8 Ways to Transform Unused Space in Your Home

Get the most out of your home by redesigning forgotten spaces to meet needs you never considered.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |March 17, 2017, at 3:46 p.m.

8 Ways to Transform Unused Space in Your Home

Slideshow

Get in every nook and cranny.

Modern living room

(Getty Images)

Unless you’re already embracing the tiny house lifestyle and are down to 300 square feet, there’s a good chance you’re not utilizing your home to its full potential. Even in a small, one-bedroom apartment, dead space is common and finding the right design can be a head-scratcher. Whether it’s a forgotten-about spot under your stairs or a back bedroom you never furnished, there are ways to transform a space for a purpose you both need and want. Here’s what experts recommend to embrace unused space and get more out of your home.

Utilize underused rooms.

Utilize underused rooms.

Shot of a designer's home studio

(Getty Images)

You may have set it up as a guest bedroom, but when you only have guests every three months, that extra room could be used for much more. Think first about which hobbies or activities you’d like to dedicate more space to in your home, and don’t be afraid to have more fun with a spare room, as it doesn’t have to match the other living spaces. “I try to create a separate identity for the secondary rooms,” says Julia Chi, an interior designer with Interior Space by Steven G. and designer for Privé at Island Estates in South Florida.

Double up with a dual-purpose guest bedroom.

Double up with a dual-purpose guest bedroom.

Woman drinking coffee and reading paperwork at desk in sunny home office

(Getty Images)

The beauty of an extra room is the ability to give it multiple functions and design it to best suit your needs. “Hidden components really help solve a lot of those clutter issues that we deal with every day,” Chi says. She notes under-bed storage and wall-mounted fold-down desks make it easy to offer a bedroom for overnight guests, but then transform it into an office or hobby room whenever friends and family aren't visiting.

The backyard is her domain with a she shed.

The backyard is her domain with a she shed.

She Shed

(Olaf von Sperl)

That space for your home office and weekend hobby can easily be taken outside as well. Consider a she shed, an increasingly popular backyard answer to the man cave. Converted from an old storage shed that held the lawn mower and tools or custom built to serve as a backyard retreat, she sheds are hailed as a great way to maintain privacy while doing work or unwinding in the evenings. “It’s the idea of it being detached from the house,” says Erika Kotite, author of “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own.” Many she sheds are used as home offices, gardening sheds and art studios.

Making open spaces cohesive.

Making open spaces cohesive.

500 Waverly

(Millarc)

Back inside the home, you may find it trickier to bring underused corners and parts of an open floor plan into everyday use. The first step to tying everything together in an open space is to make it cohesive. Chi recommends making a smooth transition in an open floor plan with floors, cabinets and wall coverings that complement each other. “Those three elements flow very nicely together if they’re well thought out and they’re selected in the same color family,” Chi says.

Opening up more.

Opening up more.

A person is using a hammer to pull out nails from an old wattle and daub wall

(Getty Images)

In homes with a small footprint, determine which spaces are the least used, and consider knocking down some walls to transform the space for greater balance. Highlyann Krasnow, founder of The Design High based in New York City, says she comes across condos that have been “over-bathroomed,” especially for their relatively small size. “For entertaining it’s wonderful, but we find that sometimes those half-baths eat up space that could be used for living space,” Krasnow says. Closing off the plumbing and removing the walls for a half-bath could create valuable space in the living area, as would removing poorly placed closets or walls that make rooms too small when separated.

Relocating furniture.

Relocating furniture.

Dining table and chairs near staircase

(Getty Images)

Some underused parts of your home may seem like the wrong spot for that reading nook or sketching desk – or practically anything. Krasnow points to the area near the foyer of a home that often serves as dead space. Rather than trying to transform the whole foyer and nearby living area through renovation, she recommends moving the dining furniture there. It makes sense as a spot for entertaining guests and also frees up another part of your home for other needs, such as an expanded living room or workspace.

Making room for additional storage.

Making room for additional storage.

Profile view of wood stiarway in new home

(Getty Images)

Most people desire additional storage space in their home, but it can be challenging to utilize underused wall space in an attractive way. Krasnow recommends, when you can, creating built-in shelving or cabinets to help store smaller items such as extra toiletries, canned goods and spices that tend to clutter bathrooms and kitchens. “Even set back a small, shallow pantry on a Sheetrock wall in between studs. You can do that pretty easily, and it’s extra pantry storage – it’s shallow, but it’s good for kitchen stuff,” Krasnow says.

Pinpointing what's missing.

Pinpointing what's missing.

170 South

(Base3d)

The best way to transform any underused space is to identify what you’ve been missing until now. Maybe you tend to work from home at the kitchen counter, read on the couch but get distracted by the TV or have a comfortable chair from your grandmother you haven’t yet found a spot for in your home. By designing the space to serve as a solution to those issues, it’s far more likely to be used often. “I can’t tell you how many times I got those ‘I finally got to’ personal stories,” Kotite says of speaking with she shed owners while researching her book.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.


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