When your child grows up and moves out of the house to attend college or start a new job, their vacant bedroom affords you the opportunity to create the room you always wished you had room for. But, as with most new ventures, there are advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of five alternate uses for your child’s former room, plus some tips to spark even more ideas for what to do with an old space.
Pros: A new home office can be a great help if your child’s departure coincides with a life change of your own. If you’re going back to work, switching careers, or beginning an at-home business after years of working inside an office building, claiming a disused room as your workspace is an ideal solution. And if you’re already working at home, but in a cramped, improvised home office (say, a corner of the kitchen table), take this as an invitation to expand.
Cons: Home offices are touted as a must-have these days, but as with “man caves” and other real estate trends, there’s no need to create one just because you suddenly have some spare square feet. Plus – and this goes for every option here aside from the guest room – unless your home has another comfortable space for overnight guests, your kids may see the transformation of their bedroom as a hint that they’re not welcome back.
Tip: If you’d like an office but don’t think you have enough space, consider going paperless and eliminating the need for bulky file cabinets and overflowing in- and out-boxes.
2. Guest Room
Pros: The obvious benefit here is that you can create a welcoming space for overnight guests, while keeping some of your kid’s furniture and belongings in place. That means less work for you, more time with out-of-town friends and family, and an obvious place for your kids to stay on weekends and holidays.
Cons: The guest room’s strength is also its weakness, especially if you don’t want frequent or long-term visitors. If you tend to attract uninvited guests or those who want to use your place as a free hotel, setting aside an extra room for them could exacerbate the problem. On the other hand, if people rarely come to stay with you, or if you already have another space that works well enough for overnight visitors, a dedicated guest room could be a waste of a useful space.
Tip: You probably don’t need to change much – unless your kid’s room has bunk beds and beanbag chairs – but if the room’s décor was chosen by your child when they were teen-aged or younger, update the bedding and color scheme with more neutral, grown-up shades. Other quick ways to mature a room include swapping a basic folding chair for a more classic style and replacing posters with framed art.
3. Storage Room
Pros: In a house with no basement, attic or garage, assigning a room – or part of one – as a storage space can open up other areas and eliminate the expense of renting a storage unit.
Cons: Devoting a whole room to storage can be a license to buy or hang on to more stuff, which is especially dangerous if you shop for entertainment or tend to hoard items.
Tip: Use attractive, matching storage boxes in white or a pretty pattern instead of plain cardboard boxes, clear plastic tubs, or unsightly plastic bags. This way, even if the room ends up doubling as a guest room or office, the storage area will look neat and presentable.
4. Hobby Room
Pros: Moving all of your sewing supplies, paints, or other equipment into their own room reduces clutter in other areas. If your hobby requires concentration, having your own space with a door lets you shut out pets and other distractions. And officially designating a room for your hobby can help you kick it up a notch, whether that means improving your skills, spending more time practicing, or beginning to sell your wares.
Cons: If your hobby is more of an aspiration or whim than a true passion, giving it a room of its own could be an unwise use of space. It could make you feel guilty for not quilting or playing the violin more often, or it might pressure you into buying exercise equipment or woodworking tools you won’t use.
Tip: Turn your child’s old clothes closet into a mini storeroom, with racks for wrapping paper or spools of thread, and shelves or cubbies for fabric or beads. Replace the closet door with a curtain to make it feel less like a closet and more like a specialized nook.
5. Walk-In Closet
Pros: The main benefit of a large new closet is that it solves the problem of minimal closet space in a small or older home. It’s also a smart use for a bedroom that’s so small it’s unlikely to be used as a “real” room in the future. Plus, it’s simply a luxury many people would love to have.
Cons: If you already have adequate closet space, a walk-in might be an unnecessary addition. And if you tend to shop too much, it might encourage bad habits.
Tip: Make one wall of your walk-in closet a boutique-style display area for the week’s outfits. Attach a long, horizontal rod to the wall about six feet from the floor, and, optionally, add another, shorter rod parallel to it at about waist height. You can hang tops above bottoms and move pieces around, or hang entire outfits or coats from the top rod.
And then, there’s always the option to turn a disused bedroom into a multi-purpose room that combines aspects of all of the above ideas. As long as you take care to avoid creating a cluttered or confused space, there’s no reason not to blend a guest room, hobby room, and storage space, or incorporate an office into your walk-in closet. Or, you can combine your unique needs with a bit of imagination to invent a solution all your own.
Keep Reading: 5 Ways to Revamp a Home Office