FLEX APPEAL - Multi-Purpose Guest Rooms
by Lisa Jensen
What makes you feel most welcome when you're an
overnight guest? I like being shown to a cozy, tucked-away room
with a bed dressed up in catalog linens and a down duvet, adjoining
a full bath stocked with fluffy towels and wrapped soaps.
Of course, before we built our new home, I showed
my guests how to yank open the 10-year-old family room sleeper
sofa, which usually spit out shriveled snacks from the last slumber
party, a balled sock and a plastic limb or two from a Polly Pocket™.
When we built new, creating a comfortable guest
room was foremost on my agenda. We merged our street-facing, main-floor,
13 x 14 square-foot den into a home office, library and guest room.
Built-in shelves surrounding the large double window are filled
with magazines, biographies, children's books and photos. Next
to a new top-notch sleeper sofa (mattress tested to ensure comfort!),
we placed a trunk-turned-coffee table that stores pillows and bedding.
My desk and computer sit on the opposite wall, next to a great
reading chair. The room can be closed off with French doors.
I'm pretty thrilled with this space - and so is
my family. Everyone loves to read, study, work or watch a small
T.V. here. Guests have found it cozy, private and convenient to
our half bath.
This type of flexibility is one of Design Basics' primary
focuses in current designs. Most of our new home designs
incorporate a flex room that can be used as a den, an office,
a homeschool room or a craft room, on an everyday basis and also
occasionally be used as a guest room.
attractive cherry wall unit features lighted bookcases and
When the bed is down, the cabinetry provides a cozy surround.
Select Comfort sofa bed has an 11-inch thick mattress, dual
adjustable air chambers to control firmness
on either side, and a tri-fold support system to eliminate the
A Place - Or Two
One of today's hottest new homebuilding trends,
the "flex" room appeals to homebuyers who want to make
the most of every square foot. Whether it's in a bonus room, loft,
den, top floor of a Cape Cod, or finished lower level - whether
it becomes a home theater, music room, home office or place to
meditate - this personalized space can be designed to lessen the
chaos of daily life and accommodate your changing lifestyle.
Innovative and packed with surprises, today's
flex room can offer perks that yesterday's overnight guests - as
well as homeowners - never dreamed of.
Want to hide a home office that looks "all
business?" Consider investing in multi-purpose furniture.
The Closet Re-Organizer Company in Toronto (www.ClosetOrganizer.ca)
offers a revolutionary custom cabinetry system that can incorporate
a table, desk, shelving, storage drawers and wardrobe space - in
every decor style.
The highlight of this system is an orthopedic,
latex mattress that rolls out of the rear of the cabinet or shelf
unit base with the touch of a button - then disappears just as
swiftly when it's not needed. The multi-functional system can also
house high-tech media equipment or transform into a dining room.
Based in San Francisco, design-and-build firm
Modern Spaces (www.ModernSpaces.com)
is the U.S. distributor for ip20, a European manufacturer of high-end,
space-saving modular wall components that can define a work space,
provide ample storage, and include a contemporary wall bed system.
a well organized office. By night,
an efficient guest room.
You can easily cozy up a home office that's used
primarily for paperwork and personal projects. A trunk that holds
files can double as a coffee table. A computer can be rolled out
on a cart, hidden in an armoire or closed into a ready-to-assemble
closet organizing system. A sleeper sofa can be paired with a cushioned
window seat that flips up to reveal linens, pillows and storage
space for guests.
Phillips comments on the importance of lighting
in a guest room that doubles as a work space. "High, transom-type
windows or corner windows retain maximum wall space for furniture
placement, while reducing the chance for glare on computer
screens. A combination of general and task lighting is needed,
can be added with lighting accenting special ceiling details,
a bookcase or a window seat. Incorporating a dimmer switch
a soothing, evening atmosphere for guests. I also suggest including
multiple access locations for data/communication wiring to
allow for more than one furniture arrangement."
