What would you do with this extra room??
May 8, 2022 3:02 PM   Subscribe

We are (hopefully) moving into a townhouse with more than two total rooms. Yay! We have pretty obvious uses for all of them except one, a smallish room that goes out onto a patio. What would you do with a mystery space?

This house has four floors, the room in question is the first floor -- arguably a basement, but it's a full walk-out with sliding doors onto a covered brick patio (about 10x10), so not really. It also has two stairs up to a half-bathroom, and (at present) a built-in murphy bed and shelving unit thing on one wall (the wall on the left-hand side, if you're looking at the floor plan). It takes up the whole wall and is about a foot deep. We could take it out. The laundry is also down here, in a closet -- one whole wall is closets.

The second floor has the real entrance, living/dining/kitchen, front porch. Third floor has two bedrooms and two full bathrooms (our bedroom, and a second bedroom that will probably be spouse's office), fourth floor has a loft area (my office) and a very small deck.

Which leaves this weird little basement space! What should we use it for? Some factors/thoughts:
- We have overnight guests only occasionally (no more than a few nights a year)
- The current residents use it as an exercise area but we could also put exercise stuff in our respective offices
- Because of the sliding doors to the (cute and usable but un-fancy) patio, I'd love for it to be some kind of entertaining space, but I'm not sure exactly what that would look like, it's not a huge space
- We like to play board games, do puzzles, etc. and have thought about making it sort of a board game room with a big table but that's dedicating a LOT of space to a fairly occasional activity
- Might also be nice to have a TV down there when we want to watch different stuff (we've never had two TVs before!)

I don't know! What would you do with it? Modular or flexible suggestions are also very welcome.

floor plan
posted by goodbyewaffles to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Put a TV on a swing arm so that it is up against the wall on the opening side of the sliders, then you can swing it and flip it facing out to watch TV outside on a nice night. Use a wireless rechargeable bluetooth soundbar and you can bring that out to your sitting area.

Maybe get a gateleg-style table that could be a game table, buffet or cocktail table for entertaining, place to eat dinner or do puzzles or crafts. Alternately put a kitchen island or island-y table to give you table seating AND storage, plus you can roll it against the wall when not being sat around. That would give you more room for maybe a basic IKEA sleeper sofa for lounging and guests.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:15 PM on May 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If I were you I would focus on the idea of an entertaining/hang out space. I would add some better storage than the murphy bed- maybe cabinets on the bottom and shelves on top on that wall on the left? You could keep your games and puzzles there, as well as a set up for a bar (if you drink.) Maybe even get a beverage fridge? Your TV could also go on this wall(using the swinging arm as suggested above). Add a round table with four stools or ottomans so the table could be used for serving, eating, or games. If you found an oval table on wheels then this could offer more flexibility- you could push it up against the other wall. I would also get two easy chairs and an occasional table (maybe something that could be used indoors or outdoors) so you can use the space to watch movies as well. I have a room in my house that is basically a pass through room and I have made it my "library" with a great oval table in the center that I use for puzzles and also as a spot to do paper work.
posted by momochan at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

My guy has a rowhouse in a big city, and has a similar bottom floor layout. He has it set up as a comfy family room; no tv currently, but it's a really nice spot to relax in a cushy couch, handy to eat indoors if we want to grill outdoors but it's too hot/cold/rainy to eat outside.

I really like Lyn Never's take on it all.

Alternately, you can just move in and see if you get inspiration on your own; you may discover the perfect use for it organically.
posted by annieb at 3:59 PM on May 8, 2022 [7 favorites]

I would not pre-determine it. I would live there for a month or three and decide, based on your experience and needs what to do with it then. Don't lock yourself in now.

Edit: What annieb said in their last sentence
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:50 PM on May 8, 2022 [13 favorites]

Get some comfortable seating and nothing else for now. See what else you need as time goes along.

Also, if either of you has a messy hobby or woodshop or etc, this is the perfect location.
posted by Bottlecap at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

We have a basement guest room that is so great to have. I don't know what your previous set up was but we have experienced 'if you build it they will come' we have much more company knowing they will have their own space, nice for them and nice for us.
posted by InkaLomax at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Don't call it "the basement room." Call it "the first-floor room" or "the ground-floor room". Any room at ground level where you can walk straight out into the yard without steps is a first-floor room. No need to attach a basement stigma to it. Later you may call it the guest room, downstairs bedroom, hobby room, workshop, or whatever it becomes.

Don't take the Murphy bed out until you have lived there for a few months. Sleep on it once or twice to see if it is comfortable, and if the room has good sleep vibes. A Murphy bed is way easier to use than a sofa bed, and usually more comfortable. See how you like using the back patio from this room. Just get a couple of lawn chairs and sit outside and inside and see how it feels. Arrange your upper rooms that you have clear plans for, and wait for this room to speak to you. If you live with it for two or three months the proper use will just become evident to you.

