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Rooms with Purpose

by Joanna Gaines
Published on March 10, 2020

Photograph by Cody Ulrich / Homebody, Harper Design, 2018 Interior design by Marissa Adler Designs

Every time Chip and I renovate a home, my favorite part of the process is the initial walk-through. I love touring an empty home and seeing the potential hidden inside.

Before demo or design even begins, anything could happen and everything is possible. What could we gain if we saw our own homes this same way—past the dining room that’s been sitting empty for years, past the corner where clutter always seems to pile up, past the spare room that’s still filled with boxes?

We all have underused or perhaps even misused spaces at home, and we all have reasons they stay that way. Maybe it’s too much trouble to rethink the laundry room, even though you have square footage to spare–only that square footage has been functioning as storage space lately. Or perhaps a home office feels like a project to save for when you move into a bigger place. Instead of waiting for the future, create what you need right now. Consider converting a room that only gets used occasionally, like a guest room or sunroom, into your dream laundry space. Install bookshelves and a desk along an empty wall or build a worktable from sawhorses and a thick piece of plywood. Reimagining a room isn’t about making every square inch of it picture-perfect. It’s about making it support the season you’re in.

You may think of a purposeful room as only a place to get things done—a laundry room, home office, or efficiently organized closet, for instance. Rooms like these have practical functions, but they’re not often thought of as spaces to enjoy a quiet moment. I can’t help but see it differently. Giving a space purpose doesn’t mean it has to be utilitarian. Take a moment to consider the things that inspire you or that you want more of in your life. Then take a tour of your own home. Move from room to room looking for opportunities to create something valuable where there might have been just wasted space. Would having a retreat where you can sit and look out the window relieve stress? See if it’s possible to create a built-in seat under a hallway window. Through this lens, an unused closet can become a morning coffee bar. A tiny space under the stairs offers itself up as a reading nook. A corner of the living room might be the best new play area for the kids. There’s often too much pressure to create spaces that look good when what we need more than ever are places that feel good. That feel like us. Like our families. Like our home.

Practical Spaces

We spend a lot of time in hardworking rooms, so it’s well worth the effort to make them more inspiring.

NO. 1—laundry room

Because this space is primarily used by one homeowner, she didn’t hesitate to make the typically neutral room ultra fun and feminine. The beautiful materials and soft colors come together to create a laundry room that makes work a joy.

NO. 2 — closet & coffee bar

Photograph by Julie Soefer Interior design by Marie Flanigan

Just because something functional can be kept behind closed doors doesn’t mean it has to look like it should stay hidden. Create purposeful utilitarian spaces that cater to making your day easier and more enjoyable. Here, there’s enough room for a clothes rack and open shelves next to the washer and dryer. The pantry next door fits built-in shelves and drawers with everything you need for a cup of coffee.

NO. 3 — sewing room

Photograph by Javier Díez Interior design by Marie Flanigan

Work flies by in a space that makes you happy. If you have a guest room that could be better used to house a hobby or interest, don’t hesitate to make it one that you will enjoy regularly. In this sewing room, plants, photo collages, and quirky artwork inspire creativity. A few simple upgrades—like the addition of a freestanding clothes rack and a large work surface—make it more purposeful.

Unused Spaces

NO. 4 — attic playroom

Photograph by David A. Land Interior design by Ann Rae

The area under the eaves at the top of the house is easy to neglect or relegate to storage. The square footage that an attic offers can meet endless needs. Here, the shape of the room is embraced as obstacles become assets. Structural beams and ductwork carve out cozy niches for furniture. A low ledge becomes a long bench in front of the window for additional seating.

NO. 5 — creative corner

Photograph by Lauren Edmonds Interior design by Rachel Anderson

Dead floor space comes to life when you use the walls. Hanging baskets and a striped awning along with kid-size shopping carts and a chalkboard create a “grocery store” play space in an otherwise unused corner.

NO. 6 — breakfast bar

Photograph by Lisa Petrole Interior design by Joanna Gaines

Make the most of an awkward area. A wood counter hung in front of two windows turns unused space into an extra spot for breakfast. Two hanging pendants and simple stools help define the space.

See more spaces like this in the

spring issue of Magnolia Journal.