Ta-da! My two formerly frumpy and chaotic double-duty rooms have been transformed into well-designed, high-functioning spaces. This is how it happened: while some funky music played in the background, a TV host with great teeth and a crew of 10 took control. Twenty minutes (and a few commercial breaks) later, I was crying from happiness because the rooms looked better than in my wildest dreams.
Oh, wait. That’s not it.
In real life it took a couple of weeks of shuffling furniture around, pitching or recycling multiple garbage bags of stuff and shopping for a couple of key decorative flourishes (pillows, curtains and the like) for each room.
To get some perspective on how far we’ve come, take a look at the before shots, here.
Then check out these glamour shots of the new playroom-guestroom:
And the shots of the new basement shared office-guestroom:
Before the pros stepped in we were in a sorry state. When organizer Catherine Desjeunes first visited, it took 15 minutes of frantic searching in my messy half-office just to find my checkbook to pay her. Now all our files are colour-coded and I know exactly where my checks are. When designer Annika Krausz first set foot in the playroom-guestroom, it had bare walls and bookcases stacked with random heaps of papers. Thanks to her, the reimagined space is a huge hit with my book- and train-loving two-year-old, but not too kid-tastic for grownup guests. And, best of all, we got to shift a bunch of toys up here from the living room which helps preserve the sanity.
What I love most about these rooms now is how much warmer and more personalized they feel. In the playroom, Annika suggested putting up a family photo wall that mixes old and recent photos, and new and vintage frames. We opened up the space by flipping the Ikea Expedit on its side and putting casters on it, and we put up some pretty curtains. We also brought in more red, riffing on the red in the rug (which really wasn’t working before, but really does now) and also the red in Elliot’s grandmother’s needlepoint.
Downstairs, we unfurled a rug that had been rolled up and gathering dust in the garage. Then we put up a vintage map that had similarly been forgotten when we moved into this house almost two years ago. Then we used the trunk I got at a Vermont antique shop as a coffee table. The large white built-in became my workstation and Elliot got my old mid-century teak desk, above which we set up some simple white shelving. Finally, we brightened up the pullout couch used for our occasional guests with a couple of cushions (the two teal ones were repurposed from the living room).
We only ended up spending a few hundred dollars per room. It’s amazing what you can do using mostly what you already have. If you’ve been procrastinating about getting started on just such a project in your home, I highly recommend setting aside the time, writing a plan of attack and diving in. And don’t worry about sticking to any particular design rules or trends. As Dorothy Draper, the grand dame of American decorating, put it: “If it looks right, it’s right.”
Annika’s top five tips for designing double-duty rooms
1. Figure out how will you be using the room most often. Don’t make something just a guestroom if your mother-in-law stays over once a year. If your desk is crowding your living room, move it in here to make an office-guestroom.
2. Before buying anything, think about using what’s already there. A coat of paint and new knobs on that dresser you inherited from grandma can transform a room.
3. Decide what you can move out or into the room. Look around your home for furniture that might work better here. If it’s crowded, think about moving something elsewhere.
4. Focus on something that inspires you and build your design around that. It could a brightly painted chair or even a teacup with an interesting pattern. Bring more of that colour or pattern in with the help of pillows, curtains, objects.
5. Think about proportions. A medium sized frame alone on a large expanse of wall looks sad. Either put up a large enough work of art or surround the existing piece with other small to medium frames.
Catherine’s top five organizing tips
1. First, identify what activities will be taking place in the room then make a list of what you need to properly carry out these activities (storage bins, files, whatever).
2. Now that you have that list, take stock of what is currently in your room. Separate what belongs in the room from what belongs elsewhere (or in the trash).
3. Purge: get rid of things that you no longer use. If certain documents need to be kept, but only for tax purposes or for occasional consultation, archive and store them somewhere convenient, but don’t let them clutter your everyday workspace.
4. Once you’ve got rid of and what you no longer need, prioritize the things you do need and use. Keeping in mind how often you use them, create zones and store items in their allocated zone (i.e. group files, magazines, reference materials, stationery together).
5. When setting up a filing system, colour coding is great for identifying things easily: finances in green, household in red, health matters in yellow, etc.