I guess it’s a southern thing.
When we were on our house hunting trip for our move to North Carolina, our realtor selected a number of houses ahead of time that met our criteria. After she selected the route for the day, she was extremely excited to tell us that the first house we were going to look at had a bonus room! A bonus what?
Being from the Midwest, this was a new term to us, but at the risk of sounding stupid and asking her to describe what a bonus room is, we thought we would play along and figure it out for ourselves. As it turns out, a bonus room is what someone from the Minnesota would call a rec room; typically an extra living room in the basement with a pool table. Since there are very few basements in North Carolina, they naturally put the rec room upstairs. Okay, we get it now.
Bonus rooms are an interesting animal. I’ve seen them used as home theaters, playrooms, home gyms, craft rooms, offices and one transformed into a large bedroom for several siblings to share. Sometimes, they serve all of those purposes at once! Given the over-sized space, these multipurpose rooms can easily turn into a hodgepodge space that is extremely difficult to decorate, let alone organize.
So how does one successfully design and set up a bonus room? First, determine the most important needs for this extra space. Ask yourself:
What is the primary use for this space?
Is there a secondary use for the space?
Who will be using the space most often?
Does the space need to be shared?
Can the bonus room serve a purpose that can’t be done in another room and vice versa?
If you have kids, will their toys and games be stored in the bonus room, bedroom or another space?
Think Time Zones
In an ideal world, a bonus room could serve as an office during the day, and at night it can be a place for the kids or family to hang out, watch TV, play a game or do a puzzle. However, it can become a problem if someone needs to work in the bonus room while someone else wants to play video games or practice the piano. If you need access to an office or study space at different times of the day, the bonus room is probably not the best place; choose another room, preferably one with a door to limit noise.
Set up Zones by Use
Divide the space into defined areas. If one area is used for watching TV, you could arrange the sofa so it physically divides the room. Use area rugs to help define a space in the room. Bookcases can serve as purposeful half walls to separate one area from another. Place a table and chairs on one side of the room for games or crafts and put a comfy reading chair in another corner. Make sure there is adequate overhead and task lighting in each of the zones.
Once you have decided how you will use the room and what you will need in the space, it’s time to think about storage. Cabinets such as the one below can neatly store toys, games, puzzles, photos, crafting supplies, books, and more.
If you have kids, use baskets like the ones here to make it easy for them to put their toys away. Storage units like this can change as kids grow and the needs for the room changes.
Use built-in desks, storage closets and crawl space areas that provide storage without sacrificing floor space.
Change with the Times
It’s been 21 years since we moved into our home and in that time, our bonus room has been used for sleepovers, a place for the kids to hang out and watch movies with their friends, a music practice space, scrapbooking area and a library. Now it serves as a crafting space and workout room. I love looking back on how the space has evolved. Our realtor was right, bonus rooms are definitely something to be excited about.
I would love to hear how you are using your bonus space!
(Cover photo courtesy of Candace Olson)