I can't help but notice you could easily add a shower to the left of that half bath, maybe even a curbless shower. Seems like this might make a great guest suite that you can use as a living area when you have no guests.
posted by KayQuestions at 8:22 PM on May 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: What I would do: It’s on the ground floor, use it for grounding yourself, away from the offices. Call it the morning room, have some tea/coffee station with mugs you like, some cushions to sit on either on the porch or inside, where you can meditate, or just breathe or think, some nice notebooks and pens, perhaps a little table to write in a journal. In the morning, make a cuppa, go out onto the porch and even the yard if possible, feel your feet on the ground, the warmth of the cup; perhaps you hear some birdsong. Exhale and start the day on a calm note, individually or together. Go there again when you take a break during the day. Mount a hammock or use the murphy bed for a nap.
posted by meijusa at 1:18 AM on May 9, 2022

Best answer: I live in a radically different kind of home - a tiny Hong Kong apartment - but I also have a room like this: unused for one specific purpose but full of possibilities. I call it the extra room. Interestingly, while it is also the brightest, warmest, most private and quietest room in the house and is as close to an oasis as I can get, I spend almost no time there because it's too full of stuff. It also has a wardrobe on one wall, a decision I made years ago that is not possible to change now but limits the room's use to storage.

To me, you have the same thing: it's a space that serves no discrete function, and so it is at high risk of becoming an in-home storage unit unless you really make it desirable to be in.

However, the real problem is going to be light. It is really less a room without good light and will feel like a place no one will want to be if you frame it that way. Instead, I think it's best to see it as a more-shaded, less-exposed "extension" of your covered patio that just happens to be in your home, rather than a room that can do similar things to the rooms upstairs since it's so dark.

I am seeing big plants, airy/gauzy curtains, wicker, excellent airflow, lots of birds outside, and the sliding doors defaulting to being open every time you're in there. I am envisioning something like the tenth picture down on this page.

Some ideas to make this a reality:

- First, I would leave the Murphy bed there, but I wouldn't plan the whole room around it. Leave everything in the footprint of the bed movable. It feels too valuable to lose since it's a ready-made guest bedroom, and also as a space to retreat to if there's some construction or other repair work that has to happen in your own bedroom later.

- Because the space only has light on one side, consider mirrors on the walls, choose colours that draw the eye outside to diminish the cave-like feeling. Plants, picture frames, throw rugs, paint if you can: you need to bring in colours other than the not-sunlit version of whatever is there now and that make the patio the star of the show.

- I imagine the ceiling is low. Make all your decisions about what size furniture you choose for the room based on this. Compare it to your upstairs room with a sofa or table/chairs in terms of proportionality.

- Because the room will be linked in airflow to a bathroom and a garage, definitely consider screening the patio doors so you can leave them open as much as possible while down there to boost ventilation in the house as a whole, especially if the upper-floor windows can be opened in the summer to generate a chimney-effect breeze.

- To boost both light and air in the long-term, if possible, I would be absolutely considering making the whole patio-facing wall entirely made up of a foldable window wall like this. You'll need to consider how you're going to avoid musty/gasoline smells in there, and I would also want a CO and smoke alarm in there too.

- If you have central HVAC, consider the savings of spending more time down there in the summer, when it will likely be cooler than a higher floor. In the winter, if it's cold where you are, the washer and driver are going to throw off a lot of heat, as will a small fridge. I'd also be double-/triple-glazing the patio doors to keep the heat/cool in if that's a factor where you are. Sliding doors sometimes have not-great locks, so look into securing that, too.

- The closet wall will be unavoidable, but don't be tempted to make it a room where the focus is not the closets - if they are a whole wall, you're going to have to see them. Instead, try to plan your life so they are as empty as possible, which would let you remove the doors (to store in the strange nook-like space to the left of the powder room in the garage?) and turn at least some of them into shelves to display decorations or flowers or something. You'd also create some depth (and the space you want for your games, maybe).

- Outside, the patio may need to be considerably livened up and maintained, at least to the level of care you show the room itself, so they feel more than linked; it would be great if they could feel like the same space. If you can swing it, design the room so it is natural and normal for the default thing you do in the room is to face the outside and, ideally, have the sliding doors open while doing so. Small patios are a frequent feature of British garden discourse because homes and patio spaces are much smaller there. Here is an article with a ton of ideas.

- Relatedly, while you should certainly boost the wifi if needed, don't have a screen on a wall at all here, because then you're orienting the whole room away from the only light source. Perhaps in future the underside of the Murphy bed could be painted/built so you can project things onto it with a ceiling-mounted projector?

- Finally, the furniture question: the TÄRNÖ range at IKEA features small but attractive and durable folding garden furniture (here's an example set for the equivalent of around 75 USD) that could be stored in the garage or closets for patio use (or indeed indoor use with some little floor protecting pads on the bottom). They take up zero space folded and are light enough to carry one-handed.

Good luck! This sounds like a fun challenge.
posted by mdonley at 4:04 AM on May 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are planning on using the patio, then I think making the room an extension of the patio is the way to go. That might mean making the flooring feel indoor/outdoor, or adding plants, or informal seating. If you don't use the patio (eg because you use the porch instead as an outdoor space), then I think I would just make it a nice guest room, possibly with storage.
posted by plonkee at 4:38 AM on May 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a suggestion about what not to do -- with an extra/undefined room directly off of the garage, it would be easy for it to turn into a messy storage space, where you put boxes of stuff intended to for donation, random things that you brought home but can't use until they are assembled, the leftover boxes from your move that still need to be sorted, the holiday decorations...

The only way to make the room become one of the amazing spaces that people above have described is to be intentional about it not turning into a cluttered space full of things that remind you of work that is needed to be done (like hauling away the donations, say) -- you will never want to spend time in that kind of space.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 AM on May 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

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