If you live in an apartment or unit – or even in an inner-city place built before massive modern houses began filling sprawling suburbs – chances are you occasionally crave for a little extra space.
And sure, some things might be impossible to change – like having to settle for a cosy courtyard or balcony over a big backyard – but that’s not to say you can’t get clever with the space you have and make it work harder for you.
Rio Ryan, who shares a double-fronted weatherboard home with her husband in Melbourne’s inner-west, did just that.
“Andy [her husband] and I have always struggled with the idea of having two bedrooms but only one lounge room, especially when we often have very different routines,” says Rio.
“He loves watching the telly after work while I’m happier curling up with a good book. But with only one couch in the house, it’d normally be me who’d wind up stuck in the bedroom.”
Making more from less
After a few years of frustration, Rio decided to solve the problem by looking into how she could repurpose one of the bedrooms.
“Thinking it through, I realised that the second bedroom was only being used a night or two every few months when friends or family came in from out of town to see us,” she explains. “Seeing a queen-sized bed fill the space day after day seemed like such a waste to me, so after doing a little research, I decided to completely reimagine the space.”
Better still, Rio transformed their second bedroom all without it losing its old function.
“Swapping the queen bed for a same-sized modern fold-out sofa gave us more than a second place to sleep and another couch,” she says. “It opened up room for us to add an armchair, coffee table, and a desk – something that’s come in especially handy this year,” she says.
“So now, what was once a typically unused bedroom, is now a home office, a quiet place I can read that’s not on my bed, another spot where we can entertain mates, plus a comfy room for guests to stay whenever they’re in town.”
The results of Rio’s reinvention have even started to inspire others. “Friends of ours who live in an apartment and saw the ‘before and after’ at our place wound up doing what we did and replaced the queen bed in their second bedroom with a sofa bed, and they haven’t looked back since,” she explains. “That’s when I knew we were onto a good thing!”
Rio’s tips for getting it right
- Have a vision and stick to it
“For me, reinventing the second bedroom was about creating a space for me to read that was away from the TV, plus a comfy place we could sit around and have drinks with mates,” she says.
“Whether you want somewhere to listen to music, play video games or focus on work, know why you want the space and how you’ll use it before you get started – that’s my advice.”
- Work in any fun tricks you find
“Digging around online, one interesting thing I discovered was that ordering books by colour – light to dark, top to bottom – in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase can create the illusion a ceiling’s higher than it actually is,” explains Rio. “While we’re lucky in that our older place already had high ceilings, applying this little trick has still helped open up the room and made it feel even bigger.
“For anyone in a new place with lower ceilings, I can see this trick having an even bigger effect.”
- Make room for storage
“Another struggle I’ve had living in a smaller place is dealing with a lack of storage space,” Rio admits. “When starting out, at the top of my list was making sure there’d be room to hide those bits and pieces that don’t need to be on show, and which make a room look cluttered.
“While installing floor-to-ceiling closets can work a treat, some of those nifty, self-assemble storage units out there can do just as good a job at maximising your space.”
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