Neglected spaces throughout your home don’t just look awkward—they’re also wasted opportunities. Good design utilizes every room to its fullest potential, balancing stylish elements with practical features geared toward everything from home productivity to storage to entertaining guests. Use these tips to transform frequently neglected areas into well-designed and value-adding spots.
Perhaps the most typical examples of wasted potential, outdoor spaces like patios, front porches, and verandas rarely achieve their intended uses. Rather than decorated for lounging in the fresh air, they’re often kept sparse and untidy or are simply ignored. Whether you use your outdoor spaces every day or rarely intend to step foot on them at all, dedicate some time and effort to sprucing them up. At the very least, some visual interest outdoors will make for pleasant views from the comfort of your living room.
Design outdoor square footage according to the same design principles of indoor decorating, but substitute with weather-resistant materials. For example, you could decorate your patio with a pair of rattan chairs and an iron bench, placing a stone cocktail table in the center and laying a jute rug for cohesiveness. Add in some colorful potted plants and pillows as accents, and suddenly a blank patio becomes a tempting relaxation zone just steps away from your door.
Basement and attic
You don’t need to relegate these rooms as dank spaces you ignore or even avoid. Instead, revive this valuable square footage with practical and stylish elements. There are plenty of design opportunities to explore—basements and attics are basically sandboxes with near-endless possibilities. Consider what’s unfulfilling about your home (in terms of living space, that is), then decide how to finish and decorate these areas to meet that need.
Among your many options, you could design a craft center in a finished attic for hobbies like watercolor painting or repairing furniture, build a home gym in your basement, or create an extra living space for hosting special events like viewing parties and game nights. A spare room is also the perfect place to decorate with elements that may be too relaxed for your primary living space, including lounge seating, movie posters, a cabinet of souvenirs, and other possessions you’re especially fond of.
Formal dining room
Posh design principles have rendered most formal dining areas stiff-backed and proper, making it difficult to enjoy a meal comfortably in there. If you followed the once-popular home trend of appointing two distinct dining spaces—one informal spot likely called the “breakfast nook” and a separate, formal dining room detached from the kitchen—you might find yourself using the relaxed one far more often.
So what can you do with the formal room instead? Repurpose it into something more useful to you! Transform it into a cozy reading lounge, designate it as a music room, or set up a home bar with ample seating for hosting company. If you would still like to have a formal dining area, at least swap out your luxurious furniture for something more enticing, such as banquet seating or a bar-height table with stools.
These humble passages between rooms deserve better than to be walked through without a second thought. Remember, good design means balancing both beauty and function, and hallways are no exception. Transform a blank corridor into a beautifully curated home gallery by hanging wall art that will wow your guests, including antique pieces, family photos, and new acquisitions. And if you have a wide enough corridor for idling, place a small accent chair or bench against one wall.
Extra space between rooms can be especially difficult to design. Perhaps you have a wide breezeway between your kitchen island and family room, an awkward landing near or on a staircase, or a particularly large foyer. While it may be tempting to stuff meaningless decor in these spots to shun the emptiness, you can actually elevate these too-small-yet-too-large spaces, taking them from ignored to enjoyable.
Consider the quaint charm of a corner reading nook. All you need is a chair, a proportional end table, and a light fixture. Take a seat in the nook with your favorite beverage and a book or tablet, then let time slip away.
When all else fails, extra storage space is always a blessing. You can fill unused spaces with elegant storage furniture like an armoire or credenza, display treasured goods in a dedicated curio cabinet, or roll in a bar cart and stock it with the appropriate wares.
Potential rental space
Transform empty rooms into finished abodes to take advantage of their profit-making potential. An unoccupied bedroom or unfinished portion of your home could serve as a rental unit that pays back dividends. Consider renting out a single room at a daily rate, hosting a long-term tenant, or even turning a detached structure into an in-law suite. The latter isn’t only for aging relatives; it can also serve as a refuge for travelers and new arrivals alike.
Of course, there are some legal obstacles to undertake before you pop a “For Rent” sign on the door. Depending on where you live, these can include applying for the proper permits and installing features like a fire escape. For more information, discuss your rental-unit plans with a real estate agent. When you complete the requisite steps, a once underutilized room can start earning you extra money.