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'Try creating a second living space': 5 ideas to take your spare room from sad to sensational

If your spare room feels like a miscellaneous dumping ground, you’re not alone. But help is at hand, writes Aoife Valentine.

Image: Shutterstock

THE SECOND A room in your home is considered ‘spare’, you’re in the danger zone. Without a purpose, this spare room – often the small box room – can quickly become a dumping ground.

Need a place to throw that laundry? Box room. What about those old books you’re not sure what to do with? Sure put them in the box room until you figure it out. Those last few boxes you couldn’t bear to unpack when you moved in? They’ll still be in that box room in a decade, before you know where you are.

To avoid losing the space entirely to clutter, we asked interior designer Elaine Verdon from Leo + Cici for her advice on giving your box room a new lease of life.

1. Consider what your home really needs

Giving your space a function is a great way to make the space useful, but that only works if you spend some time reflecting on what you actually need.

“Think about what your house is lacking,” says Elaine. “Are you overcrowded in the downstairs space, and do you need to create a second living space upstairs? Or is it that 80 per cent of the time you need it to function as an office space but 20 per cent of the time, you need it to function as somewhere to sleep?

“Really think about what you need before you start laying it out. A spare bedroom that no guests ever stay in will probably still become a dumping ground, so it’s important to think about what you need.”

Create a sense of space in a home office by keeping furniture minimal, and raising storage off the ground Source: Shutterstock

2. Kill home office clutter by focusing on light and space

If working from home is your jam, a home office is a practical choice, but take into account how you’ll use it to really maximise the space. “It needs a comfortable desk, a comfortable chair, for starters. If it’s going to be used as an office, you’ll probably be using it a lot during he day, so you need to allow yourself to have lots of light,” says Elaine.

“You don’t need to focus on having big, heavy drapes, but maybe you can consider a roller blind or voile panels that will let some light in, and it won’t end up being a cramped workspace you never want to use.

“Keep the furniture to a minimum to allow yourself as much workspace as possible. Having shelving up above, off the floor, allows for storage but doesn’t box the room in. You don’t want to feel like you’re back in your teenage years studying in your bedroom,” she says.

Use a small side table and wall light to avoid a guest bedroom feeling very closed-in Source: Shutterstock

3. Make a guest bedroom that’s cosy – but works for the whole home too

If you often have people to stay, a guest bedroom that’s as considered as any other bedroom, rather than an afterthought, may keep you from dumping there. “If it is to be a guest bedroom, obviously the bed becomes the hero piece, because that’s the functionality of it. In a box room, don’t try and go too big with headboards, keep it simple enough.

“Add storage, and make it a multifunctional piece – choose a bed that has underbed storage for example. If you don’t have room for a chest of drawers or a bedside table, use a small side table piece and consider having a wall light, so you still have all of the functions but it doesn’t feel too cramped, so whoever is using it to sleep doesn’t feel like they are being boxed in,” says Elaine.

“Dark colours in a small room work really well to make it cosy, whether you choose blues or greens, or warmer, deeper pinks. I’m a big fan of wallpapering a small room, and you can go a little softer on the colour or print if you don’t want it to be too bold, or just do a feature wall, for example behind the bed.”

Try turning the spare room into a second living space that can also be a sleeping area Source: Shutterstock

4. Use your spare room as a getaway from open-plan

If your living space is all open plan, it can make for a beautiful room, but possibly leaves you short on space if you and whoever you live with want to do different things. “Now people are creating open plan spaces downstairs so much, they often don’t create that secondary living space elsewhere,” says Elaine. “Which you do sometimes need, especially for kids, or as the kids grow into teenagers.

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“You might want a space that’s a haven for them, so if you need to have a guest bedroom, but also have it be a space for relaxing when you don’t have guests, add in a day bed, so it has that couch feel during the day but then at night time it can be used as a bedroom.

“Day beds have come a long way from what they once were, and it means you can watch different TV shows, or your kids can have their friends over and have their own space.”

Customise your storage solutions to your exact needs to get the most out of them Source: Shutterstock

5. Need storage? Be smart and customise

If you don’t need your box room to be anything more than a dumping ground, but you want to have a better handle on what exactly is in there, then making it a clever storage space is ideal.

“It doesn’t have to be custom built if you can’t afford it,” says Elaine. “Instead you can go to somewhere like Ikea, which has multifunctional pieces so you can leave them open or have them closed in. So you can almost create that walk in wardrobe feel, even if you don’t have a massive budget. If you don’t want to do the whole built-in piece, you can choose cool rails or furniture that has boxes on top and rails on the bottom.

“There are lots of different ways to create storage, it’s just really about what it’s for – whether that’s clothing or bigger, bulkier items like suitcases. So figure that out and then pick furniture or storage around that, and make it easy to store your stuff away so you can access it and it’s not left in a heap.”

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Aoife Valentine

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