A lot of us have that guest bedroom where stuff gets stashed – and forgotten.
It hasn’t been touched in years, but there it sits. And if someone does come here to sleep, where are we going to put all those boxes stacked on the bed?
It’s an all-too-common phenomenon interior designers deal with every day.
But with a few simple moves, a weekend of work and some discipline, you can transform the space into a workroom, family hangout or quiet getaway.
“Most people are just not that organized,” says Bobbie Cox, owner of Charlotte-based Dragonfly Design. “Some people don’t even know what they have in their spare bedrooms.”
Cox’s approach is to do a quick inventory with the homeowner. Cataloguing stuff helps prioritize what needs to stay, be sold or tossed.
She likes to work with consignment stores, selling items her clients decide they can part with to help buy new stuff they might be able to use.
Cox also does a lot with boxes and bins. On more than one occasion she has put a skirt on a table and slipped storage bins underneath to save space and hide all that clutter.
She and other designers around town also emphasize that the renovation of a spare bedroom doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Depending on what needs doing, a quality makeover can cost as little as $1,000 – even less if you’re willing to do the painting yourself.
People are choosing to make the most of the living space they have these days, says Ann Newton Spooner, owner of Ann Newton Spooner Interior Design.
In fact, she finds many homeowners are turning away from having their spare bedrooms double as home offices. Computer equipment has gotten smaller and more portable, for one thing.
And decluttering a home office frees up space that can be used more cleanly and efficiently. Spare bedrooms can double as kids’ playrooms, family rooms and, yes, a place for guests to sleep.
Another trend she’s seeing is spare bedroom as parlor. She has worked with clients, particularly women, who want a place of their own where they can sit in peace and read a book. Her theory: It’s a way to step back from electronic gadget overload. “The trend is a return to low-tech,” Spooner says. “Some people I know would sooner put their TV in the bathroom before they’d put it in their spare bedroom.”
It can take discipline to commit to a spare bedroom makeover, says Andrea Robinson, owner of Charlotte-based Andrea Robinson Interior Design.
“I deal with collectors of all kinds of things, and they do not want to get rid of a single thing,” Robinson says. “There is some psychology involved, and you have to go gently.”
But, Robinson says, once she helps the homeowner separate the wheat from the chaff and the room begins to take shape, most homeowners get into the rhythm of redesign.
And she practices what she preaches. Robinson has a spare bedroom in her own home that is used chiefly for that purpose. As a designer, she does from time to time need space to store objects that she will use in other people’s homes. But it’s always short term.
“There’s no TV and no stereo, but there are books,” Robinson says. “I try to keep it from becoming awash in extra stuff.”
Suzanne Hughes takes a slightly different tack. The spare room in her house is small. It’s long and narrow, 11 by 8 feet. Rather than use it for sleeping, it’s become her “Martha Stewart Room,” says Hughes, owner of Suzanne Hughes Interiors.
It’s where she keeps her materials for wrapping gifts on holidays and birthdays. It’s also where she keeps her other craft supplies. She uses storage bins to help keep her things from falling prey to entropy. The space is warm and inviting. The floor is painted a robin’s egg blue.
“It looks beautiful and organized,” Hughes says. “I live in an older neighborhood, and I can’t do a big addition. So I make the best use of available space.”