Design 101: Reclaimed Space

Have a child headed off to college? Do you have a spare room all of a sudden? This month’s column answers some of your questions about what to do when you find you have a little extra space.

Our son got a job and is moving out of state in the next few weeks. Do you have any ideas on what we should do with his room? Congratulations to you and your son, and yes, many ideas. We begin every project with the same question “What experience do you want to be able to have that you currently cannot”? The answer to that question helps guide all of our design decisions. With that in mind, here are a few popular options to consider: An office, a meditation room, an exercise room, more storage, or a guest bedroom.
Pro Tip: Room purposes need not be mutually exclusive, adding a daybed or sleeper sofa can make any room multipurpose.

Any other suggestions as to what we could use the room for? There are as many ideas as there are purposes of rooms. Sometimes our clients feel overwhelmed by choices, this is why we always want to consider first what the intent is. However, here are a few more options to consider: An art studio, an AirBnB, a library, or a game room.
Pro Tip: Dedicating a space to a specific activity helps us focus and get down to work when we enter that space, even if that “work” is relaxation.

What are your thoughts on knocking down a wall and enlarging our primary bedroom? If you are comfortable with the potential ramifications of eventually listing your house as having one less bedroom when you go to sell, then we certainly don’t have anything against it. It may be more work and expense than you think if it’s a load-bearing wall, but conceptually we don’t have an issue.
Pro Tip: An ensuite bathroom if you don’t already have one or a dressing room if you do, may help defray some of those potential resale losses as well.

Instead of taking down a wall, what if we cut a hole in it and covered it with a barn door?  The function of the wall, what it is made of, and what is inside of it will determine what options are realistically available to you. Either way this is when you will need a general contractor, or in some instances a structural engineer to take a look at it. Only covering an existing opening with a barn door should be undertaken independently.
Pro Tip: Barn doors offer both a poor seal from sound coming from another area of the house, and tend to bounce sound generated within the space. Sensitive ears be warned.

How should we store the items our son still has here? We like to use gasketed (water-tight) storage containers and stack them either in the basement or attic depending on the temperature sensitivity of the items they contain. We have dedicated shelves for specific family members, so that when they come to visit they can sort and store whatever they need without having to hunt for it or ask.
Pro Tip: Using clear plastic containers makes finding what you packed away much easier and cuts down on the need to update labels. 

Yaron Linett
About Yaron Linett 34 Articles
Yaron Linett is the principal designer of Formal Traditional, a full-service design firm located in Warrenton. To submit your interior design questions, drop him a note at or visit

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