Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tackling the small room

Last week's bulk trash pickup went as scheduled, which means that Brian's old desk is finally gone from our lives for good. And with its removal, we're left with a more or less blank slate in our small back bedroom. This is another of those rooms, like our finished basement, that doesn't really have a name because it doesn't really have a specific function. For the six years that we've lived in this house, the small room has served as a catchall area for:
  • starting seedlings in the spring, since it's the sunniest spot in the house;
  • keeping a few house plants the rest of the year;
  • sorting our recyclables;
  • storing all our cookbooks, since there's no room for them in the kitchen;
  • storing additional books about gardening and home repair, as well as back issues of Mother Earth News;
  • displaying Brian's toy collection;
  • an extra closet in which to stash cat food and litter, assorted cleaning supplies, and our collection of wrapping paper and boxes;
  • and, most recently, storing all the books we've acquired recently that we haven't had a chance to read yet, as well as a big stack of books we're planning to remove from our collection and either swap or donate.
None of these functions, however, really fills up the whole room. The seedlings and recyclables all fit on a table against the outside wall, the cookbooks and other stuff fit on a bookcase along the front wall, and everything else is in the closet. We used to have our nice wooden table in there, surrounded by a few chairs, but we never really used it except to pile books on and to wrap presents before Christmas/Hanukkah. Now that the table is being put to much better use as Brian's desk, we thought perhaps it was time to put the rest of that room to better use as well. But what use would that be? There isn't any activity we do regularly that really needs a space of its own. We already have places in our house for everything we do at home: working, sleeping, cooking and eating, playing games by ourselves or with friends, reading, watching TV, working on DIY projects. For just the two of us, we have more than enough room.

The only time we could occasionally use a bit more space is when we have guests. Granted, this doesn't happen that often, and when it does, it's usually only one or two people. Accommodating a couple is no problem; in fact, we can even offer them a choice of accommodations, either on the futon downstairs (where there's more space and a private bathroom) or the one in the office (where the door can be shut against feline intruders). But in the hypothetical case that we wanted to invite, say, Brian's sister with her husband and four kids, or two couples we know in Virginia who have three kids between them, things could get a bit tight. So turning the small bedroom into a designated guest room is probably the most reasonable use for it.

The trick is going to be turning it into a guest room while still being able to accommodate all the miscellaneous functions that room has now. Given that we don't have guests very often, and that we have a lot of guests still less often, this room is going to get a lot more use as a conservatory/library annex/recycling station than it does as a guest room. We could, of course, just plunk down a guest bed in the corner where the table used to be, but having a bed in the room when it's not in use as a guest room just seems like it would look a bit odd. Some sort of daybed would probably be more practical; it can serve as seating most of the time, but still be made up into a bed to accommodate a single guest—or, if we get the right kind, pull out to turn into a larger bed for two. And with something like this little beauty from IKEA, we can even add drawers underneath to store the extra bed linens.

Before we go rushing off to IKEA to buy it, however, the rest of the room needs a little bit of work. Well, to be honest, all the rooms on the main level of our house need some work, since the last time they were painted, the painters simply slapped a heavy coat of one color over everything, willy-nilly, without bothering with such niceties as repairing sagging corners, taping off edges, removing outlets and switch plates, or even pulling out nails and other odd bits of hardware stuck into the walls. But for the past six-plus years, we've just lived with the flaws, because fixing them would require us to pull apart the room in order to do the job right—and as I've mentioned, we really do use all the spaces in our house on a regular basis. But since this one gets used less than any of the others, it's the ideal place to get started on the major project of redoing the entire upper floor. Since there's not that much stuff in the room right now, we can pull everything out without creating too much clutter elsewhere, and since it's the smallest room in the house, it should be the quickest one to finish. So it's obviously the best room to cut our teeth on before we tackle the living spaces that we actually live in.

We're not quite ready to start pulling all the furniture out of the room yet, however. Since it's spring, this room is currently in full seed-starting mode, and we don't really have another nice, sunny place to keep all those seedlings until they're ready to go into the ground. So we have about another month to plan before the seedlings are all out of the way and we can get down to the serious business of painting and furnishing the room. (For starters, we'll need to figure out what can be removed from the closet so that guests can actually use at least part of it for clothing.) But by May, if not sooner, we should be ready to start stripping this room down to the walls and then putting it back together, piece by piece.

And when we're done, even if we don't end up using our new guest room very much, at least we'll know what to call it.
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