Home architecture changes as our needs change. For understandable reasons, one of the most important recent trends is flex space. Other similar concepts include family rooms, dens, bonus rooms, and loft spaces. Basically, flex space is an area you can use for more than one purpose.
With remote work rising, roommate living common, and multi-generation households making a comeback, multi-use rooms are increasingly valuable. Check out our tips about how to get the most flexibility out of your space.
What Makes a Space Flexible?
If residents can only use a room for one purpose, it's not a flexible space. For example, a bathroom typically has one set of functions. You might store some linenes there or squeeze in some laundry functionality, but it would be odd to have a bathroom that could double as a playroom.
Large, dedicated use furniture pieces and appliances make rooms hard to use for other things. Generic furniture like desks and tables, on the other hand, lend themselves to multiple purposes.
A room for both kids' toys and mom's desk might seem counterintuitive, but as long as you keep clutter under control, play and work areas actually mix pretty well.
Flex Spaces Add Home Value
Flex spaces can grow with you as your needs change. This versatility will support you as your life situation shifts and your passions change.
Open areas also add value to your home. Offices and gyms, or spaces that can serve as both, are very hot properties in the real estate market these days. When a home hits the market with a bonus room or flexible use space, buyers or renters are quick to snatch it up.
In some markets, stating that your listing has a flex space, bonus room, loft, or finished attic can increase the sale value by up to 6%. Add that to a simple kitchen update and some curb appeal landscaping, and you're well on your way to a higher sticker price, and more home equity.
Flex spaces don't even need to be inside the house. Creating a covered patio space that can be used as a greenhouse or outdoor sitting room makes your home more desirable.
How to Use Flex Space
Many homebuyers are searching for a home with enough space to offer a guest room, or enough rooms for their kids to each have their own space. In most states, the only things that differentiate a bedroom from a bonus room are a closet and adequate egress from the windows for a safe escape in case of a fire.
Most bonus rooms are designed with plenty of natural light, giving you the desired egress, but lack a closet. If you add a freestanding wardrobe or armoire, you've converted the space into a bedroom for your dear grandmother or youngest kids to separate into their own rooms (finally).
As of 2021, over 45% of all full-time staff worked at least partially remotely and from home. Thousands of homes have transitioned random space into dedicated or part-time home offices. Homes with a bonus room had an easier time flexing to meet these needs.
Some homeowners had to get creative and find the flex space in closets, hallway landings, or even in the garage. Add-ons, tiny houses, and garden sheds have all stepped into the mix, too. Some professionals went as far as converting their second bathroom or laundry room into work-from-home spaces.
This trend has contributed to a new design imperative for homes—including a bonus space by default.
Nursery or Playroom
Kids come with a lot of stuff, and that stuff can make your space feel chaotic. But having a dedicated place for kid activities like rest, play, and homework can be compatible with adulting activities like working from home or watching TV.
Many parents jumped into homeschooling for the first time when the pandemic closed in-person schooling. Some families decided to keep at it even when schools reopened.
Creating a dedicated schooling space for your children will help them separate their education from the rest of their life. Research suggests that learning in one place can be more effective than studying in different locations.
Hobby or Craft Space
Every crafter or artist needs a studio space—a place to melt into their work and flow with creativity.
Good storage organizers and large flat surfaces can be valuable for these spaces.
Your party meets a clutter dragon—roll for initiative! Flex spaces make great spots for gaming. Shelving units can help you store all your gear, and a large table or open floor space will facilitate the fun.
By day, binge your favorite tv shows, and by night, scare your friends with horror films and surround sound.
You can also create a fantastic video gaming experience in a media room by adding ambient lighting, fun decorations, and high-tech tools
Especially in smaller homes, it helps to make rooms usable for as many things as possible. For example, you can keep track of free weights in your home office. Or set up a murphy bed on the wall of your entertainment space.
You could even put up a room divider to create separate work and school spaces. Another popular idea is turning a spare room into a guest room and library lounge with a murphy bed bookshelf.
How Large Does a Flex Space Need to Be?
You don't need an entire dedicated room to convert a flex space. You can convert any versatile corner, wide hallway, spare closet, or area under the stairs into flex space with some creativity.
Pinterest has a ton of inspiration for transforming even the smallest spaces into usable flex space. Realtors have seen quite a few options too. The most common tiny space flex areas are closet offices and reading nooks.
One of the best parts about the flex space idea is that no one makes the rules. You don't have to follow another homeowner's design concepts or ideas. You don't need to use the same types of furniture you see in similar spaces.
You can choose to use things that usually have no room in the home. Some of the best small space ideas come from home improvement materials or upcycled thrift store finds for new and different projects.
What to Look for When Designing a Flex Space
When you're furnishing your flex space, consider the area's primary purpose. What you need to get or build will depend on how you need the room to serve you and your family.
It's far too easy to turn the room into a clutter collection by trying to do too much, so focus at least a little, and prioritize organization.
Work with light colors and lots of natural light to make the area feel larger (consider dark curtains, though, if you're going for a media room).
Working with multi-functional furniture, or pieces you can stow away when not in use will save you a lot of hassle. With efficient flex space, less is more.
Storage is key, too. Prioritize systems that are easy to label and easy to access but look clean and tidy. Hidden storage like trunks and drawers are a great way to get a cleaner look.
When searching at stores and thrift shops for pieces to put in the flex space, think outside of the box. Can that IKEA Kallax shelf rest on its side with a cushion for a seat and become a bench in a ready nook with kids' toys stored under it in Drona boxes?
What about a side table with a removable top that you can use to store spare blankets for guests, or a steamer trunk that your guests can use as a side table and store pillows.
Build It Yourself
You won't find the right furniture to fit your needs in some cases. In some of these situations, you can custom-build the furniture and structures into the space you need. Still, in most cases, it's easier and more cost-effective to use pre-made, found, or reclaimed materials to build custom pieces to fit into the space.
This may be an excellent opportunity to hone your furniture-building skills by making some multi-purpose cubes. As the kids say, that's a nice flex.