9 Ways to make the most of a spare room

From gyms and games rooms to a home cinema, the possibilities are endless. By Luke Rix-Standing.

We wish we had the problem of what to do with a spare room. With property prices as they are, and homes becoming ever more compact, having an extra room in the house is a bit of a luxury.

But what to do with it? Here’s a few ideas…

1. Home office

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As laptops and Skype calls become the main tools of business, and more and more people are working from home, the home office has become less luxury more necessity.

Besides the obvious desk and chair, you might wish to invest in a filing system, and ensure access to an ample supply of sockets. Office wellbeing matters wherever you’re working, so pick up some pot plants and take the time to decorate.

If there is one item not to skimp on, it’s your chair. Posture and comfort are paramount, and when hunched over a laptop all day, lack of back support bites hard.

2. Games room

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A teenage dream it’s never too late to fulfil, a well-stocked games room will ensure your misspent youth continues long into adulthood.

The main thing to be conscious of is space. Pool tables are not only large, they need a perimeter of about 5ft for comfortable cuing, while ping pong tables need double their 9ft length for adequate movement at each end.

Table football is a little more compact, though be aware that vigorous play could send said football flying into any nearby screens.

3. Home gym

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Manna from heaven for fitness freaks, and a perfect way to remove excuses during slovenly moments, home gyms consist of anything from kettlebells and yoga mats, to elaborate cardio and weights machines.

The most important thing is to get the flooring right, and we recommend a commercial-grade foam surface to maximise shock absorption and minimise sound. Never compromise on safety either.

As for accoutrements, full-length mirrors seem be near-mandatory, we strongly suggest a speaker system, and next-level gym bunnies could even pick up a water cooler.

4. Makeshift bar

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A popular option for garages and shed conversions, there’s no reason why your personal speakeasy – for responsible drinking only – shouldn’t have a fully fledged spot inside the house.

The ingredients are fairly straightforward – a tabletop (perhaps professionally installed), a plug-in mini-fridge on one side, and a set of bar stools on the other. Everyone knows what really makes a bar is row upon row of bottles obscuring the back wall, easily constructed with some IKEA shelving units and a trip to your local offie.

Ideally, make sure you’re more than one wall away from any family bedrooms, or expect late night rabble-rousing to be extremely poorly received.

5. Walk-in wardrobe

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You’ll have to work with what you’ve got, but the best walk-in wardrobes are longer than they are wide, with clothes hung down each side, and a mirror at the end like a private miniature catwalk.

Make sure to build the room around your existing clothing – slide racks if mostly shirts, shoe draws if overflowing with footwear – and shove on a glass sliding door if you’re willing to do a little extra work. Bear in mind that a walk-in wardrobe will not add value to your home compared to, for example, an extra bedroom or bathroom. It should be a passion project in a home you’re likely to stay in.

6. Home cinema

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There are definitely two tiers of home cinema. Tier one is little more than a wall-mounted widescreen TV, with large, reclining seats, and soft furnishings to soak up sound. This you can do on your own.

Tier two involves a high-quality projector and projection screen, a surround sound setup (five speakers minimum), ambient dimmer-switch lighting, and preferably sound insulation in the walls. This will require professional installation.

If you want rows of tilting seats, slushie machines, and groups of infuriatingly loud teenagers, you’re entering tier three…

7. Playroom

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A boon for new and expectant parents that don’t want to deal with the scatter of toddler toys in the lounge, playrooms are simple to construct, if rather less simple to keep clean. Consider playhouses, bean bags, vibrant splashes of colour.

Pick up a thick, furry rug to provide cushioning for top-heavy toddlers, throw in a cheap sofa bed for comfort and/or sleepovers, and line the walls with low-lying storage units for easy reach.

The best thing about the self-built playroom is that it requires no structural changes, so in a few years you might even get the room back.

8. Reading room

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There’s something about throwing away books that feels strangely immoral, as though you’re throwing away not just the pages but the knowledge they contain.

A reading room is all about aesthetic – armchairs, over-the-shoulder reading lamps, the sort of coffee table you’d find in a dentist’s waiting room covered with copies of Time Magazine. A thick carpet keeps things cosy as well as quiet, while bookcases should be floor-to-ceiling, and ideally rammed. For the full Dickensian feel, you’d want ornate Victorian panelling and the bust of a Greek philosopher too, but we can’t have everything.

9. Guest bedroom

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We know, hardly the most original option, but there’s a reason that spare sleeping quarters are a go-to for otherwise unattached rooms. Sociability aside, ‘number of bedrooms’ is a major determinate factor in the valuation of a house, so a conversion can be financially savvy even if it’s never used.

It’s also one of the most straightforward – bed, carpet, closet, curtains, and you’re open for business.