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Multitasking homeowners demand more of their space

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By Melissa Kossler Dutton
Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Washing clothes in the bedroom. Sending email from the laundry room.

Busy Americans are demanding more from each room in the house, and spaces designed for multiple functions are popping up all over floor plans, design blogs and magazine spreads.

“People multitask all the time. There is a definite correlation and carry-over in the home,” Wendy Danziger, owner of Danziger Design in Bethesda, Md., says. She has helped clients create rooms for eating and watching television; housing guests and working from home; sleeping and doing laundry.

Some homebuilders have added space for seating, desks and charging stations in the laundry room.

“It's happening all over,” Danziger says. “There's a lot of strategy that goes on — a lot of compromise.”

Furniture manufacturers, too, are helping to make every square inch count, Pat Bowling, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance in High Point, N.C., says.

Modern pieces include end tables that double as file cabinets, coffee tables with adjustable heights to accommodate working at a computer or eating, and chests with docking stations for electronics.

The portability of laptops, tablets and other devices means you don't need a dedicated home office to work at home. People can — and do — use electronics in the family room, bedroom and kitchen.

“Today's furniture is multitasking furniture that can help you stay organized, stay connected and keep clutter at bay,” Kim Shaver of Hooker Furniture in Martinsville, Va., says. “In versatile styles and silhouettes, these pieces fit any room — from the kitchen to the bedroom and from the family room to the entry hall or foyer — and provide multiple functions in each room.”

Danziger says a console table with hinged leaves is a good option for a TV room that sometimes needs to become a dining room: When guests come for dinner, just slide the table away from the wall under the television and extend the leaves to create a table that seats up to six people.

Nesting tables — stacking tables of different sizes — also help increase the functionality of a space, she says. She often puts them on wheels so they can easily be rolled to another area of the room for another use.

She has worked with retirees downsizing to a smaller home and with young professionals squeezed into urban apartments.

“Once, home offices were the rage,” she says. Now, “it is not unusual to see living spaces where people eat, sleep, work and play games just for the sake of living in a city where one can walk to everything, including their office.”

Frank Pitman of Frank Pitman Designs in Orange County, Calif., also has seen the trend. “There's a lot of dual -purpose space happening,” he says.

He has had a growing number of clients putting laundry facilities in their bedroom closets. “They are already storing the clothing there. Why not wash the clothing right there?” he said.

Some of his clients like having a room's secondary use come as a surprise: Television or computer screens that seem to “appear from nowhere” are good examples, he said. Murphy beds, which are stored vertically in a cabinet along a wall, or murphy desks, which slide out bookshelves, are another way to keep a space's other function hidden. Often the need to get more use out of a space arises when an elderly parent joins the household, a grown child returns home or a young family hires a live-in nanny, says Amy Albert, editor of Custom Home Magazine in Washington, D.C.

“Multiple generations needs multifunctioning space,” she says.

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a writer for the Associated Press.

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