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Just because you have limited square footage doesn’t mean you can’t have it all!
Want a playroom and a home office, but don’t think you have room for both? Think again! There are many tricks you can use to design a space so that it’s multifunctional—without having to sacrifice style. (Take, for example, the way David Frazier divided the living room of his small West Village apartment into two distinct areas—lounging and eating—by simply angling a floor lamp and a rug.)
To help guide you, we asked a handful of designers for advice on how to maximize space by giving each room more than one purpose.
“The first thing I do is measure the room and draw it out,” says Think Chic Interiors founder Malka Helft. “Scale is key! Make sure to purchase furniture that fits in your new space properly.”
Going a step further: “I would suggest using any one of the multiple free room-planning apps that are out there,” Helft adds. (Not sure where to start? Click here for some of our favorite interior design apps!)
Buy furnishings that can serve multiple roles. “A freestanding banquette, for instance, can be a dining table or a desk—or can be moved into a foyer or breakfast room if you end up moving into a larger space,” Zikas says. Similarly, an oversized sectional “creates an open floor plan for the kids to play,” says designer Sandra Asdourian—and “a large, backless upholstered bench that serves as a sofa most days can be an extra bed for holiday guests,” adds Maria Viola-Kuttruff, founder of Viola Interior Design.
Another great way to make multiple rooms out of one? Investing in modular furniture. “They can create divides in a space that help with making an office in a living room or separate play area for the kids,” asserts Linda Hayslett, founder of LH.Designs.
“It can be so easy to default to the traditional notions of what type of furniture belongs in each room,” says designer Georgia Zikas—“but with a little careful planning, you can introduce different types of furniture in different positions throughout the space that will ultimately yield better functionality for you.”
“When creating a space with multi-functional uses, we recommend designating zones for each desired use,” Viola-Kuttruff continues. A great way to do that is with customized built-ins. “For instance, when one of our clients hired us to reinvent an outdated and underused space in her home, she explained her need for an area that could serve everyone in the family according to their individual needs. For her children, we created a homework bar with a long custom desk and a computer surface with built-in storage. For her husband, we created a small conference table where he could take calls and work on his laptop—and for our client who loves to read, we made a custom window seat.”
Another built-in to consider? A Murphy bed. “It gives you the ability to pull your bed out from the wall whenever you want to sleep or relax, and hide it when it's time to use your space for something else,” says Pulp Design Studios cofounder Beth Dotolo. “Install a wooden sliding door or panel to cover the bed whenever you aren't using it for an extra stylish touch."
“If you intend to split a large space into a living room and bedroom without major construction, get a room partition that has soundproof panels,” Helft advises.
Clever space dividers such as double-sided bookcases or vintage screens can be used to mark the end of one zone and the start of another, Viola-Kuttruff notes. Area rugs or a change in the flooring pattern or accent color can also help delineate spaces.
Use art or mirrors on the walls to designate zones. “Creating that visual line of distinction, even when there isn’t a physical one, is so powerful in creating a space that can serve multiple purposes,” Zikas asserts.
Hayslett adds: "You can also use indoor plants “to create another room in a larger space."
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