Whether it’s free space you search out within your home—or extra space just begging to be used—these ideas will help you create that special area you can’t live without
Katie Frassinelli found a way to tame the office clutter from a new business venture and hide it away in a converted closet. Author Lori A. Moore carved out a nook for her published books and their attendant supplies—even the stuffed gray felines she packs on book signings for her children’s book, Grady the Gray Cat Gets Adopted. And Jeannine Bennett planted a veritable Garden of Eden in a garage corridor that is as colorful as the outdoors.
Found space. As lives, families, activities, professions, interests, and avocations get upsized and downsized, and transition from leisurely to fast-forward and back again, people find themselves seeking out convertible space. Whether right under their nose or in a home’s farthest and most forgotten reaches, found space can be a godsend as individuals’ needs, pursuits, and passions change over a lifetime.
At the Bowling Green home of Anthony and Katie Frassinelli, a former bedroom/junk room is now showing its organizational muscle as a hardworking editorial office. Marketing and communications manager at the National Corvette Museum by day, and owner, publisher, and creative director of the free local quarterly Bowling Green Parent Magazine by night, Katie needed space to write articles and caption photos, among other editorial duties.
The conversion was fairly straightforward: the Frassinellis created a hideaway storage system inside the room’s closet that consists of a snugly fitting bookshelf and stacked file drawers.
“I moved things around several times before I figured out that the bookshelves fit in the closet and that the file drawers not only fit in there, but that I could save space by stacking them.”
Simple, but effective, they purchased pieces to corral the clutter, which includes random craft supplies. The magazine runs articles on arts and crafts activities, so everything from empty toilet paper rolls to Pringles cans find their way into the bins, boxes, and shelves.
“I can easily shove stuff in the closet until I have time to file it away properly,” says Katie. “Then I just close the doors and it isn’t an eyesore.”
Katie and two partners officially started Bowling Green Parent last summer. The first issue was published in the fall and found a ready following with families.
Because of the demand for the magazine, Anthony, who works as the head of an IT department, built a top-of-the-line computer for Katie, who handles all of the magazine’s graphic and Web design.
“Of course, when starting a new business there is a lot of ‘stuff,’ so I’ve continually evolved the space to better suit the needs of the magazine.”
Uncommon book nook location
Lori A. Moore scouted out space in the kitchen of her Louisville home to house her books and all the accoutrements of a busy author’s life. In addition to her children’s book, Moore is the author of From Zero to Christian in Just 35 Years—winner of a 2009 Bronze award for Christian nonfiction from ReadersFavorite
.com—and Missing Andy: The Journey from Grief to Joy, which won a 2010 Gold award for Christian living from ReadersFavorite.com.
Space didn’t become an issue for Moore until about two years ago, when she and her husband downsized to a patio home that has significantly less square footage than their previous home—no basement, no loft, and no third bedroom.
“Things worked out pretty well until I became an author and had to find a place to keep my books, marketing materials, and so forth,” she says. “Absent building on an additional room (not an option) or getting rid of something (what?), I had to find a creative way to find space for my office and book supplies.”
Moore says when it dawned on her that she “wasn’t much of a cook” and that many of her kitchen cabinets were virtually empty or close to it, she had an epiphany.
“Voila!” she says. “Storage for my books and supplies.”
The cabinets were divested of the few place mats, drink cozies, and soft-sided lunch boxes they contained, and Moore instantly acquired enough room to hold books, letterhead, notebooks, and office and book signing supplies.
The “book nook,” as Moore calls it, stores and organizes all the materials she needs to market her work and accompany her on book signings, including two stuffed Grady cats. She plans to expand the nook to an upper kitchen cabinet soon. Goodbye Tupperware; hello next book.
To say that Jeannine Bennett loves flowers is both unreservedly true and a blatant understatement.
“If you could see my vibrant yard and beautiful flower room, you would agree,” says the Russell Springs flower maven whose blooms include everything from purple hearts, cacti, calla lilies and peace lilies, to small lace ferns and creeping ivy to spider, umbrella, and aloe plants.
“Gardening is my way of enjoying God’s creation, releasing stress, and being able to give to others,” says Bennett, a member of South Kentucky RECC.
“I enjoy repotting, root cutting, and deadheading my plants. I love to experiment with flowers to see how I can get the most from them. I have 59 plants and flowers at this time, but I’ve had as many as 76: Christmas cacti, poinsettias, violets, violas. I love odd and unusual plants.
“The donkey tails and Moses in the Bulrushes make everyone that sees them want to touch them. I have an old-timey fern that is really rare to find these days, and I have some vines that run up the wall.”
Six or so years ago, the Bennetts, like the Moores, downsized from a large home situated on a farm to a smaller house.
“Our kids had moved out and, without them there, we didn’t see the need for the extra space. Our (previous) home had lots of windows where my plants and flowers could get the sunlight they needed. But when we moved, I didn’t have as much room for them as I thought.”
It was husband Steve to the rescue, expanding the space he had originally planned for building a garage to obtain the needed room. After determining the elevation to take full advantage of the sunlight, the enlarged garage was built and Bennett had her flower room—a year-round haven for her and a source of joy for others.
