Double Duty Spaces
That Really Work

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The double duty spaces in our home improvements meet all of our demands. We don't want to sacrifice one square inch of function! We need every square foot to count and provide as much flexibility as possible.

This article* was written by an award-winning architect from a new home marketing perspective. You can employ the same concepts learned here during the Envision and Design stages of your improvements to achieve double duty spaces.

By Anne Olson Postle, A.I.A.

"Right-sized," "smaller-smarter," and "achievable" are the requirements we hear daily from today's home buyers, but that doesn't mean that they just want less square footage. They may not want to pay for even one more square foot than they absolutely need, but they also don't want to sacrifice one square inch of function!

Our challenge is to offer a home that meets all the demands of today's buyers, and we can do this by demanding more from the plan by offering spaces that do double duty.

Just like all of your buyers, the rooms in our homes often have to wear more than one hat. Let's start at the stuffy old study. Today's version has to be a whole lot more than a place to retreat for brandy and cigars.

The space has now become a working office, and often has to function for two people at the same time, with separate work stations. It also has to be wired with convenient access to data, communication, and printers.

Rather than optioning a closet only when it will be used as a bedroom, the smart builder will be offering a technology alcove within the office to hide the printers and store the supplies.

We often try to force the office to also function as a guest bedroom, and this can work for some people, but not everyone. If the office gets full-time use, or the guests stay weeks at a time, this is a bad idea!

If the guests are only occasional, for short periods, and the office can be spared for short periods, then a Murphy bed or seating that converts to a bed can be a great double duty option.

A dated plan will put a desk in the breakfast nook for the woman of the home, calling that 'double-duty,' but we know today that this doesn't really work.

The desk in this location immediately becomes a 'dump zone' for letters, bills, and permission slips that are quickly stained with spaghetti sauce at dinner. A much better solution is a "command center" or "pocket office."

This is a smaller space that the working office (pics coming) above, is adjacent to the main living area in a home, but tucked away in an alcove. It allows for voice communication with other family members, but the mess is tucked away.

The command center is a great option for the family where the office is used full time by one member of the household, but the other partner still needs a workspace. It is also a great option where the 'right-sizing" has eliminated an office altogether.

How about the Kitchen?

Are there way to make this space do double duty? In reality, it always has! The kitchen is the center of both meal creation and entertaining. A careful design of the kitchen island can add dining to the list of functions for this hard working space.

Just adding a bar to one side of the island won't cut it. Try a round dining extension, at table height, to part of the island. Make sure that family members can face each other while they eat.

A well-designed island can provide a great serving bar for a party, a wonderful place to visit while the meal is being prepared, valuable preparation space, and a functional dining area. Now that is double duty!

One of the greatest double duty spaces that doesn't add to the square footage tally is a well-designed outdoor living area. These spaces can add incredibly useful and valuable space to a smaller home. It can double as an entertaining area, a dining area, a cooking area (think BBQ) and a relaxing retreat.

The laundry area, if well designed and large enough, can double as a hobby and craft studio. It needs adequate work space, natural light, and usually a sink (depending on the hobby). Whatever you do, don't try to make the laundry double as a mud room!

A pile of dirty laundry is never the first thing you want to see when you arrive home. Remember that the laundry room should always be placed on the same floor as the master bedroom.

Few buyers today can afford a designated space for exercise alone, but many will appreciate a design where this function can occur. A tucked away alcove, with storage for the exercise accessories, can work off of a loft, master bedroom, or office.

Garages as Great Double Duty Spaces

Design in zones withing the garage for the different functions: workshop, storage, dog wash/pet grooming, gardening, cave? You might even have a little room left for the car.

One of our favorite double duty details is the sleepover window seat in a child's bedroom. This is a raised plywood platform that is large enough for a twin mattress. It is great when it has built in bookshelves adjacent.

This space provides an extra bed for guests, but also easily stores 80 stuffed animals. The sleepover window seat is a great memory point for the family buyer!

One of the keys to making your spaces do double duty is proper storage. Well-designed storage for the various activities performed in the space is critical for the space to function.

Depending on the activity, don't forget the shelves, the cabinets, the closets, and even the special built-ins that allow the double duty to work.

Taking it to a New Level

Are you ready to take double duty to a whole new level? How about a room that is all about flexibility? Some of our latest plans have a flex room as part of the design. What can you do in this space?

For starters, it is a room to watch a movie or your favorite show; it may have an office workspace and a game table. It may also have a Murphy bed or sleeping alcove, and a series of sliding doors that can take an open room and turn it into a private retreat.

Add a mini-kitchen or bar and it can function as a caregiver's apartment or a space for the boomerang child.

The well-designed home that will appeal to today's buyer is not the same home our parents bought; it's not even the same home that sold five years ago. The spaces within today's home, just like the people who live there, have to wear a lot of hats.

Consider all the different activities that make up a typical day for your buyers and then make your homes work. Spaces that are carefully designed for double duty, with consideration for the way we actually live, will be the homes that sell.

Author: Anne Olson-Postle, A.I.A., CAASH, is president of Olson Architecture, Inc., and brings over 25 years experience in market-driven residential architecture to her clients.

Olson Architecture, Inc., is an award-winning, six-person architectural firm specializing in housing in all sizes and price ranges. Located near Boulder, Colorado, they work with home builders throughout the United States.

Their clients include DR Horton and Standard Pacific Homes, as well as many custom builders. In 2010, Olson Architecture had an award-winning custom home entry in The Nationals, and in both 2008 and 2009, they received a Gold Award in the Best of 50+ Housing.

Most recently, Olson Architecture, Inc.'s work was featured in the Taunton Press book, The House to Ourselves, about creating the perfect home after the kids are gone.

*Reprinted with permission from "Double/Duty Spaces (That Really Work!)" by Anne Olson Postle, A.I.A., 2011, Sales + Marketing Ideas, pages 30-33, copyright 2011 by National Sales and Marketing Council of The National Association of Home Builders.

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