With the rise of remote work affecting more than a quarter of all workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many homeowners have found themselves in need of more flexible spaces. They're looking for rooms that can be used not just to type away at a laptop but also take Zoom calls, enjoy lunch, get in a workout in or even take a much-needed nap from time to time.
It sounds like a tall order, but creating these all-encompassing spaces is possible with a little creativity, experts say.
If you want to create a multipurpose space in your home, here’s how to make it happen.
To start, determine what you want to use the room for and then put those uses in order of importance. This will help guide how much space you should devote to each of those uses within the room.
“It’s not about splitting a room down the middle,” says Challie Stillman, vice president at Resource Furniture, which produces wall beds, storage solutions and other furnishings often used in multipurpose areas. “It’s about allocating your space according to how you’ll use it.”
For example, if you plan to use a room as your office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then as a workout area in the early mornings and evenings, you’d want the majority of your space devoted to your office needs – and a smaller portion would go toward your fitness goals.
As Stillman explains, if you only use your formal dining room on special occasions or holidays, there’s no reason to let the dining table take up 90% of the room’s space. The same goes for a rarely used guest bedroom - rethink the bed. “Prioritize the activities you’ll use the most,” she says.
Having ample storage is critical in a multipurpose space, particularly if you want to keep it from looking messy or feeling cramped.
“Never underestimate the power of smart storage,” says Artem Kropovinsky, founder of interior design firm Arsight. “Built-ins, vertical shelving and hidden compartments are the heroes behind a clutter-free multipurpose room.”
You’ll also need to get creative with where you install that storage and remember that real estate isn’t just horizontal.
“Utilize wall and vertical space and under-seating space,” says Nate Stover, owner and head builder at Innovative Spaces, which builds custom Airstream trailer interiors. “When floor space is limited, it's crucial to make use of the often-neglected wall and vertical space. Install shelves, hooks and storage units on the walls to keep items off the floor and maintain a clutter-free environment.”
Floating shelves can be a particularly smart option, and you can even consider storage that can roll away or be stowed in a closet or under the bed if needed.
In a multipurpose space, traditional furniture likely won’t cut it – at least if you really want to maximize the use of those furnishings.
“Conventional, stationary furniture can make a room feel much smaller than its true potential,” Stillman says.
Instead, focus on furniture that can serve several needs. That could mean a table with hidden storage or a couch that converts into a bed. Hideaway furniture, like Murphy beds, for example, can also be a good option, as they open up space when not in use.
“A Murphy bed with sofa, desk or bookcase built into the front can transform a guest room into a den, home office or even a home gym in a matter of seconds,” Stillman says. “They also unlock additional square footage by hiding the bed, which is the single largest piece of furniture in the home.”
According to Kropovinsky, “zoning” is the true secret to a successful multipurpose space. Essentially, this means creating specific areas for specific purposes. As he puts it: “Creating distinct zones brings clarity to the space.”
You can create these zones in a variety of ways – using physical dividers like partitions or privacy screens, with area rugs or furniture or even with careful lighting choices.
“Lighting is another important factor that many people overlook,” says Wes Haas, director of design at renovation company COOPER Design Build. “Lighting placement can help define individual areas within a large space. You'll also need to consider what lighting is needed for the intended purposes of the space; the lighting in an office space and a home gym may need to differ.”
Finally, make use of every space you can – even the small, seemingly innocuous ones.
Is there a corner of the kitchen counter you don’t use? Free wall space in your entryway or foyer? An empty corner you could turn into storage or seating? With enough creativity, even the smallest nook or cranny can help you squeeze more use out of a space.
“In the past, nooks were often used for decor purposes, but now people are making them functional,” Haas says. “Adding a desk, comfortable seating for reading or a bistro table to a nook has become popular so homeowners can utilize all of a home's space.”