When the youngest of our four children left home last year, our once noisy house took on a different atmosphere.
A stillness settled over the place due to the lack of human traffic (mainly walking from the bedroom to the refrigerator).
But if downsizing isn’t on the radar and you want to stay put after the chicks have fledged, there are ways to make a house feel less empty: by renovating and repurposing rooms for new, more exciting uses.
However, there are still chances for family and friends to come and stay.
“Leaving parts untouched will make the house look empty as it reminds you of the past,” says Vicki Foster, interior stylist at ScS, who advises decluttering first.
Quiet corner: transform your child’s old bedroom into a stylish and quiet reading area
Hybrid home office
To create a hybrid workspace, Helen Stephens, creative director at Stephens + Stephens, suggests placing a sofa bed near the necessary desk and chair.
“This keeps the bed out of sight when not needed, but still gives guests a place to sleep.”
A sofa with scattered cushions makes the room seem cozier. Interior designer Kate Blower, of BDN architects, also suggests investing in a desk that doubles as a dressing table to save space.
Whether painting masterpieces or building model airplanes, an empty nest is an opportunity to turn a spare room into a hobby workshop, says Rudolph Diesel, a London-based interior designer.
‘Add shelving or cabinets to bare walls for additional storage and display areas.
“As well as usefully filling space, this also means you can leave any closets or cupboards empty for when guests arrive.”
Consider using brighter, cooler-toned bulbs to illuminate areas where you will work, such as your desk, he adds.
“Then use warmer, dimmable lighting to create a cozy atmosphere in the bedroom; look for light bulbs that can be switched between the two for added convenience.”
Storage rooms have always been the last straw in our house, as they often only have enough space for a bed and a desk.
It’s no wonder they can end up as overcrowded warehouses in empty nests.
“To combat this, transform a storage room into a dressing room, especially useful if storage in other bedrooms is minimal,” says Helen Stephens.
Place a sliding door to create space and install full-height cabinets and shelving.
Even if your house is quiet, how wonderful to have a quiet place dedicated to reading.
If possible, choose a room away from the main living areas.
It is not necessary to spend a lot on design, since books are their own decoration: they are stored in built-in shelves, standard bookcases, unique floating wall shelves or repurposed furniture.
Just make sure they are sturdy enough to support your bookcase.
“You can still use it as a bedroom by opting for furniture that can serve different purposes, such as a storage ottoman that can be used as a seat, or a chaise lounge, futon or daybed to create a comfortable lounging area for reading when the bed isn’t is in use,” says interior designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher.
If your gym membership has expired, having a space dedicated to exercise could be more motivation for a makeover.
Choose a decent-sized room and swap cozy rugs or storage baskets for yoga mats, weights, and other fitness equipment.
“When guests are about to arrive, it’s easy to remove them and add more blankets or cushions to change the atmosphere from the fitness center to the relaxation station,” says Shanade.
You’ll also need a free wall for a large mirror. It will make a small wall look bigger, and watching yourself exercise is good motivation.