It’s no secret that the reality of your own space goes out the window once kids come into the picture. The space that’s allotted for your own stuff gets smaller and smaller as both children and the family itself get bigger. But Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers alike are taking back their homes through remodeling projects once the kids are off to college or living in homes of their own.
Options for using vacant spaces include creating guest suites, relaxation rooms, hobby and art studios, home offices, and specialty rooms. Even if you don’t do a major remodel, home improvement projects such as fresh paint, replacing old, worn out furniture, and redoing floors in high-traffic areas can help make your home look new again and give it some much-needed updates.
This renovation by tatertots & jello DIY Decorating turned an unused dining room into a craft room that provides space for the homeowner to organize materials and work on projects in the company of friends.
Staying Put versus Downsizing
Most couples don’t retire as soon as their last kid moves out, but many are at least seriously planning ahead to survive on a reduced or fixed income. For many couples, this means selling their current home and dividing the profits between retirement plans and a smaller living space.
Your initial home improvement and remodeling decisions should be based on whether you plan to stay in the home long-term or improve it for resale value. If you’re planning to sell your current home in the next five to ten years, focus your remodeling efforts and budget on the kitchen and bathrooms first, since they provide the biggest return-on-investment and are a huge selling point for buyers.
If you’re planning to stay in your home indefinitely, you’ll probably also want to update your kitchen and bathrooms if you haven’t already. But today we’ll be focusing on what to do with those vacant children’s bedrooms and other unused spaces.
Don’t Destroy Your Bedrooms
You may be dreaming of that home office or craft room, but don’t make any major changes until the empty nest syndrome sets in. You will, of course, have kids coming home to visit, and they may be bringing friends, significant others, and one day, their own kids. And since Grandma’s sewing room probably won’t be child friendly, you’ll need a comfortable place for family members to sleep, play, and relax.
This Kogan Builders design sleeps four and fits inside a room no bigger than a walk-in closet. The large storage drawers built into the beds hold guest towels and extra blankets.
This is where the idea of a master guest suite comes in. The guest suite is like a combined family room and hotel room right inside your home. It provides your kids and grandkids their own space to retreat to. It also leaves you with more of your own personal space when guests are in town. When small children are around, the guest suite can provide a quite place for naps and a safe place to play, without childproofing your entire home.
This master guest suite by Case Design features a queen-sized bed, reading chair, and veranda for extra guests.
You may be wondering where this magical guest suite is coming from. Of course, a basement or attic space is already the perfect size, but not always available or an option. In homes with extra rooms and the right layout, a guest suite can still be created without doing an addition. All you need is two or more adjacent bedrooms and a nearby bathroom. By taking out a few walls and expanding a smaller bathroom or powder room, you can create a sizeable guest suite out of your vacant bedrooms.
This floor plan from The Plan Collection converted two small, adjacent bedrooms into a larger suite with a bathroom, and the closet was removed to create a balcony. An additional family room or sleeping room could be added in the storage room with access to the main guest suite through the bathroom.
The furniture and decor of a guest suite may change as your children go through the various ages and stages of their adult lives. For sleeping arrangements, a king or queen sized bed, a futon or sofa that doubles as a couch and bed, and a convertible crib should all be considered. Other items may include a flatscreen TV; a computer desk with a device-charging console; a sitting area; and a small refrigerator.
From Krannitz Gehl Architects, this roomy guest suite is complete with a king bed, work table, full bathroom, and a huge loft with extra beds and a plenty of room.
While the decor of the master suite is easy to change over the years, in the bathroom, you’ll want to create a more long-term solution. The room should include a bathtub for kids with a separate shower for adults if the space allows it. Also nice, but not a necessity, are dual sinks for adults and kids. Consider creating a shorter vanity for kids, or install a wall-mounted sink at child level.
Wall mounted sinks take up very little room and can be installed at any height, making them perfect for the grandkids.
Just Say “No” to Hoarding
I think a home remodeling project is a great way to combat empty nest syndrome and make your living space more enjoyable, but it can also help take care of another problem for people with too much extra room in the home: junk collecting. I know there’s a big difference between hoarding and simply failing to get rid of stuff you no longer need, but the problem is that one can lead to the other.
Remodeling or redecorating your vacant rooms really helps households get rid of stuff they don’t need anymore. Many of these items belonged to your kids, but at some point they have to go too. You can offer to put certain items aside for each child (packed away in storage), or ask them to clean out their old rooms themselves. And it’s always fun to put some of their favorite childhood decor back into the renovated rooms for nostalgia and comfort.
Personal Spaces and Man Caves
The concept of the man cave is nothing new, but more men are putting time into creating and decorating a space of their own outside the garage or tool shed. But men like their caves to be out of the way, so a vacant bedroom may not be sufficient. A man cave simply gives the man of the house a place to get away and relax where he can have free range with his own style of interior decor.
Case Design refinished this basement, which is now fun for friends and family at any age!
Here is the same room from the other side.
A finished or unfinished basement or attic space can be easily remodeled into a man cave by adding a wall with a door to section off one end of the space. And completely remodeling either space can create extra rooms to be used for specific hobbies or interests, even if that interest is simply having a peaceful retreat. If not used for a man cave, a basement or attic space is another great option for a master guest suite, because guests enjoy some much-needed private space too.
In larger homes with basements, attics, and vacant bedrooms, there are clearly a lot of options to work with: master guest suites, additional guest bedrooms, an office room, craft or hobby room, art studio, and man cave can easily be integrated into a sizeable home once the kids have moved out.
Attics provide great natural light and stay warmer than the rest of the house, making them perfect for a finished office or extra bedrooms.
People only continue to get more creative with their spaces. In the last few years I’ve seen an attic transformed into a hot yoga studio; a basement turned into a model train room; an old bedroom made into a stained glass studio; and a gift wrapping room inside a converted closet.
Whatever your creative interest, guest quarters, or personal space needs may be, an empty nest gives you the chance to pursue the home of your dreams, one remodeling project at a time.