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Dual Purpose Rooms

Posted by pay_it_forward (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 23, 12 at 0:33

As I am working to reduce the square footage of my plan, I am trying to think "outside the box" to combine additional rooms (already combining a fitness room with a space for guests!). I would love your thoughts about combining an office space into a dining room. My thought is that built ins could house the office and could therefore be closed up to utilize the space for dining. Another benefit would be to have a schoolwork area right next to the kitchen so that assistance can be easily offered and computer/internet usage can be safely monitored. Running away with the idea, I of course am imagining in James Bond/Macgyver fashion, a dining table wherein the top slides or removes to cover work space below?? That way, when working on a project, one would not have to clean it up/put it away to accommodate dining! It's late... am I making sense :)?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

You make perfect sense! We use the dining area at the end of our kitchen for lots of things. Computer work, a sewing table, art/crafts with grandchildren, etc. Unfortunately, our table is very large, and our space fairly limited so we don't have room from built-in shelving, but if we did that's the route I would go. We do have a banquette with built in storage underneath, but not so easy to get to.

I'm going to convert the very small sitting area at the top of our staircase to a sewing/office station with built-in shelving as soon as we get through this bathroom remodel. Plan on building floor to ceiling shelving & work space. Right now it's pretty much wasted space.

Good luck with the planning.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Thanks for the input, Krayers! Your sewing/office station sounds like a great use for that space. After getting this home built, I hope to become a better gardener and improve my limited sewing skills!


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Another option for office in dining area is an armoire. Just put it all in there and close the door. Some entertainment units look like armoires anyway, and getting one with a drop leaf or lift-leaf to make a writing surface could be fine. Even a roll out like IKEA cabinet hardware would work.

If I had a set of stairs, it would be nice to use the space beneath the stairs for a small office also. This could be in the entry hall, again just roll the chair inside when you are done and close the door. Wireless hardware makes so much possible these days.

Krayers use of the space at the top of the stairs sounds great. I've seen pictures of homes which took the ends of hallways upstairs, always with a window there, built in a seat across the space, put in shelving floor to ceiling either side, but of course raised the floor just a step to create a sense of ENTRY to the little area. No longer JUST the end of the hall, but a destination of its own. I can see the use of molding across the top where the step is located, and hide the dimmable lighting there, as well as have a reading lamp attached to the wall somewhere. A nice cozy reading or studying spot for any age person.


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The good news is that with the evolution of electronics, office space can be wherever you are at the moment. I learned from watching my son- he just works with his lap-top anywhere, tied to the Internet via wireless modem. The printer/scanner is also connected via wireless, so it could be anywhere in the house. Us 'older' folks still haven't given up the idea of a desk top with all of the peripherals hard-wired to it, but we're learning.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

I think offices and dining rooms are a good dual-purpose for the same room.

Flgargoyle has a good point--you should explore options beyond just furniture to make this idea work. When you really look hard at an office space, what you need is a computer and a surface to work on, plus storage.

Your dining table could be the work surface, the computer a laptop and your storage could be in the sideboard.

Or you could curtain off one wall of the dining room and install a counter and shelves and drawers all along the wall. Open the curtains--office! Close the curtains--dining room! Just get a chair that will slide under the counter and be invisible when the room is in dining mode.

There's a book called Double Duty Decorating which is unfortunately out of print. The illustrations are a bit out of date, but the information and ideas about how to combine two functions in one room isn't. You could probably get it through your library or a used book store or Amazon. All sorts of ways to divide a room or hide work areas, etc.

And don't forget the old roll-top desk. If your dining room is big enough, you could easily fit one in and just roll the cover down when you aren't working.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

All you really need for an "office" is some place to put a printer/scanner and a wireless router. An office can be in any relatively quiet room in the house if you need to concentrate on work, or they can be in the middle of everything if you multi task well. (I regularly work on a project and watch TV at the same time. It drives the other half crazy! LOL!) Laptops do everything that a traditional office used to do, including storing scanned records. No need for file cabinets or a desk.

