Tips for Making a Spare Room a Special One

Buying a house with a spare room? Sounds great in theory: extra space! We all want that. But sometimes the lack of an official title for a room means the room itself never gets much of an identity. Spare rooms too often are wasted rooms, glofied storgae closets, precious square footage that no one really enjoys. But we first-time buyers do not  have to let a spare room be a squandered one. Instead, we can make it a special one.

First though, Let’s Examine the Spare Room in General

In many cities, all it takes for a room to earn the legal label of “bedroom” is a window and a closet. In some, like Portland, OR, you have to be able to physically get in and out of that window for the room to qualify (fire code related, I suspect), which is why a lot of homes here list on the MLS as  something like “2 bedrooms with ‘extra rooms down.’” Most likely, inside such a place you’ll find basement rooms with windows too high up or too small to allow ingress and egress. 

In places like San Francisco, where I lived before moving to Portland, creative landlords take advantage of the  crazy-expensive market by adding closets to what were essentially closets to begin with, and then calling the result “a bedroom.”  A 2 bedroom, you see, rents for more than a 1 bedroom, even if no human could ever physically find space to sleep within one of those rooms.

And so we see the birth of the spare room. Too often, such rooms become a kind of no man’s land, repository of junk, extra furniture, a heavily cluttered home office or a chatioc nursery—or perhaps all of these things. But if we’re lucky enough to buy a home that has a spare room, do we have to resign ourselves to ignoring it if we aren’t sure how to make use of it?

Not if we win the Drop in and Win spring promo (and just for visiting a home for sale with your ZipRealty agent, you’re entered to win)!  Among the choices for prizes is a gift certificate to Crate and Barrel, a store that we all know offers rich inspiration for design, décor and organizing a home.


Ideas to Get You on Your Way to Making a “Spare Room” Special


  • Make a Nursery that Works for You and Your Baby

Yes, you love your baby, but you might need to use a little of the spare room too. Can you and you child both make it work? With clever organizing and attention to spacial arrangement, you can indeed, as shown in the following example. Note here, the office could also play the part of guest bedroom or baby’s room, yet nothing about it seems cramped or forced. Thanks to Real Simple for these before and after photos.

nursery before and after

And keep in mind, even the closet sized rooms can work for tiny humans. See this makeover by Lil Sugar. Here, just a few highly functional pieces of furniture, carefully arranged, and magic: your baby has a room of his/her own.


  • Home Offices that Actually Work

First on the list is containing the detritus that is “office”- papers, enveloped, files- all of it needs to be oa once hidden but also easily found. Check out this Real Simple makeover, which adds furniture and storage to put away office supplies and leaves space for color and fun.

office makeover

office before after

Interestingly, even a small room looks much bigger when it’s organized, as in the case of this example from Better Homes and Gardens, which features a corner in a spare room I swear I've seen before (20 times or more!), so typical a "spare room" is it. The transformation is inspiring:

home office design

My ideal is this one, pulled straight from the Crate and Barrel catalog, because it at once contains the clutter, shows quirky personality (like mine!) and offers private work space though the room is shared. Since my husband I both work from home, the ability to create a kind of “this is my office” feeling (here accomplished by setting the desks up facing away from one another) would really help us both get a lot more done.  Notice too the use of the middle of the room. Rookie home office set ups place push all the furniture against the wall, but clever use of the whole floor might actually make something more organic and attractive.

home office makeover


So bring on the spare rooms. With these ideas and a gift certificate from ZipRealty, your “extra room” could well become your favorite.