Monday, January 12, 2009
Multitask your rooms, make better use of space
By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
Multitasking: the performance of multiple tasks at one time. This word, dating from 1966, describes a lot of our lives.
From the dubious practice of talking on our cellular phones while driving to the mom trying to feed the baby while getting the other children out the door to school, we are trying to accomplish more in one day than the average human should.
While we all would love to finish one task before moving on to the next one, life seems to require more of us than that.
The concept of multitasking, however, is good as we strive to get the most out of each day. It is also a concept that can and should be applied to our homes.
Gone are the days when we had one purpose for each room — the kitchen for the hired cook, the parlor for receiving guests, the library for reading, the formal dining room for dinner at eight. We don't live like this anymore, and we need to see if our homes are keeping up with today's lifestyle.
So, how do we multitask rooms?
Well, you are already doing it; you just need to recognize it and make sure each room supports the activities going on there by default.
The creative use of existing space is one goal an architect has when analyzing a residence. You could learn a lot about your home if you take the time to notice how spaces are really used.
While each family is unique, there are certain multitasked functions we see over and over.
One is the kitchen as command central. No longer used only for meal preparation, it is where families gather, friends are entertained, children do homework and parents schedule lessons and sporting events.
With all this activity, how does your kitchen handle it? It may be worth considering taking space from another less-used room — say, a formal living room — to accommodate all the activities happening in your kitchen.
An island is a great example of a multitasking space. One moment it is used for fixing a meal, the next it is covered with school project supplies, and then it is transformed into the buffet for a family gathering.
No wonder so many people dream of a great kitchen island!
Your kitchen also needs a place to organize the family. At the very least this means a good bulletin board/calendar area, and more likely means a place for a computer.
This also comes in handy for children doing homework, as most families like those computers in a very public space these days.
Another room that lends itself to multitasking is an unused bedroom that can double as an office.
Instead of having it set up as a full-time guest bedroom, it will get more use as an office with a hide-a-bed sofa to take care of Grandma when she comes to visit.
The formal dining room that is used only once a week (or possibly three times a year — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter?) is a luxury most people cannot afford.
A library is a good companion function to a dining room. Add some bookshelves, cover the table that is already there and use it for school, business or family projects.
When you actually want to serve a formal meal, clear off he table and you are good to go.
Mudrooms are so popular now because they help keep us organized and contain messes (boots, coats, backpacks, etc.) that we don't want spread all over the house.
Is there a space in your home that you can convert to a mudroom? Perhaps you have a laundry room near your garage that can be reconfigured to allow room for lockers, cubbies, hooks, benches, etc.
New full-size, stackable washer/dryer units can free up space you can repurpose in the existing room. A back hallway can also accommodate this function.
Could you steal 18 inches from one of the rooms adjacent to the hall so you can add ready-made storage that will make your life more pleasant on a daily basis?
Watch how you and your family actually live this week and then give some thought as to what would make your days flow more smoothly. Remodeling is not all about expensive additions to a home; it is very much about creatively using the space you have. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.