Plenty of homes today feature a room intended to serve as an office, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily used that way. Instead, space constraints often require homeowners to morph some spaces into multifunctional areas. The combination workspace/guest room is commonly employed to maximize square footage, particularly in smaller homes or condos.
You probably already know how challenging it can be to get a room intended to serve two purposes to do both things well. Thanks to some simple design tips and transformational, space-sensitive furniture, you can enjoy a fully functioning and aesthetically pleasing home office/guest room. We've put together a list of 10 easy, totally accomplishable steps that will bring order and good design to your multiuse space.
First things first -- get organized! Clear out the room and sort all your stuff into three piles: office, guest room and miscellaneous. Throw out trash and broken items. Toss unused or rarely used things into a donation box. What's in the third pile doesn't go in your office or guest room, so put those things away where they belong or get rid of them altogether. Remember, this is an opportunity to simplify your life and create a space where you actually want to spend time, not trip over unnecessary extras.
Survey the empty room and gauge its potential. Are there items you need to buy? If so, create a list and shopping schedule. Put purchase deadlines on your calendar to help you follow through. Consider acquiring items in stages instead of all at once to make it easier on your budget.
Make a Plan
Just because the room is going to serve a double purpose doesn't mean the physical space has to be evenly split, with half the area serving as a dedicated office and half as a guest room. Instead, the space you allocate to one function should be proportional to how often it's used. For example, if you work in your office almost every day but only have overnight guests a few times a year, most of the room should be a work area, with the remainder serving as a guest refuge. Remember, this is all about smart design and functional living.
Identify Your Needs
Once you've determined how your multiuse space should be divided, it's time to plan your furniture and other needs based on the space allotted. For example, if you require a spacious work station for extravagant home projects, you'll probably be better off opting for minimal guest bedroom furniture. If, on the other hand, you never really use the office and have frequent visitors, move out that tiny cot and bring in a proper bed to serve your guests' needs.
Provide Storage Space
Friends and family who visit will need a place to store their clothes and other items. When you don't have visitors, vertical shelves are perfect for displaying office supplies, knickknacks or accessories. Then, when you're expecting guests, you can simply clear the shelves to make room for their folded garments and personal effects.
A suitcase bench is another easy storage solution. Folded open, it gets luggage off the floor, which is always a plus for guests. When it's not in use, the bench can be closed and stored out of the way of your office.
In terms of office storage, the digital age has helped to drastically reduce the amount of space needed for home office paperwork. Still, it's helpful to either purchase a small, lockable filing cabinet for contracts, tax forms and other hard copies if your desk does not provide such a feature.
Create a Multifunctional Space
Having a multiuse room isn't about stuffing two rooms into one. The trick is to select furniture and accessories that make it easy to transform an office into a guest nook or vice versa. Select modular or multifunctional furniture that can move or consolidate easily. To create a feeling of separate spaces, consider employing a folding screen or room divider if the room is large enough to accommodate one.
The truly functional home office will have a desk that is both useful and efficient. There are many modular desks on the market that feature leaves that fold under and collapse, helping to minimize the desk's size when guests visit. However, if your multiuse room is mostly used for visitors, a small desk in the same design style as the rest of the bedroom furniture can help the area feel like one fluid space.
Give It Some Personality
Even if your home office is serving a dual purpose, you should still make a wholehearted attempt to let your personality shine through. After all, your away-from-home office probably sports all the neutral coloring and boring furniture you can handle. Select artwork or accessories that mirror your interests but that guests will enjoy. For example, if you're a music buff, frame some vinyl record album covers, tour posters or other memorabilia that'll inspire you while you work.
Don't be afraid to play around with color, either. Consult a few design sites or television shows to learn how to cheaply and effectively select paint or décor that will complement your guest and office furniture. By mixing and matching neutral and vibrant colors, you can easily create a space that anyone will enjoy spending time in, even if conference calls are involved.
Minimize Unnecessary Extras
It might be tempting to stuff as much as possible into your space, but you really don't need more than the bare necessities to achieve prime office/guest room functionality. Chances are, your guests aren't going to need a giant armoire to store a few days' worth of belongings, just as you don't really need to display every award or work-related memento you've ever received. Instead, pick and choose the furniture pieces and items that are truly necessary to avoid overcrowding your multifunctional space.
Choose Space-efficient Furniture
There's no need to stuff a king-size bed, desk and dresser into one small room -- and it probably won't all fit anyway. Unless you get a lot of visitors, you just need a small daybed or trundle bed to accommodate your guests. An air mattress can easily be stored in the closet for occasions when extra company comes calling.
Make It Fun
Even a small home office or guest bedroom can feature a few fun amenities to keep things exciting. If you enjoy music while you work, simply plug in your MP3 player to a desktop speaker set and let your playlist reflect your work ethic and mood. A comfy chair in the corner is the perfect place to take phone calls, read reports and handle other tasks that don't necessarily require a desk, plus your guests will likely get a lot of use out of it as well. Visitors would also appreciate a television (as you will when you take strategic workday breaks), but don't worry if space is an issue for a TV cabinet. Instead, mount your television to the wall to remove the need for an extra piece of furniture.
Keep It Clean
The dual-purpose home office/guest room is frighteningly easy to reclutter because it gets so much use. To keep it functional, clean and organized, consider hiring a cleaning service for weekly, monthly or quarterly care, depending on what you need. If professional help isn't for you, commit to a cleaning and organizing schedule broken down to weekly, monthly and biannual chores. Don't forget to sanitize surfaces that germs really love, like keyboards and telephones.
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- Wakefield, Jane. "Google Your Way to a Wacky Office." BBC News. March 13, 2008. (Dec. 30, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7290322.stm