Sometimes you need to make your square footage work for you. Sometimes, there isn’t quite enough space in your home and as such a room might need to pull double-duty and serve two distinct purposes. These are known as multi-use spaces and they can sometimes be a design challenge.

If you’re getting set to tackle one of these spaces, don’t worry. We’ve compiled our best tips on how to put multi-use spaces together, so you can learn how to make one of these slightly unusual spaces work for you.

What is a multi-use space?

If you haven’t considered a multi-use space before, you may think it’s the same thing as an open concept layout. While the two are similar, there is one key difference: Multi-use spaces have one, clearly dominant use as well as a secondary function. Meanwhile, open concept spaces typically have layouts that are more evenly distributed.

That said, multi-use spaces are fairly typical. While any two uses could, theoretically, be combined, here are a few common examples:

  • A desk or office area in the kitchen
  • A bedroom seating area
  • A reading nook
  • An eat-in kitchen
  • A combined mudroom and laundry space 

Consider your layout carefully

In these spaces, the layout is particularly important. As usual, it needs to indicate a clear path around the room and indicate its function. Since the space has two separate uses, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between them.

For this, proportion is key. As we mentioned above, all multi-use spaces have a dominant and secondary function. Visually, the dominant usually takes up two-thirds of the area, while the secondary function takes up the remaining third.

You can also use design elements to make the division even clearer. Be sure to leave plenty of negative space between the two areas. You could also use grounding items like dual area rugs or light fixtures to center each one.

Let furniture dictate function

In multi-use spaces, it’s also critical that both functions in the room be made explicitly clear. When this does not happen, rooms have a tendency to appear messy and disorganized. It can become difficult to visually separate which design elements are used for which purpose.

With that in mind, our best advice is to let the furniture take center stage. Try using one or two pieces of statement furniture to anchor each function area. For example, for a master bedroom with a reading nook, you could make the bed the focal point and just have a simple accent chair and bookcase in a separate corner of the room.

It almost goes without saying that, in these spaces, less is more. After putting the furniture in the room, be sure to take a step back. Use your sense of proportion to decide if the room seems too crowded or its functions unclear. If so, don’t hesitate to remove pieces as needed. 

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