Other areas that can be combined well are mudroom, laundry, pantry areas. All you really need is one room for all of these functions if you organize it well. Add in a small separate half bath nearby and a decent sized laundry sink in the multi room and you're good to go whether it's nasty wet and muddy boots that need to be rinsed and left to dry in a ventilated cubby or a bunch of potatoes in from the garden to be washed off before putting them in their bin.

Big areas of wasted space in modern build include master bedrooms and baths. They can take up as much as 1/3 of the whole home. A single large shower (at least 42" x 48") in a master is usually better than an unused bath. Put a nice tub in a secondary bath instead. Don't devote more than 60" to a double vanity. Any more is wasted space. Closets aren't wasted space but you'd get more actual linear feet of storage out of lining a wall with reach ins and built ins than you do out of most walk in closets.

Don't be afraid of exploiting the vertical dimension! Especially for kids. If you have 9' ceilings, loft beds can really work well to keep a room small and still have enough play/work space at the floor level. Shared rooms seem to be taboo these days, but one single larger shared room uses space better than two individual rooms.

I worked with a couple who did a "2nd floor Master suite" type of bedroom/en suite bathroom upstairs that housed their 3 girls. The third bedroom and fourth bedroom were reserved for guests and a study rather than given over to the children. The layout would have worked well with young children as well. Then the downstairs master would have served as the guestroom/playroom/study and the upstairs master would have been close to the smaller bedrooms for younger kids. It's all about versatility.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Holly- Great ideas! :)


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Dual purpose rooms are a must in a small house. Our library has a sofa bed. My new physical therapy mat table is the same size as a queen-size bed so that I can get one of the inflatable mattresses and have a guest room instead of an exercise room.

Holly, great ideas. You can use a loft bed for even a single child's bedroom, giving them floor space with their bed up on top.

Here is the style of dining table that I think that Pay-it-Forward might like:

Here is a link that might be useful: console dining table


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Taking off on camlan's idea, google 'closet offices' and click on images.

We built an addition with closets that can be converted to office space, and storage space for a roll-out cart. With a few hundred dollars and a week-ends work, the addition itself can be converted to an efficiency apartment (when it's completed). In the meantime, it's a dining room for extended family dinners (accommodates 3 6' tables), and a playroom, with swings :), for the grandkids. The closets that can convert to office space and kitchen-cart storage now hold tables and folding chairs.

There are two window seats that can be made into platform beds (with the addition of 2x4 frames and plywood decks), one twin size, one full size. I have a folder where I keep all the 'can convert to' ideas for this room--LOL, I think maybe some day I will end up there when my children take over my house!

Everyone has heard all about this, but pay_it_forward, if you want to see pics, click on my username for link to albums, then click on 'new addition-playroom'.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Actually, I have a triple use for my dining room. An armoire houses all the computer stuff. Across one wall we have a library/murphy bed. That way the bookshelves hold all my books and slide apart to show a murphy bed which is surprisingly comfortable. And we have an extra space for guests. We keep the dining table without leaves so it acts as a place to do puzzles etc (we have a breakfast nook for regular dining) and then the table with leaves gets bigger for parties.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Speaking of outside the box, check out this company--see the link below. This is mostly for inspiration, as I think the furniture they offer is pretty pricey. But you can get some ideas of how to combine different functions in the same room from the video.

Here is a link that might be useful: space saving furniture


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

BluesBarby, thanks for mentioning the Murphy bed! It gives a much more comfortable sleeping space than a sofa bed does. And, it is possible that I could use such a bed in our living room....by giving up on having a sofa in there and just having a couple of comfy chairs on wheels. I moved our library shelving into the front bedroom which has no bed, and I call it our study. But, the way books seem to grow like mushrooms around here, and I love to hang on to them, I can see more book storage in our future.

Barby, if you have a picture of your setup, I'd love to see it. You could start your own thread about Murphy beds if you liked. I don't think there's ever been one on Smaller Homes....at least not in the last couple of years.


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ML- That's a good idea! I've seen some on TV that have a table that folds down for crafts (shorter end attached to wall) and then the Muphy Bed folds down over that. I've always thought that would be a brilliant solution, for our upstairs guest room/craft space. Maybe that in one room and make a 'bunk room' out of the other for the nieces/nephews :)


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Office/dining room

Here is a link that might be useful: office/dining room


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

pay-it-forward, I love your idea. That would be the coolest table ever. I've seen game tables that have something like that but I don't know if the top comes off or if it flips over.

