the room’s décor when closed. You can even get one with a built-in desk that folds under the bed when it’s opened.


“Meritage Homes include bonus rooms in their homes as these are a deal breaker for homebuyers,” stated Robinson. “Families all seem to have a special use for the space and insist on finding homes that include it.” Bonus rooms offer a large amount of space for a play area for kids or a second family living area. When located over a garage, bonus rooms are more isolated and make good areas for teen hangouts, media rooms, music rooms, or a craft room. Loft area bonus space can be a play area, a retreat for homeowners, or exercise space, but are usually fairly open and have little privacy. Not a good location for a pool table! Also they do not usually contain closets, making storage a creative endeavor.

Flex rooms are multi-purpose areas, usually smaller than bonus rooms, located in various parts of the home. Small rooms off the master bedroom can be reading areas, workout space, offices or nurseries.


An unfinished basement offers the largest amount of usable footage for repurposing. Here you can gain much needed additional living space which could include a family room, another bedroom and bath, a workout space, a home theater, even living accommodations for in-laws. The cost of the remodel varies with the amount of work that a homeowner needs to have a contractor do and the amount the homeowner can do himself. A full remodel that includes plumbing, electrical and HVAC work can run an average of $64,000 according to Remodel Magazine.


All kinds of nooks and crannies can be found in a home. Space under the stairs can be transformed into a work area with desk and storage, an extension of the kitchen with granite counter space, a prep sink, and wine storage, or a mudroom with storage for shoes, coats and book bags.

The kitchen is full of spaces that can be modified to optimize. An existing pantry may double its usage with appropriate shelving, slide-out drawers, containers, even door storage shelf units. Small areas next to an appliance are sometimes large enough to contain roll-out shelving that could hold spices, canned goods, or cookbooks. Many laundry areas designed for side-by-side machines now contain unused space due to the prevalence of stackable washers and dryers. Add shelving or cabinetry in the area usually designated for the dryer to gain pantry space or storage for appliances.

Closets can be reconfigured to fit many needs. Clothes closets often only contain basic accommodation for clothing. New shelving, cabinetry and clothes rods can increase the storage ability by 50%. Just ask the Closet Factory. “Our consultants start by discussing our client’s needs and assessing their current situation,” says Sue Pail, CEO. “Then we go over the many options we have that will better meet those needs. If the master bedroom closet doesn’t provide enough space, repurpose an adjoining bedroom with additional shelving, drawers and hanging space. Include a bench seat for dressing and a floor length mirror.” Professional help and planning brings out new possibilities for any project with results that are stunning.

A closet can also become an office or homework space with wall-mounted shelves for supplies and a desk for a computer. Want a hide-away craft space? Fill the closet with cabinets or shelves designed to store craft supplies and add a drop-down desk for a work space. Is this a sewing room? Add shelving for fabric, a drop-down table for work space, and door storage units for sewing supplies. These options are great ideas for a room where you can close the doors and hide the mess.


In years past, the favorite room for a DIY project was to convert the garage into living space. Today’s transformations include customized cabinetry, wall organizers, equipment racks and slick floor treatments which can create the perfect man cave but also serve as a home gym or pool hall.


Repurposed space is a bonus to any homeowner, especially if they want to stay in a home where the memories of their family’s life linger, a home that may be in the perfect location or may have the perfect yard. New uses of space enrich the life of the family and add value to a home, especially when it involves adding footage. The cost of remodeling projects as compared to the purchase of a larger home is often a difficult decision, a fact depicted each week on HGTV’s Love It Or List It. If this is your “forever” home, look it over with new eyes. Get help if you need it for design or construction purposes. Then roll up your sleeves and start working!

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