Space is tight in urban homes, doubly so for growing families. Our needs have changed a great deal in the last century, back when most old brick semis and detached homes were designed and built.
We now want home offices, in-law or guest rooms, and should we be so lucky to dream it, devoted spaces for homework, practicing, or even health and wellness.
More complicated still is that many families are opting to stay in condos, forgoing cars for walkable neighbourhoods, preferring city amenities to the yards of suburbs.
The city of Toronto is taking notice with “Growing Up Toronto” a study that is looking into establishing design standards for new homes and condominiums to allow more flexible and transitional use of spaces for all families. I think it’s fabulous and way overdue!
Whether you are starting out as a family of three in a condo, or you’ve maxed out your brood and are looking to upsize but can’t afford bigger in your neighbourhood, the problem is the same: you have more people than bedrooms.
Let’s take a look at this traditional brick semi-detached three bedroom house layout.
Many families in homes like this ask me “what can I do NOW, for little money, to gain more flexible or multi-purpose space in my home?”. I believe there is extra space hiding in the way you use your home.
How To Find An Extra Room In Your Home
Step One: Give up your master bedroom
The master bedroom in a semi-detached home like this one here is the largest bedroom, usually situated at the front of the house, has the most linear wall space, the largest closet as well as the best natural light. Plenty of kids share rooms with their siblings, and doing so in the master (or largest) bedroom has the added benefit of a large shared play space. Now you can even reclaim your living room by moving toys upstairs! Bonus!
Let’s be honest, parents of young children don’t use the master bedroom for much more than a place to fall asleep exhausted, am I right? All that natural light is wasted on us, and the bed takes up the bulk of the room anyhow with all the circulation space around it. Can one of the secondary bedrooms fit a double or queen bed? Likely it can. Don’t worry, you’ll get that master back when your kids hit eighteen. In the meantime, think about all the use you'll get to enjoy with the extra room.
Step Two: Choose an arrangement for the shared room that will maximize functionality.
Let’s use a three kid scenario, all newly thrown in together in the master bedroom. Would they prefer to sleep together, or apart? Do the beds need to be close to the floor to minimize toddler-falling-out-of-bed issues? Is there room for a personal nook for each child either in this room or another spot in the home? Be sure to also consider how you parent your children to sleep. Bunk beds do save floor space, but they can take up visual weight in the room, and it’s harder to snuggle up to and read a book with the kid in the top bunk. Here are a few Drôle House visuals for bed arrangements:
The “Layer up” – features three single beds, layered, that create smaller bed sizes for smaller bodies.
The “Custom Bunk”- features two single beds directly on the floor, lowering access to bunk bed.
The “Sea of Beds” – yup, this one is just about what it seems: wall to wall beds. Why not throw a queen in there for yourself and free up TWO extra rooms?
More Tips To Make A Shared Bedroom Work:
- Place beds against the wall to maintain a clear central space for play.
- Avoid placing beds directly under windows because of temperature extremes, the heating vent is usually nearby and must remain uncovered, and it’s quite bright for sleeping.
- Smaller children are short and don’t need the full length of a single bed to sleep comfortably, so use that to tighten up the beds.
- Off-setting boxspring and using partial bed frames can save you from having to custom build.
- If you’re not sure what might fit, grab a tape measure, a pad of paper and sketch it out.
Step Three: Go nuts with your new room!
Your freed up extra room can now be used as a guest room, an exercise space, a music/study room, a home office, or an Air BNB rental? The best of all is that it’s reversible, so you can change it back anytime you want to. No daunting construction, only rethinking what a bedroom switch could do for your family.
Dig in and make the most of what you have. Need more design ideas? Check out these ideas for creating a fun and functional space for your kids.