"If it's a home office that needs access
for clients coming to it from the front door, locate it near the
foyer or side entry of the home, so they won't have to travel through
other parts of your home to get to it," advises Jennifer
Pippin, a residential design specialist from Cornelius, North
Not So Big House author and architect Susan Susanka
promotes alcoves, which offer an "alternative space within
a larger space." A sleeper sofa can be nestled beneath the
eaves of a low roofline in an alcove. Or, consider adding an alcove
in your flex room with a built-in desk that can support your laptop
and a T.V. for guests. Add a small table with a chair or two for
game playing, bill paying or conversation over coffee.
If the budget
allows, barrel vault the ceiling in your flex space for interest
and a tucked-in feel. Such a nook
will offer family members and visitors a special refuge.
Looks can be deceiving. This "bookcase" is actually a
cabinet with a drop-down desk and bed.
Whether you're outfitting a home office or an "away" room
- Susanka's coin phrase for a more secluded quiet space - shelving
on either side of a window seat and drawers below it provide practical
and eye-appealing use of each square foot. Cantilever the seat
out further to accommodate a twin-sized sleeping niche with a built-in
mattress. Add over-sized throw pillows to create a cozy study spot
or reading nook.
Got books? Beyond building in a wall of shelves,
you might also drop a shelf a foot or so down from the ceiling
and encircle the room's perimeter. If your ceiling height is taller
and space allows, add a rolling ladder for easy book access. Ensure
plenty of natural light by adding transoms above shelves.
For guests, look for over-sized reading chairs
that transform into twin sleepers; add two in your library, or
combine one with your window seat retreat.
A home office, library or frequently used hobby
room can share a two-sided fireplace with your family room - a
perk your guests will love during brisk autumn visits or the Christmas
In a media room, Grand Rapids, Michigan architect
Eric Hughes notes that a wall-mounted plasma T.V. screen can "hide" behind
one of VisionArt's fine art prints. When the T.V. is turned on,
the specialty ink-sprayed canvas subtly rolls up into a customized
hardwood frame. With a touch of a button at the show's end, the
canvas elegantly drops back down to conceal the screen.
"It's great ambience for guests, and for
homeowners as well," Hughes says. "It's especially
nice over a fireplace."
If you homeschool, you can connect your T.V. to
the Internet. "Kids love surfing the Internet on a giant T.V.,
and parents love a bigger display screen for teaching," Hughes
comments. When parents are done browsing websites with kids and
lessons for the day are done, homework and learning supplies
can be tucked out of sight in built-in drawers.
This unit's lift mechanism (the SICO Room Maker™)
uses a compression coil to offset the heavy weight of a real,
king-size mattress and box
A futon, a Murphy bed or another bed wall unit from specialty furniture
makers like The Closet Re-Organizer Company or Modern Spaces, can keep
floor space open when you're using your flex room for schooling, sewing
unit's lift mechanism (the SICO Room Maker™) uses
a compression coil to offset the heavy weight of a real,
king-size mattress and box spring.
Still More Alternatives
Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president for research for
the National Association of Home Builders, says the most popular
spot for guest rooms and flexible extra living space is the bonus
area over a three-car garage.
"It's a great multi-purpose space," he
comments. "You can make it a playroom, a home office, or a
media room - it can change as your family grows. Teens especially
like to hang out in this area. And when you add a full bath, it
makes a great guest room for the college student home on weekends,
or a mother-in-law suite." (You can search for plans with
finished rooms over the garage by visiting HerHome.com/home-plans
and checking "F.R.O.G.")
High-tech media components including surround
sound, computer stations and wall-mounted plasma screens can be
added to this trendy bonus space.
Such a room is a far cry from the sleeping porch.
Depending on where you live, this might be yet another option to
consider - particularly if you love the sounds of crickets and
wind chimes, looking at stars and enjoying a light night breeze.
Historically, a screened porch located on the
second floor above a ground-level veranda, the sleeping porch was
a common place to keep cool in the twentieth century.
Today, including a sleeping porch in your blueprint
just might lend a little magic for guests staying overnight during
summer months or in a climate which is warm year-round - and become
the perfect place for you to rejuvenate, too.
No matter which kind of space you create, be careful.
If it's planned out too well, guests won't want to leave.