Sort it: Analyse awkward problems so that you can fix them

Problematic rooms need a shift in thinking to open up new possibilites


Awkward rooms are so often a stumbling block – I have a bedroom that was built over our garage. It is long and narrow and, because the door opens into the middle of the room, it was difficult to furnish. The room had many incarnations, from a home office to a laundry room, to a guest bedroom, but it never worked so I simply closed the door and forgot about it.

If we look honestly at how much time we spend in the various rooms of our homes I think we would be very surprised to find that there is at least 25 per cent of unused space.

Rooms like my problematic bedroom could provide the extra space that so many of us feel our homes are lacking, the difficulty is getting these rooms to work.

So often we can’t see past the things not working well and rule them out rather than trying to analyse how to fix them. The way around this is to change the way we think about these spaces. A shift in thinking is a very powerful and liberating thing as it opens up possibilities that you had overlooked.

My youngest son was rapidly growing out of the tiny box room and as a result his stuff was slowly starting to inhabit the whole house. All the while I had a large room that was never used.

I just couldn’t see how the long narrow bedroom would work for a four-year-old-boy. So I made a list of what we actually needed and this helped me to find a solution.

We needed the room to carry out two functions, sleeping and a play space. So instead of treating the long narrow room as one space I thought of it as two. This immediately solved the issue of the door being bang in the middle. One end of the room became the sleeping area and the other the play space.

By thinking of the room as two spaces rather than one it also helped me with decorating the room. I decided to treat both ends of the room completely differently.

I painted the sleeping area in a really dark blue and placed the wardrobe in the middle to separate the two spaces further. The sleeping area consists of a bed and some picture rails which I used as book shelves to make it easy for Billy to get the books at bed time.

I kept the playing end of the room light and bright. It’s a good idea to keep children’s rooms fairly neutral as their toys and stuff in general are very colourful.

At this end of the room there was plenty of space to put shelving for toys and a small table for him to sit at. Everything can be accessed easily by Billy, which is fantastic as he can play freely and because everything is easy for him to get at he is well able to put everything away and is now keeping his room very tidy – well so far anyway.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and
design consultant

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