Adaptable//Sustainable: Formal Area Conversion

Part 3 in the series “Adaptable//Sustainable: DIY Home Adaptation//Remaking Your Space to Work for You.”
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OK, so some of the ideas below require a little remodeling. Or it can just be treated as a room switch. This series has been about rethinking how we use our spaces and how they can used in nontraditional ways, in ways that work for the way you really live.
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Why not make your breakfast nook the one dining area? Do you really need two eating tables? Not only are you paying for the extra furniture, but a mortgage on that space too. If your mortgage is $2000 per month on a 2,000 sq foot house, and your dining room is 168 SF, you are paying over $2,000 per year for a room you may only use for major holidays and birthdays.
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One idea is to have the nice table in the breakfast nook. For everyday dining, use a table cloth (and table protector if you have young kiddos). Then, when you want to create a special dining experience, take off the table cloth, light some candles and turn down the lights. You won’t even notice that you’re in the breakfast nook that you use every day! If you have a breakfast bar or an area to place stools, this can serve as your casual dining area.
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The formal dining room is usually the perfect size for an extra bedroom or a guest room. Instead of moving to accommodate another child or because of the lack of a guest room, you can use the rarely used formal dining room. If you don’t want to get too much into the details, you can add some sliding doors, like those available from Raydoor or the Sliding Door Company, or DIY barn door sliders (where a track can be installed over the existing opening, so there is minimum disturbance). Then, when the kids are gone, the room can be converted back to a dining room or into a hobby room or office.

A sliding barn door is a great way to partition off a room (with an opening too big for a traditional door) without creating remodeling dust. Photo credit.

Now to the possible remodeling part. The formal dining area is flexible because of its location at the front of the house, which opens up many possibilities for casual cohousing or house sharing. The formal area of a home can be turned into a separate room for an adult child or elderly parent. If the laundry room or a powder room are adjacent to the dining room, this opens up the opportunity to add a full bathroom. A separate entrance can be added to the front for renting out the room to a student. There is an opportunity for privacy in that the formal areas are usually separate from the other bedrooms.

Use sliding doors to close off a home office or home office + foyer from the rest of the house. That way, the foyer can serve as an entrance for the office and the home. Photo: The Sliding Door Company.

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The location at the front of the house also makes it ideal for a home office. It can be closed off from the rest of the house. A separate entry can be added, or if the dining room is off of the foyer, sliding doors can be added to close off the foyer for when clients or business associates visit. If you have employees, the can make them more comfortable in that they will have some separation from your house. In many homes, the most common entry is the one adjacent to the garage or driveway, so the front door is not often used. Extra income can be added (not to mention company during the day) if the home office is turned into a community office for other work-from-homers in the neighborhood.

Next week: Adaptable//Sustainable: Rethinking the living/dining room.