So many choices for a spare room

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Modern interior. Modern interior.

So you have an extra room? Lucky you! Maybe it’s the bedroom of a now-out-in-the-world young person. Or an elderly relative has entered assisted living. Or you’ve relocated to a larger home. There are a number of choices you can make for that room, depending on your needs and interests.

Home offices popular

“The most common use for an extra bedroom is a home office,” says Todd McGee, a REALTOR® with Nest Realty. “If they have the space, most people have some sort of a home office, even if it’s just for paying bills or using the computer.”

“Home offices are so needed in today’s lifestyle,” agrees REALTOR® Linda Broadbent with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate III. “That would be my first choice. Just make sure it has the ease of movement and the technology for a variety of uses.”

Some people design a home office that can double as a guest room by choosing dual-use furniture. For example, some desks can be completely closed to conceal a computer and printer and some file cabinets can serve as attractive bedside tables. Those old Murphy installations that used to slide out from behind shellacked closet doors to serve as a very basic bed are now well-balanced units that, when folded up, show nothing but a decorative wall panel or painting.

There can even be tax benefits for a home office. There are many restrictions, but items such as carpets, paint, furniture, and office equipment are usually tax deductible. In some cases, a percentage of home expenses such as mortgage interest, homeowners insurance, and utilities may also be tax deductible.

The space must be your only office, used exclusively as an office, and the home office deduction cannot be used to create a tax loss, although the deduction may often be carried forward. Read IRS regulations very carefully or consult with a tax professional to see if your home office qualifies.

Many other uses possible

McGee says if the extra room is more of a bonus room, it’s most commonly used as an extra “hang out” or game room, especially if there’s no basement. “Everyone likes to have a space where you can get away,” he points out.

“More than likely the extra or bonus room is finished similarly to the rest of the house,” he continues, “so you may find built-in bookcases in the space, which could be multi-functional for a media room, office, game room, or bedroom.”

 A newly free spare room offers a wonderful opportunity to recreate and decorate. Depending on your budget you might opt for new furniture, cutting-edge wall-coverings, or handsome new window treatments. Ideas abound in magazines and online.

On the other hand, you might opt to reuse, recycle, refinish, and repurpose furniture, shelving, or other “goodies” from yard sales, craigslist, or the Habitat store. A fresh coat of paint can transform a room while a special light fixture—from ornate antique to starkly modern—adds instant personality.

Some people choose to make a spare room into a true guest room so visiting family doesn’t have to sleep on the convertible sofa in the living room. In this case, it’s always wise to opt for twin beds or a trundle bed for persons who will share a room, but not a bed.

Others may opt for exercise equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical trainer. There may be space for a weight rack or an area for a yoga mat. Often a full-length mirror is added for exercisers to check their form.

Another popular option is a “project” room with ample shelving, good lighting, and a large work area. This provides space for crafts, sewing, artwork, or hobbies that can be pursued without having to put everything away when you’re finished for the day.

“Most consumers aren’t making major changes or alterations for specific uses,” says McGee. This is a smart decision, because creating unusual applications can affect a house’s eventual sales appeal. “One home I went into,” McGee recalls, “the owner was using the extra bedroom as an art studio so it had a tile floor and a sink in the corner.” This was fine for the artist, but a barrier to marketability when she was trying to sell the house.

“Consider the use,” says Broadbent, who agrees that it’s sensible to be cautious about a major conversion. “If your needs change, the room should have the ability to change. For instance, when I built my home in Dunlora Forest, I arranged it so I could have a home office, but should I ever need a third bedroom for a caregiver, I can easily convert the space.”

So if an extra room appears, take the time to check magazines, model homes, and online décor sites to find your best use. And enjoy!

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By Marilyn Pribus

Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville.  When their older boy left home, she replaced the red-and-blue polyester plaid rug with neutral carpeting from a remnant store, repainted the bright blue walls with a quiet beige, and created a long-wished-for home office.