Over the past year, there has been a major upswing in home renovation and re-imagination as people all over the globe tried to navigate work, school, and socializing while safely staying put inside. And to make it all work, the concept of more multifunctional spaces became especially desirable. That said, creating home offices and fitness studios out of existing areas can be a major challenge — but designers say it doesn't have to be.
Though you've probably been hearing the term more than ever before these days, experts have long been catering to clients who need to make their homes more multifunctional. "In some way or another, we have always been drawn to multifunctional spaces, whether that be with introducing open-concept layouts and opening up spaces for both living and dining or creating space for home gyms in bedrooms or garages," says Nancy Charbonneau of Charbonneau Interiors. "However, there is a shift toward other multifunctional spaces that I do think will be here to stay, the most prevalent being the home office."
Depending on the size of your place, your budget, and other lifestyle needs, creating a home office — or otherwise multifunctional space — that's both beautiful and actually useful could require some pretty serious ingenuity. "It seems between our clients, our colleagues, and our team, we’re always trying to find creative ways to design beautiful places for productivity in unexpected spaces," Charbonneau explains. "Some of our recent projects include an old storage closet transformed into a multi-person workspace, a formal dining room renovated to be a meeting and planning room, and a butler’s pantry with long countertops and comfortable seating, with plenty of space to work."
And the design expert adds that even post-pandemic, the idea of more multifunctional spaces is likely here to stay. "I also think work-from-home will be something we see more and more of, even after COVID, so the need for multifunctional workspaces won’t necessarily just disappear," she says. "I think it will just snowball into more creative ways to be productive while at home, and ultimately more creative ways to combine these different aspects of our lives under one roof."
To maximize your own home's functionality, Charbonneau recommends asking yourself a few questions first: What spaces are being underutilized? What opportunities are there? How often do you use the formal living room, or eat in the formal dining room? Can we convert one of those spaces to meet our day-to-day needs instead? "Asking these types of questions can open up conversations about really analyzing your family’s daily needs and how the spaces in your home help to meet them," she says. And if you need even more inspiration to get your multifunctional home makeover started, read ahead for some key pieces and tips to consider — straight from in-the-know designers.
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Multifunctional Spaces: Invest In Seating
A beautiful desk is one thing, but if you're going to actually use yours, you should also be comfortable and well supported. "If you’re looking to create a multifunctional workspace, invest in your desk chair," says Charbonneau. "There are so many ergonomic options that work great during the day, but are still beautiful and elegant, and not necessarily look like a desk chair once the workday is over."
Multifunctional Spaces: Smart Storage
According to Charbonneau, storage is key when making your space more multifunctional. Sleek file cabinets or carts that can be wheeled out of the way when not needed, chic baskets and bins, and even open shelving are a few smart and stylish solutions to keep clutter at bay. "When we converted this old storage closet into a functional workspace for two, we maximized the storage potential in the space with file drawers to hide day-to-day documents, printer storage so the cords were hidden and it could be put away when it wasn’t being used, and pin boards to pin to-do lists and important information for the day," the designer explains. "At the end of the day, storage should empower you to put things behind closed doors when you need to, so you can move through your day and not be distracted by the other ways that the room serves you. With design in general, but especially with multifunctional design, always ask yourself: What can we do to this room to help me live a better life and be a better person?"
Multifunctional Spaces: Consider Countertops
Need to save on space? A countertop or kitchen island is perfect for multitasking. "I feel that oversized countertops are great for so many things, especially when near the kitchen," Charbonneau says. "Whether you’re working on your computer, need to spread out with documents or a school project, or are just prepping for dinner. Just having space where you can physically spread out can help you mentally spread out, too." In super small homes or studios, this can also take the place of a traditional dining table. Don't have a counter already? Try a kitchen island that's sturdy enough for a variety of tasks, is a comfortable height, and includes some clever storage to make yours the most multifunctional.
Multifunctional Spaces: Make Room For Mindfulness
"Working from home is not new for me as an author and photographer," shares Alyssa Rosenheck, designer and author of The New Southern Style, who endorses the inclusion of a wellness nook in every home. "In order for us to maximize our output and create peace, we have to reimagine our everyday spaces and reassign meaning to create not just physical space, but also emotional, creative, and mental space for ourselves. Co-opt a few spots at home as 'wellness stations' — literal places in your home to find a sense of stillness, peace and a way for us to tap into our creativity."
According to Rosenbeck, this could manifest itself in a cozy tea or coffee nook or a more spa-like bathroom. Adding a water station, some greenery, or floor cushions to existing spaces can maximize the potential for moments of mindfulness.