It’s OK to change room’s traditional use to fit your needs

"There is no useful rule without an exception." Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), English clergyman and historian, M.D., Gnomologia

I’m doing a series of articles on "decorating first steps." The first in this series concentrated on choosing paint colors. After all, walls are the largest single area in your home and they deserve a lot of attention.

I talked about choosing a paint color; and after you select that as your base, you can add any special treatment, paper, or other wall covering you wish.

One of the most important steps in redoing a space, or moving into a new home is to decide how you want to use your space. You may not need a formal dining room, or a separate living room and a den. And you certainly don’t have to use a room as it was originally intended.

Remember, the house is yours and you can use it any way you wish. Even if you are renting, you are still not held to conventional uses for rooms — you are limited only by structure. Here are some alternatives to standard thinking.

If you don’t need two sitting areas, i.e., a formal living room and a family room, use the living room for a music room or library. Add a couple of comfortable chairs and you have created a cozy space to read a book or enjoy your child’s piano concert.

If you need a formal dining room, but the room designated for that purpose is too small to fit your grandmother’s table that extends to seat 12, switch to another room. Put your dining area in the living room and have your sitting area in the smaller room.

As long as you don’t make structural changes that could hinder your resale, move about in your space to your heart’s content. However, if you remove closets, take out walls to, say, combine two bedrooms to make one larger one, you may have a problem when you put your property on the market. Most folks are looking for a lot of closet space and many bedrooms. Be thoughtful about any major changes that you can’t undo easily or without breaking the bank.

If you have extra bedrooms and would like a home gym or a home office, go for it. Guest rooms can be overrated. Make a rough estimate of how many times you have overnight guests, and if it’s only a couple of times a year, your space could be better utilized for an activity that you pursue often, i.e., working out or working from home. We pay too much for our square footage to let a room go to waste.

Regarding storage, if you have an extra linen or coat closet, turn it into a mini wine cellar. Conversely if you don’t have enough kitchen storage, use a coat or linen closet that’s close by to store those big trays or pans that you use only on Thanksgiving or other holidays. Storage is usually at a premium, so be creative in how you utilize yours. Don’t let one inch go to waste.

After you have made the decision on how you are going to make the most of your space, you’re now ready for the next steps.

See you next week!

Carolyn Muse Grant is the editor of Southern Nevada Home & Garden magazine. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home & Garden section of the Review-Journal. Check out other decorating tips in Southern Nevada Home & Garden magazine, which is published the first Saturday of each month. Send questions to

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