7 Little Ways to Create Bonus Rooms in Your Home, According to Real Estate Pros

published May 17, 2021
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Bonus or “flex” space can be valuable, especially when you’re trying to sell your home. You may think you don’t have a spare room that’s not already dedicated to sleeping, eating, or lounging, but real estate agents and home stagers say to look beyond that to find spots that could be maximized: The end of a hallway could become a home office. An unfinished attic would make a great music room, or an awkward nook might serve as a meditation area. 

Reimagining these spots can help lure potential buyers, or just make life at home a little easier. Here’s how real estate pros revamp underused spaces. 

Carving Out Corners in Large Spaces

When home stagers scope out a client’s house for the first time, they often look for areas that can be transformed into useful, defined spaces, says Shirin Sarikhani, founder and owner of Seattle Staged to Sell

“It’s important to divide and conquer: If there’s a big room, or even a small room, create zones like a game table, or a homework space,” she explains. “It’s all about showing the potential function of the space.” 

Embracing Double-Duty Rooms

Since the pandemic, homeowners have been squeezing multiple uses out rooms, says Sarikhani, so it’s important to showcase those dual functions so buyers can imagine themselves living in your house.

“Home offices and home gyms are king these days, so we’ve staged rooms that do both,” she says. “It’s about showing there are private spaces for Zoom meetings, homeschooling, and working out.” 

Rethinking Formal Rooms

Buyers are also interested in more than one work-from-home spot, says real estate agent William Sattler, who is also president of Realty Design Group in Chicago, Illinois. 

“Basements used to be the go-to for home offices, but now that we’re working from home so much, there’s a demand for natural light and a place where you want to spend at least eight hours a day,” says Sattler. “One family we’re working with sacrificed their dining room and made it a second office.” 

Formal living rooms are also being reimagined, adds Susan Thompson, owner of Ready-Set-Stage in Middlesex, New Jersey.

“We’ve converted them into cocktail lounges, yoga rooms, and a kid’s dance space,” says Thompson. “Some homeowners add glass-front French doors to close off the room while still allowing light to come in.”

Maximizing Nooks and Crannies

Many homes have oversized landings, long hallways, or extra closets that could be put to better use, says Sattler, who turned an upstairs landing in his own home into an office for his wife.

“It’s only five by six feet, but we found the perfect scale furniture, plus a little bit of storage. It’s at the top of the hallway, so it has a skylight with great natural light, and it’s become a go-to spot,” he says.

You can sneak in a work or play area anywhere, adds Sarikhani.

“Under the staircase is great for an office space, and so is a closet if you use a shelving system and a stool that tucks under the desk. Landings can also become a play area using kid’s furniture.” 

Thompson has turned closets into craft areas by removing doors and adding shelves and baskets. Unused corners can also add much-needed storage, adds Sattler. 

“Everyone thinks updated kitchens and bathrooms sell, but I’ve noticed that mudroom spaces get positive feedback from buyers,” he says. 

Adding Walls Instead of Removing Them

Sattler recently helped a professional harp player, who had pivoted into giving music lessons during the pandemic, by creating a space where she could practice and teach.

“She has a 1990s-style open-concept townhome, and they wanted it closed off to create an entrance from the outside so clients don’t see the rest of the home,” he says. Putting up some walls — without having to expand the footprint of the home — did the trick.

Finishing Attic or Basement Space

As long as an attic space has proper ventilation and ceiling height, it can be a home gym, playroom, or office, says Sarikhani. 

Sattler recently completed an attic conversion to add a primary suite and reading area. 

“It freed up a first-floor bedroom, which became an office for the kids while they were homeschooling,” he says.

Basements work for things like media rooms, crafting space or guest suites, says Thompson. 

“The challenge here is not much natural light, but by adding good lighting, the area can feel more inviting,” she says. “We divide basements into sections for school work, living areas, and a music area where children can practice.”

Credit: Jessica Rapp

Giving Up a Closet to Get a Powder Room

Sattler works with many older homes where a first-floor half-bathroom is rare.

“Last year, I converted a coat closet into a small but charming powder room nestled underneath the stairs,” he says. “It was a great use of space.”

Thinking outside the obvious floorplan can yield great spaces that potential buyers will love.