Living Spaces
Name and Use Them for Max Effect

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Quarantine life is making us use every nook and cranny of our homes. We talked to Sara Lohse and Samantha Erickson of The Rescued Room and Jessica Markley of Elias Construction about tips to create the best living spaces for your lifestyle.

Lohse says the best way to begin is by walking through your home with a notebook, jotting down thoughts as you go. What areas do you use the most and what for? What areas cause you the most anxiety?

Lohse says, “COVID has taught me to be flexible and to be open to rethinking my space. For example we moved our master bedroom to the basement, moved our kids into different rooms and repurposed the smallest bedroom on the main floor into an office. I had been working in the kitchen, but I needed a place where I could go and close the door to work. I just couldn’t do zoom meetings in bed anymore!”

She adds that it’s important to get creative and remember that once you create a definition of a space, it helps you to use it more efficiently. Erickson says, “It’s kind of like putting a shoe in the refrigerator.” You know it doesn’t belong there, but it’s just easier for now. Without definition spaces can become catch-alls. Do you have a formal dining room that’s not getting a lot of use? Maybe consider another purpose for that room.

When you do a redesign of a space, function always comes before esthetics. What do you truly need to use it for? Do you need a quiet space with a door for work or school? Do you need something without a door so you can keep an eye on little ones? Does it have to be close to the kitchen? Lohse says, “You see a lot of open shelving with just a couple of items on it. That’s fine to have, but know that it’s just decorative and you need actual storage space for the things that you use.” She adds, “Do a personal analysis about what you really need. Have the esthetic come after that. It doesn’t matter if it looks like a beautiful magazine shoot. If you get to living and you realize that you don’t have what you need, then it becomes a hot mess really quickly.”

The living area on the main level of the Lohse home is a rectangle with an open plan but has several spots that are tailored for different living activities. Markley calls this a “flex space.” The kitchen has a storage area, a cooking zone and a snack bar, as well as a separate dining area. The long living room has two sections: one centered around the fireplace with a TV and gaming equipment, and the other a reading nook. The distinct areas allow family members to engage in different activities in their own spaces.

In both of her daughters’ rooms, Lohse and her husband removed the closet doors and replaced one side of each closet with a built-in desk space for distance learning. The girls each have three “zones” in their rooms: a work space, a seat for reading and chilling, and their sleep space.

Markley says that even before the pandemic, there was a trend toward working from home. Now people are converting bedrooms or formal dining rooms into office and distance learning spaces. Lohse converted a small bedroom on their main level into her office, with tons of storage in the closet.

Some questions to ask yourself as you’re walking through your space:

  • How often do I cook?
  • When I’m in my kitchen, am I baking more? Using the stove? Do I use spices frequently?
  • Do I store similar things in more than one place?
  • What spaces do I enjoy the most?
  • What spaces are causing me anxiety?

Markley says, “Basements afford a lot of opportunities and can be personalized for each client. We can tailor a space to someone who loves fitness or someone who loves to watch movies. Maybe a client needs an

office downstairs or has a need for a kitchenette.”

She says that a lot of what she does as she’s getting to know clients is to find out how they want their space to feel. She says, “We don’t need specifics of color or furniture at this point. We want to know if the client wants the space to feel quiet or restful or energizing, for example. And that means different things to different people. Everyone has a different level of comfort and what they like to surround themselves with. Books and antiques could be mind cluttering for a minimalist.

Markley says that an important aspect of flex spaces is to be able to close doors and hide things that aren’t being used. She likes “barn doors, French doors with opaque or frosted glass or pocket doors for being able to tuck something away.”

Markley reminds readers that even if your budget isn’t big enough to afford a complete home remodel, the experts at home repair stores are very good at giving advice and helping with DIY projects. She says, “Not everybody has a huge project and a huge budget. If you’re making small changes and don’t know where to start, remember that a lot of those people have been in the industry for a long time and are more than willing to help you and can help guide you. It’s an untapped resource.”


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