Empty Space Opportunities for Empty Nesters

BY ERIK J. MARTIN ON OCTOBER 20TH, 2016

When the kids become adults and fly the coop, the empty nester status that homeowners suddenly experience can be bittersweet. On one hand, the house won’t quite feel the same without the full family it sheltered all those years. On the other hand, the vacant living spaces left behind can provide a great opportunity to reimagine those interiors and add a fresh look, feel and functionality to your abode.

Just ask Donna Naylor, Pasadena, Maryland, who recently hit the reset switch after her three children moved out of her home and converted several rooms into more practical and inventive spaces.

“We updated our first empty spare bedroom into a children’s playroom for our first granddaughter, complete with a chalkboard wall, shelves for puzzles, games and books, a single loft bed, and a kids table and chairs,” Naylor says. “The second spare bedroom, now used for overnight guests, was decorated around a Tuscan theme showcasing muted gold plaster paint and distressed floors. And our third bedroom is now the Bahama guest room decked in a theme inspired by colonial Bahama with dark woods and a four-poster king-sized bed with sheers.”

Melinda Massie, owner of professional organizing firm Organizing with a Side of Fabulous in Fort Worth, Texas, recommends converting your vacant spaces after grown children move on.

“There’s no need to have that much unused space in your home, so put it to good use. Unused bedrooms without a purpose can very quickly turn into “spare rooms of doom” loaded with clutter, which represents unmade decisions,” Massie says.

To best determine how to repurpose your unused space, ask yourself: What do you want this space to accomplish, and how do you want it to function and feel? Perhaps the answer is to create a craft/hobby room, den, library or office, yoga or exercise room, or dance or artist studio.

“Next, pull some inspiration by writing down details and drawing up a layout in its ideal state,” Massie adds. “Then, give thought to the larger pieces – a bed for a guest bedroom, a desk for an office, a bar for an entertainment space – and then you can start filling around with the smaller pieces you’ll need.”

To accommodate guests and boomerang children (who return for prolonged visits or need to move back in suddenly), it’s wise to designate at least one dedicated space for overnight hosting, says Charmaine Wynter, design principal of Dallas-based Wynter Interiors Inc.

“Having an additional bedroom is always a safe bet, but if you’re excited to embrace a child-free lifestyle, having a room dedicated to your leisure pursuits can also be ideal,” says Wynter, who advises consulting carefully with an interior designer before undertaking a room transformation project.

Regardless of what theme or purpose you choose, prepare for some thorough prep.

“I suggest repainting the room, including doors, trim and window casings, and repairing any cracks or damages to the walls and ceiling before they’re repainted,” says Jack Menashe, interior designer and founder/CEO of Menashe Design in New York City. “Also, wood floors may need to be restored or the carpeting replaced. Changing window treatments and adding blackout shades for more privacy in a bedroom is often desired, and a new mattress and bedding will update the comfort and look of the bed.”

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