Space Case: Customize Your Home’s Spaces to Your Lifestyle

Make the most of your home by customizing your spaces to your lifestyle.

| November/December 2011

  • Design children’s rooms with neutral walls, shelves and flooring so the space can evolve as kids’ tastes change. Personalize with impermanent items such as art, décor and toys. Keep in mind that children use their bedrooms for sleeping, studying and play, and try to assign specific areas for each activity.
  • You pay the mortgage, so put your own needs first! Convert a rarely used guest room, a former child’s bedroom or a junk-accumulating spare room into an area with a specific purpose that suits your lifestyle—be it a craft room, a workout studio, or a reading and writing space.
  • A cleverly designed garage garden nook provides a work surface, storage shelves and bins, wall-mounts for tools and a convenient spot to store tall items—in the rafters where they can’t get knocked over.
  • Opening up a small kitchen by combining it with adjoining rooms is a smart home reconfiguration. Here, a small, underused sunroom became a bright and functional part of the kitchen.
  • Built-in shelving can help you rework your home in many ways, providing storage and display space in large rooms and decluttering smaller spaces so you can use them more effectively. A combination of open shelving and cupboards with doors is ideal; you can exhibit beautiful books, baskets or decor on open shelves, and stash seldom-used items such as spare linens, holiday decorations or camping gear behind closed doors. Choosing furniture that perfectly fits your spaces and doubles as storage also helps maximize space.

Architect David Maurer was recently asked to draw plans for an addition to the house of a Raleigh, North Carolina, couple who wanted a larger eat-in kitchen to replace their tired, cramped model. Upon careful examination of Fred and Catharine Staleys’ home and needs, Maurer steered them in another direction: instead of adding on, why not reconfigure existing space?

The Staleys bought into his vision by moving the laundry room from the kitchen to the upstairs, expanding the breakfast room to accommodate all meals (including holiday feasts) and transforming the existing formal dining room into a his-and-hers home office. It didn’t hurt that nixing the addition shaved $75,000 off of the original $100,000 estimate. “It was a no-brainer when we looked at the numbers,” Fred says.

Until the recent downturn, adding on almost always made economic sense. “It was all about resale,” Maurer says. Today, with a sluggish housing market, additional square footage does not necessarily translate into enhanced salability. As new house size shrinks and family budgets are stretched thin, reconfiguring what you already have has become the go-to remodeling option. Not only does working inside your existing footprint generally save money up front, but smaller homes are cheaper to heat, cool, furnish and maintain. What’s more, with the installation of energy-efficient appliances, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and high-performance insulation and windows, most remodels double as state-of-the-art greenovations.

Reconfigure It Out

If you’re thinking about reworking your space, begin by analyzing how you really live in your home. Walk through with a notebook and a critical eye. Does anyone ever use the formal living room? Is the basement game room twice the size it needs to be? Does everyone always seem to be in the kitchen? Look for high-use zones that call for enhancement and underperforming areas that could better serve your needs.

Don’t avoid customizing your space by trying to second-guess the resale market. “A lot of people are hesitant to do something that might be too particular and rob themselves of enjoying a restorative lifestyle in their own home,” says architect Matthew Schoenherr, author of Remodel: Great Home Makeovers from Connecticut to California. Unless you’re moving out next month, allow yourself a home suited to your own needs and desires. Once you determine your priorities, you can start on your creative remix. We’ve compiled a few ideas to help inspire you, but the possibilities are endless.



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