Another thing you could do is have an armoire with a slide out/pull out desk top, and when you want it out of sight, push the top in and shut the armoire doors.


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most of my rooms will have at least dual use. even the kitchen because I'll probably do paper work at the table. and store non kitchen things on the very top shelves.

the laundry room - that won't be a laundry room for some time, it will be the furnace room, storage and dog room for now.

marti and LL - the pull out table i mention on another thread is like the console table linked in an above post.

my bedroom might not be anything else - except I'm sure I'll end up sharing it with the pup.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Also note, I use my digital camera (it zooms about x50 I think) to take pictures of checks I write and the invoices I'm paying. That then goes right into my chronological file on the computer. These days, banks do not return cancelled checks, and sometimes they do not provide images of them online for very long. I'm expecting more of that in the future, so I'm keeping my own records.

If you have more than one computer connected to your router, you can also install a unified backup at the router, to do all your computer stuff. Unless, of course you use the cloud system.

Our front bedroom is now our STUDY, with room for both computers, 5 tall book cases, a loveseat (for our dachshund to look out the window), and our flat screen HDTV. We now watch TV in here, but have almost stopped watching since we got two Kindles. We are doing more reading, and I am working with Project Gutenberg (volunteer) and having a whale of a good time doing it.

The way I look at it, what do we need a guest room for? We have a very small house, 1000 sq feet max, and a room dedicated to GUESTS? Does not make sense. So the more I think about it, the more I feel we might use our living room for that purpose. At this point it is the least used room in the house. Make it look pretty, and figure how to make it more useful, but just what is a living room's function anyway?

What do YOU use YOUR living room for?
A parlor?
A TV room?
A game room?
Entertain guests?
Dance?
Listen to music or read?

Hmmm, I cannot think of much more.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

"Unless, of course you use the cloud system."
is that when my brain is foggy and my eyes won't focus?

or when the real clouds are low and when I go outside I'm I really am in the clouds?

"what do we need a guest room for? "

same way I think. I've only had 3 people spend a few nights here in 14 yrs. Not dedicating a room for that! 2 slept on the floor anyway and 1 on the sofa. I'll still have floors and a sofa in the new place. I figured tho that 1 room should at least have the space for a few to sleep on the floor if needed. The NWC bdrm will have that space in the center of it. I can still use the room for things I need it for - like keeping the desk and file cabinet out of my every day space (cause it often gets messy when the 'file clerk' doesn't show up...) and my 2nd bdrm set can go in there to be used for storage (the dresser, chest and dressing table), I just won't put the beds up (would need new mattresses anyway so I'll be saving there!). It'll also have a bookcase or 2 in it. I have a few other bookcases but I have lots and lots of books for them. My desk in there can house all the desk type stuff and it has drawers for things like stationery, envelopes etc. Good grief I won't know what to do if something really ends up where it belongs!
It'll also have a door I can pull shut so I don't have to yell at the 'file clerk' not showing her face here...(sometimes it's better not to have so many mirrors).

"What do YOU use YOUR living room for?"

probably not much. To start it'll be in the big room (with sliding doors and fireplace) so I might use it mostly to pass thru and stop to look out the glass doors to check on the pup - lol! I'm planning to put a few chairs in it so there's a place to sit if someone stops by (no one 'stops by' out here in the boonies). Once in a blue moon (ok, maybe once a yr) one of the neighbors will stop over that's about it. Usually we just stand outside and talk, now I'll be able to invite them in. It'll still keep 'em out of my tv/computer room where it might be messy with coupon papers (from my sister), sewing (I've got a ton of bottoms to hem and put new elastic in the waist area), a book, magazines, dog toys and who knows what else!

I haven't ruled out swapping the 2 rooms later if I think it'd work better for me. Time will tell.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

"If you have more than one computer connected to your router, you can also install a unified backup at the router, to do all your computer stuff. Unless, of course you use the cloud system."

Uh oh, ML's too smart for me.

