It’s that time of year! Many of you have just sent your kiddos off to college, which means you’re looking at a now-empty room and starting to think about how to repurpose it.
Please know that if you're newly empty nested and it’s all too fresh, don't worry about changing your house just yet (also, I’m sending you big hugs, my friend!). There’s no need to rush into getting rid of their bedroom. They’ll still be in and out for a while over breaks and holidays, and there’s a chance they may need to come back after graduation. Just file this post away to refer to later and enjoy this fun list right now instead.
If you’re not quite as new to your empty nest and you’re ready to make a change, I have loads of ideas for you on how to do that in the best possible way. While some of my clients have gone the route of a full-blown, whole home renovation and redesign to transform their empty nest, many like to tiptoe into the change of seasons in their lives by just repurposing the now-spare bedroom.
The hardest part of making this change is often deciding how you want to use the space. When working with a client, I walk through their entire home with them and ask them lots of questions about their lifestyle, habits, careers, hobbies, and their frustrations with their existing spaces.
Is there anything they’d like to be able to do in their home currently that they don’t have the space, the furnishings, or the equipment to do now? Importantly, I always ask how they want the new space to make them feel: Productive? Relaxed? Creative? Healthy? This question alone is extremely telling as to how they can use the space to get the most out of it in terms of their happiness and fulfillment.
1. Guest Room
Turning the spare room into a guest bedroom is something of an obvious choice but it makes sense for so many people–especially if you want to be able to accommodate visits from your almost-grown children without preserving their childhood room.
The basics of any good guest room apply here: A quality, comfortable bed with great bedding, a spot for hanging clothes and stashing a suitcase, a nightstand equipped with a reading lamp and a place to charge electronics, and a chair, stool, or bench for slipping on shoes. For even more tips on creating cozy, sanctuary-like bedroom and guest room spaces, check out this post.
2. Home office
A bedroom-sized space is perfect for a home office. It's big enough for the basics (a desk, a bit of storage for office supplies, and an armchair or two) and you can close the door for calls and focused work. Depending on where it's located in the home, you could swap the bedroom door for glass French doors to visually open up the space. As a bonus, if you don’t need the closet for office storage, you can repurpose it by opening it up to the adjacent room for extra square footage there.
3. Media room/hangout space
Even if you already have a space for watching television, it can be nice to create a second space if you and your partner sometimes like watching different shows. If the spare bedroom is near the kitchen, it can make for a perfect main hangout space since it’s so close to the heart of the home.
Since these spaces are usually smaller than the average living room or family room, they make the loveliest sitting rooms with an undeniably comfortable, cozy vibe.
4. Artist’s studio
This is a great option to do what makes you happy if you’re creative. As long as the space has good light, all you really need are easels and your art supplies. To make the absolute most of the space, however, I recommend creating a cozy, inviting sitting area where you can read, enjoy a cup of tea, or if you’re so inclined to share your sacred space, invite a friend in occasionally to visit.
5. Home gym/yoga studio
Especially since Covid, I encounter so many people who prefer to work out at home. A lot of homes don't have the space to lie down and stretch your arms out wide without having to move a coffee table so having a dedicated space for that is golden!
There’s so much you can do if you have an entire room to devote to your workout equipment (just make sure any weights won’t be too much for your flooring to support and that you won’t whack the light fixture with a jump rope or kettlebell! If yoga or meditation is more your thing, all you need is a mat, some cushions, and maybe a little incense or some sound bowls.
Like the artist’s studio, however, you can feel free to add an area for reading or sipping on a beverage. (for even more details on creating a home gym, check out this post).
6. Closet / Dressing Room
For one of my clients, the bedroom her child moved out of was adjacent to the primary bedroom so we opted to create a combination walk-in closet and dressing room. It was so lovely and such a nice space for someone who enjoys fashion.
It affords enough room to add an island in the center or leave the center space open with just an ottoman for putting on shoes. It’s a nice way to change up the functionality and flow of the primary suite
7. If you & your partner have conflicting preferences…
Merging two conflicting preferences for how to use the space doesn’t have to be a major issue.
By getting creative with layouts and multi-purpose furnishings, it’s more than achievable to make it a well-designed, multi-purpose space. In these kinds of situations, I love employing built-ins that look great while providing storage solutions for items like Murphy beds or desks that tuck away when not being used. It’s such a great solution when one partner wants, say, a guest room while the other wants a part-time work-from-home space. Another option is to bring in a comfortable sofa bed (American Leather has some great ones).
In one client’s home, I took two spare bedrooms and made one a guest bedroom and the other a combination second guest room/TV room. Although this client already has a large TV room, they spend a lot of time in the cozy secondary space, as well, so it works beautifully for them.
8. If the spare bedroom is adjacent to a bathroom…
A great way to utilize this space if it’s adjacent to a bathroom is to expand and remodel that bathroom (and maybe even get the freestanding tub you've been wanting!).
This is a significant remodel that involves not only knocking out walls but also changing plumbing and electricity so it’s not a cheap option, but it’s definitely worth it. Particularly if there’s an opportunity to expand a small-ish primary bathroom, I encourage you to consider it, as much as for how it will improve the way you experience starting and ending your days as for the potential positive impact on the value of your home.
9. If the spare bedroom is off a patio or outdoor space…
Natural light is hugely important for any space where you'll be spending large amounts of time. It can make such a difference in our moods, our focus, and even the quality of our sleep. For that reason, if your spare room is off a patio space, you could open up that wall with French doors to bring in more light and provide access to the outdoor area.
If more privacy is needed, you can add a wall planted with greenery so you have a sense of seclusion but still have a lovely outdoor view of nature. So much of what you do depends on your home and the environment around it. Get creative to make the space work ideally for you. Whatever you opt to do in your home once your kiddos have flown the coop, keep in mind this next season of life is about you and what makes you happy in your home.
Embrace it as an opportunity to renovate or repurpose that spare bedroom for something that will make you feel excited about living in your home again. If there's going to be any construction involved, definitely bring in a designer first before you start making any plans. That way, you can get a realistic sense of the investment and what's involved in the project before you start, in addition to setting a direction for the design that will allow you to achieve your goals.
If you’re an empty nester in or around Marin County or Napa Valley and you’re looking to repurpose that spare room or update your home for this new season of life, reach out to talk with me about your project!