Bennett takes her flowers—those from her room and more from her garden—and delivers them to friends and strangers alike, passing bouquets out at nursing homes and the local hospital.
“I love to do this,” she says. “I am a people person and I love to talk to everybody. It’s really exciting to watch people’s faces and reactions when I give them flowers. I have noticed that nothing brings a smile to a person’s face faster than to give them a bouquet of beautiful flowers.”
Analysis of an arts and crafts room
A favorite found space project is an arts and crafts room.
“Craft room projects tend to be functional, utilitarian spaces that come in several different ‘flavors,’” says Jerry Ostertag, owner of The Closet Factory in Louisville.
While hobbyists may be pursuing painting, sewing, model airplane crafting, or some other diversion and require space equipped for the idiosyncrasies of their particular hobby, there are commonalities in the component requirements.
“Storage and large, flat work surfaces are what we hear most often,” he says.
In the case of an arts and crafts room dedicated to sewing, a counter surface for laying out patterns and cutting fabric is essential. Storage can be designed to accommodate specific needs. The Closet Factory designers have installed closet rods, cut to the length of a standard bolt of fabric, between standing panels.
“This helps get stuff off the floor and the fabric is always ready to use and accessible.”
Messy hobbies require easy-to-clean surfaces. For these, Ostertag installs laminates rather than painted or stained wood.
Counter height, especially for islands or peninsulas, is typically “bar height”—36"-44"—so hobbyists can work at their projects while standing or seated at a bar stool or captain’s chair.
“The great thing about islands and peninsulas is the ability for more than one person to work on a project at the same time from different sides. Whether this is mother and daughter cutting a dress pattern or grandparent and grandchild working a puzzle, this is both practical and popular.”
Other important considerations in arts and crafts rooms: neutral colors that allow crafters to see errant threads, needles, embellishments, scraps of fabric, and pattern pieces, and task lighting for counter areas and under cabinets.
“On the flip side, some items need to be protected from light, including specialty papers and fabrics, and that may mean putting cabinet doors over shelving storage, or building long, flat shallow drawers for storage,” he says.
Prices for creating an arts and crafts space depend on the specific elements hobbyists want to include. Ostertag notes that Closet Factory projects have ranged from under $1,000 to $5,000, and from adding a small storage unit and worktable in a side hallway or alcove, to completely converting a bedroom and decking it out with a significant amount of space and storage counters.
A model for mud rooms
Designating space for a mud room can cost as little as $100 to as much as $200 per linear foot or more—depending on a family’s particular space, needs, and budget.
Chad Beyer, of i5 design group inc. in Paducah, says it all comes back to what Mom preached: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
“A mud room is kind of the back entry to the house for the family, so the thing we deal with is storage,” he says. “There should be a home for everything.”
A place to hang up coats, charge cell phones, organize the mail, deposit workaday baggage, stow sports equipment—even if that includes unwieldy football shoulder pads. All these things need to be put somewhere in order to eliminate clutter, maintain organization, reduce stress, and create a peaceful environment, as well as be able to find items quickly as you run out the door the next morning.
“The mud room is a transition area. You come out of your daily life to your home life. You want to make that transition comfortably and enter your home peacefully.”
Beyer advises thinking about how the space or room will serve the family and address specific situations: Do you need a mail center? A spot to store poster boards, markers, paints, and other supplies for school projects—along with workspace that can get messy? A place to wash muddy boots or the family dog—and a shower basin to help facilitate the task?
“It always comes back to function,” says Beyer.
Mud room storage can be as simple as buying an armoire or chest of drawers from an antiques or used furniture store, or as elaborate as customized cabinetry designed to contain the accoutrements of a family’s life—no matter how many members, interests, hobbies, or directions they’re going in.
“The storage needs to be multipurpose, but it must also serve the needs of the particular family,” he says.
If there is existing space and you are creating storage areas, Beyer says a used piece adapted to your needs would work. This is the $100 end of the scale. If customized casework is involved in creating storage solutions, costs head toward the other end of the scale—it’s $200 or so per linear foot.
POPULAR “FOUND SPACE” PROJECTS
Man caves, mud rooms, arts and crafts room, library, wine room, a wargaming room. A wargaming room?
According to Nikki Golden, marketing and communications manager at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), these are the types of found space projects that Contractor of the Year award winners have created in residential spaces over the past few years.
The wargaming room was designed for wargaming—that is, the re-enactment of actual battles—in miniature.
In the description of this entry, the homeowner states he has more than 100 custom-sized topography boards and that storage was created to house warriors from the Civil War, World War I, the Napoleonic War, and others.
“With people staying in their homes longer, they are looking for ways to really personalize the space,” says NARI President Paul Zuch, president of Capital Improvements in McKinney, Texas. “A closet near the kitchen can be turned into a wine room. An extra bedroom can be turned into a crafting room—the possibilities are endless to create usable space within a home.”
For more ideas and help with projects, these are the groups listed in this story:
National Association of
the Remodeling Industry
For a list of remodelers in Kentucky
The Closet Factory
Louisville (502) 489-3901
i5 design group inc.
Paducah (270) 444-0305
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: ANATOMY OF FLOWER POWER SPACE
To read more about Jeannine Bennett’s flower room and how she’s turned it into her Garden of Eden, go to flower space.