You know you all have a point, and I struggle with it all the time. The guest room. Ours is used once or twice a year, for 3 or 4 days each time. Not really enough to justify having it as just the guest room, but without a guest room, my kids wouldn't stay here, and if they had to stay in a hotel when they visited, they wouldn't come often and wouldn't stay long when they came.

And I'm the same way I guess. My mil's guest room was so uncomfortable that I was ready to come home after one night there.

Dual rooms are the answer alright, but how to have a dual room where the guests don't feel they are crowded or keeping you out of your office/sewing room/exercise room?

A murphy bed is the obvious solution for a bed, but does that mean you have to keep the area empty in front of them? If you have something in the spot needed to pull down the bed, where do you put it when you need the bed?


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A thread on the other side of our forum

Ok, after thinking about dual purpose rooms and such, I ran across this series called LIVING ROOMS from the NYTimes, featured in the last couple of years. Not just decorating and such, but the place of our homes in shaping our lives and our history. Go look at it and see if you want to read it.

They call their series LIVING ROOMS. Rooms in which we live.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

I'm not good at searching, can you link it?


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" where the guests don't feel they are crowded or keeping you out of your office/sewing room/exercise room?"
and here I thought they didn't visit because of the expense and hassle of flying across country w/little ones. I know that isn't something I'd want to do...

they shouldn't mind being 'crowded' for a time. It isn't their normal home/living space. If they aren't sleeping they should be out in the other rooms visiting with you!

For the time of their visit don't do bookwork, sewing or exercise. Block that time out to spend with your visitor.

"A murphy bed is the obvious solution for a bed, but does that mean you have to keep the area empty in front of them? If you have something in the spot needed to pull down the bed, where do you put it when you need the bed?"

No, you don't have to keep it empty - just shove things to the side when you hear they are coming...
keep the center of the room empty or have an alternative space to put whatever (what?) like in your bdrm, the basement, garage etc

I plan to keep the center of mine mostly empty. If a chair creeps into it I'll be able to move it into the craft room. or someone will be able to move it. otherwise, things will be around the perimeter of the room for my normal use. I don't expect to spend a ton of time in there doing bookwork anyway. or filing!

try the link and see if it's the correct article.

Here is a link that might be useful: nyts living rooms


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

I mainly meant office, but I put all the other uses I could think of offhand. When my mom comes, she wants to stay in dh's office instead of either of the two real bedrooms, because she wants to have her own bathroom out there. It inconvenienced dh and made her feel guilty. But not guilty enough to use a different room I guess. lol

We've never had anyone come to see us and stay in a hotel, but people who come visit mil stay in a hotel rather than stay with her even though she has a sleeper sofa in her apartment.

When we used to stay with the in-laws, their guest room had a queen bed in it, with 12" around it, no where to set a suitcase to open it except the bed, and no space in the closet to hang anything. The bed was ok, but we both bloodied our shins on the dresser getting up in the middle of the night. It just wasn't comfortable even though it's true we only had to spend a little time in that room.

I do remember the days when families would travel long distances squashed six to a car, and then sleep in sleeping bags on any available floor space, even in the garage. I guess I've gotten spoiled, and would like my guests to feel pampered while they are here.

I think there's also a way to do that and still have the room be useful the other 350 days of the year. I just haven't figured out how to do it in my house yet.


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"queen bed in it, with 12" around i"

there might only be a foot around the air mattress too - if I ever have to use one!

i don't blame your mom for wanting a bathroom close - especially during the night.

could dh change his office to one of the other rooms?


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Nope, the garage is the only place he gets reception with his company cell phone.

The two bedrooms in the house share the hall bath. One is across from it, and the other is just a few feet further.

We sound like a really spoiled family, don't we? ;)


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no. gotta have that cell phone connection - and when people get older (especially) they wanna be close to a bathroom! lol - I know!
indoor plumbing is something to be very grateful for! mine often isn't working like it should... I'm looking so forward to newer plumbing in the newer place! I'm tired of living 'unspoiled' - lol!


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Well I have said before our some times guest room is my most times sewing room or get away room if needed. There is a small desk in there I use for the sewing machine and I have a great fold up ,long, table when needed. When not needed it is one inch thick folded and slides in beside the tall china cabinet out of the way and almost out of sight.

