Make the Most of Your Bonus Room
Back in the early 1990s, real estate developers hit on a bright idea to give homebuyers more space without adding appreciably to the price tag. Almost overnight, the bonus room was born. It met the demand for open-concept living with a loft or some other empty space and left the buyer to decide how to finish it. If you’re lucky enough to have a bonus room (or perhaps a spare bedroom because your 30-year-old child has finally found work and moved out), here are some cool ideas for how you can use it.
Start with a Basic Plan
Decide what function the room will serve. It will probably help keep the peace in your family if you ask your spouse and kids for input. It doesn’t have to be a single-purpose space. The design experts at BoldRugs.com say, “A large bonus room can easily be divided into more than one purpose-driven area with a little design know-how.” They suggest you use area rugs and paint to define the different spaces.
Furniture, screens, room dividers, freestanding shelving and even curtain panels suspended from the ceiling can further delineate areas. Before you buy anything new, look around your house and see what can be repurposed. If you do have to buy furniture, aim for pieces that do double duty, such as convertible sofas, chairs, ottomans and storage benches.
What you ultimately use your bonus room for is limited only by your imagination, budget and how effective your children are at guilting you into making it a playroom. Otherwise, one of these ideas might be just what you want:
- Family Room. The wise folks at WiseGeek.com note that large families typically end up turning their bonus room into a family room where everyone can kick-back and relax, leaving the actual living room reserved (and clean) for guests. “Having a family room in addition to a living room can take a great deal of pressure off of the person in the household who is responsible for cleaning.”
- Home Theater/Media Center. If your bonus room is on the large side, it can be a home theater – the ideal site for the giant plasma screen that you don’t want consuming all the wall space in your living room, the game console, stereo and iPod docks. Or, if it’s on the smaller side, call it a media center. Either way, outfit it with comfy couches or beanbag chairs, a mini-refrigerator and a microwave for fresh popcorn. Budget permitting, include a small sink so you don’t have to carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. Baskets for organizing remotes and DVDs will help corral creeping clutter.
- Home Gym/Yoga Studio. If your exercise machines are currently serving as expensive clothes racks, give them a room to call their own. TheHousePlanShop.com points out that “this is an ideal place for the treadmill and weight bench keeping them out of sight in the main home, but still conveniently accessible, ensuring your workout routine won’t be disrupted.” If you can afford it, add a large mirror so you can watch your form and install hooks and shelving to keep smaller pieces of equipment tidy.
- Craft/Hobby Room. At last, you can start a major craft project and not feel bad about leaving it on the dining room table for six months. Stock up on a supply of clear plastic bins and label your various supplies for easy, clutter-free access. Investing in a cordless vacuum cleaner will encourage you to keep the space clean and tidy.
- Homework Hangout. Give the kids a quiet space to complete assignments. Furnish it with good lighting, comfortable desks and chairs, and shelving for each child.
- Game Room. Add a poker table and chairs, shelves for board games and supplies, and you’ve got a dedicated game room. If it’s a large enough space, you could include a pool table or ping pong table.
- Guest Room. The kids won’t have to sleep on the sofa when grandma comes for the weekend, and grandma (or any other guests) won’t have to worry about the pet tarantula breaking out of its terrarium in the kids’ bedroom.
- Home Office. No more working in your bedroom or cluttering up the kitchen. Now you can have a dedicated space. Not only will productivity soar, you may also be able to deduct the space on your tax return. Now that’s a real bonus!
Of course, to pull any of these off, you need to start with a clean slate. If you’ve already turned your bonus room into a room-size version of a junk drawer, consider moving the good, but seldom-used stuff into a self storage unit.
 “Ways to get the most out of your home’s bonus room,” BoldRugs.com, http://www.boldrugs.com/ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-homes-bonus-room
 “What is a Bonus Room?” WiseGeek.com, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-bonus-room.htm
 “7 Uses for Bonus Rooms,” TheHousePlanShop.com, http://www.thehouseplanshop.com/blog/rooms-in-your-home/7-uses-for-bonus-rooms-the-house-plan-shop/