Multitasking puts extra space to good use
Finding use for extra space in a house goes beyond coming up with a good plan.
It can call, instead, for more than one plan to make sure the room is used all the time.
“I'm a firm believer that you should live in all of the space in your house,” says designer Hannah Arnold from HDDesignBuild in Regent Square. “Why would you have a theater room that just sits empty when you're not watching a movie?”
A report by the American Institute of Architects says many homeowners are looking for an efficient use of space in extra rooms. Rather than installing the once-hot theater room, owners want to have a room that can be used more frequently.
Or, some homeowners want more practical spaces, the report says. Twenty percent of architects surveyed for the report said one of the major projects was creating a mud room/drop zone to protect the rest of the house.
That practicality can lead to combining functions, says designer Marc Scurci, who has offices in Greensburg and Squirrel Hill.
“It's not uncommon to see a treadmill in a bedroom or a desk and office in a family room,” he says.
Such combinations can lead to major changes.
Karolyn Spagnola from Glenshaw-based Spagnola Design says she has a client in North Huntington who is using his office also as a space to entertain. The large room is a spot where a guest could have a drink as easily as a client discusses a deal. It will have several TVs and exit to the swimming pool area.
She jokes about it as the “east wing,” and says the multiuse plan emerged as a way of justifying the design in the house that is still under construction. The owner chose not to discuss his plans.
Natrona Heights architect Bob Barrage sees the same sort of interest in multiuse space.
“The largest residential project we have going at the moment is a perfect example,” he says. “It's a fairly large addition, the bulk of which is a large, multiuse ‘studio' space with intended functions, including entertaining space and home office.”
Arnold sees such benefits even when a space is conceived in one fashion. She has created what she calls “yoga rooms” in a large home in Allison Park and a townhouse in Shadyside.
But while those uses sound rather specific, she says she was looking simply for a quiet space where a homeowner could relax. The rooms also could be reading rooms or studies, she says.
She calls both of those spaces “bonus rooms” because of the way they fit in the houses. They were not necessarily bedrooms or social spaces such as family or living rooms, so she tried to find some way that anybody living in the space could take advantage of them.
That design requires a sort of neutrality, she says. Rather than defining a space with a bar or electronic connections, she wanted to make them currently usable and functional to future owners.
Trying to keep a house marketable can be another reason to stay away from changes that are too specific, Scurci says. A small bedroom sometimes beckons to be made into a walk-in closet.
“You may get a great closet, but guess what? You've lost a bedroom,” he says.
The study by the architects' group says a survey reported 40 percent of members indicated work on media/electronic rooms had declined.
Mark Mawhinney, owner of Northern Audio and Home Theater in Ross, says that observation reflects his experience. He believes it is because the availability and ease of installation of 60- or 70-inch TVs have made media rooms unnecessary.
“You can put one in the living room or family room,” he says, “so why go to a special room somewhere?”
The large TVs also have eliminated the need for projection equipment, once required for that size picture, he says.
“I like to think the better thing to do is to use space more efficiently,” Scurci says. “To fix it when it's broken.”
He adds the concentration of efficiency translates into a seriousness in choice of space. Rather that getting inquiries about media rooms, he deals with clients who want a master suite or more space for the family room.
Such practicality leads to other multi-use functions, Scurci says, such as adding a pullout couch to an office or family room so the area gets occasional use as a guest room.
While the greatest amount of interest seems to be in practical modifications, Barrage says there are “always exceptions.”
“A recent custom home included an archery range in the basement, believe it or not,” he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.