The futon opened up can be pulled out from the wall enough to access both sides if there is two people come to stay. So far in four years only one person has come to stay at a time. The guest bath is just across the hall from the room.

I do move the desk chair to the corner of the room when I open up the bed. With the futon back as a couch there is plenty of room for my sewing.

How do we use our living room?? We use it for everything. the lap tops are on the table between us and we use them on our laps. We are wireless here so we can go any where with the lap tops. I also take mine out to the front porch on nice days or evenings and to the small drop leaf table if I need more space working on city books. I could take it into the sewing room but prefer to not do so.

ML that is a GREAT idea to photo the checks. I wish a person could just hold the check up to the computer screen and it would scan it. LOL Well with the webcam I guess it would. I might give that a try.

The only room in the house with only one use is my studio. Because of the glass it needs to be just for that. BUT I do keep the printer/scanner and the one small file drawer table it sits on in there. And the extra computers and all the extra computer stuff in a couple vintage suitcases.

I even use our bedroom as a sitting room when I am on the phone.


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just scan the checks into the computer


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Gee, I cannot believe I left off the link.
Marti, here it is.
Several different opinionator articles, starting with the one linked here.

Here is a link that might be useful: NYT living rooms


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

Thanks for all of the great ideas, everyone!!


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

A couple of weeks ago I saw a type of Murphy bed on NYC but they just gave a glimpse of it, and I couldn't find it in a search. Well, it was on again today so I got enough information to do a better search.

It requires electricity, but I like this one. Have you seen it?

Modern Murphy Bed.


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

From marti's link: "Unlike traditional wall beds, Zoom-Room is an electronic, remote controlled, guest bed solution that maximizes space without sacrificing decor."

Seems that it could easily be made with casters, so not dependent on electricity. But one would need to take space from another area--maybe underneath a wide staircase, or under a platform bed in another room?

And I'm wondering if there is an auto-stop, as on garage doors. I can see a jokester with the remote control, waiting until someone is asleep, then *click*!!


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RE: Oops!

Took another look--I missed that it slides up the wall! I guess the caster idea wouldn't work for this application. Sorry


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

LOL, mama_bear, that is just what my kids would have done - after getting their sibling to go to sleep on it.

I know why you missed that the mattress went up the wall. The tv show didn't show where it went and I thought it must go into the next room or something, or maybe it was an air mattress that compacted as the framed closed. I couldn't imagine what happened to the mattress, but going up the wall didn't enter my mind.

One of the links on the side was about the comfort of the mattress. So the mattress is specially made to make the right angle curve to go up the wall. My question is how do you replace it in 10 years, especially if that company is no longer in business.

And the thing is expensive. I've seen plans online for diy murphy beds. It's the same amount of space either way.


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It is updating an old idea from the Victorian era. They had screened in sleeping porches, and the bed could be pushed out of the interior room to the outer screened porch. Those Victorians were health nuts who believed in the power of fresh air.

When I was in high school, I visited the summer house of my best friend, and that is the kind of bed we slept on. It could be pushed inside when rain was blowing, but when it was hot as blazes in the summer, the porch always had a great sea breeze blowing, and no mosquitos.

I've seen the fold down Murphy beds stored in an entertainment center sized piece of furniture. I've also seen (in an old Irish stone cottage) the bed stored in a cabinet which was a twin size, placed the long way on the wall, about the height of chair railing, with a nice shelf above it. These days, having the bed long ways lifted against the wall, with 16 inch thick mattresses, you could put a hanging closet above, or other storage, and the bed would be really out of the way except when being slept in.

Hydraulic lifts like car hatch openers/closers might make it easier to deal with if you are physically challenged.


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I missed this comment from ML "If you have more than one computer connected to your router, you can also install a unified backup at the router, to do all your computer stuff. Unless, of course you use the cloud system."

Please start a computer thread to explain this a little more. I have an external drive I would LOVE to do this kind of hook up to be able to do quick back ups to. Need to see if there is a USB on my router. Scratching head. Hummmm


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RE: Dual Purpose Rooms

ML - that's a good way to build a pull down bed. saw something like that on a house hunter intl show - somewhere in the Europe area. they had 2 of those I think it was.

and yeah - that computer info is all Greek to me these days!


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