Having guests visit your home is fun. Hosting, entertaining, enjoying each other’s company. And when the guests are fun enough that you want to spend time with them morning, noon, night? Even better! And when you can offer them their own room, bed, space in your house? Peak hospitality! It’s great to have a guest bedroom.
But… how frequently do you have guests? If you’re like most people, a guest room is only occupied a few times per year. To maximize that space, re-think it. That little-used guest room is the perfect place for a flex room.
What is a flex room? It’s just like it sounds, a space in your home that offers flexibility. It can be primarily one thing (a home office, maybe) but also serve as another (like that infrequently used but still comfortable guest room).
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated there was a lot of office work that could be done remotely without any loss of productivity. Many digital workers have transitioned to part- or full-time work from home. Some companies even shuttered physical offices and transitioned to virtual offices only. If you have an “extra” room, it could probably be put to more efficient use as an office than for hosting guests. Hence, the guest office, probably the most common of flex rooms.
The key to creating an effective guest office is to remember the room’s primary use—in this case, an office—and to prioritize that use, while still balancing its function as a guest room when needed.
Consider the office first: what type and size of desk do you need? The smallest but still comfortable, usable size is the way to go here. Whether it’s free-standing, built into a set of bookshelves, or any other configuration, it needs to work for your work.
Consider storage cubbies or bins that make it easy to tidy up an office when you have guests. Can the desk double as a dressing table? Even better! Consider an office chair that is also comfortable to sit in—this can double as your workplace seat but also a place for a guest to sit and relax or scroll their phone before bed.
The classic piece of flex space furniture is a futon or pull-out sofa bed. However, anyone who’s ever slept on one knows they’re not terribly comfortable. There might well be a comfortable unicorn futon or sleeper sofa out there, but we haven’t found it yet.
It’s easier to work with a bed that is only a bed, or consider a Murphy bed. These wall beds usually contain regular mattresses and are as comfy as a bed, but they tilt upright when they’re not in use (often appearing to look like a cabinet), meaning your guest office can double in floor space in just a few seconds.
The balance can be tricky, but thinking about how you want to feel in your office and how you want your guests to feel in the guest room will guide you in the right direction.
There are other common uses for a flex room. Often, one half of the flex is for a guest room, but these could be combined in almost any manner (though the playroom might be a tough one to flex in and out of).
Kids, especially little ones, can be pretty messy. Having a room dedicated to the use and storage of their toys, games, coloring books, and dress-up clothes can help ease the burden on the rest of the house (and on whoever has to pick up after them). Smart shelving and storage in this room can go a long way to making it possible to use as a playroom/guest room, but even if all it does is contain some of the clutter, it’s a win.
How easily this room flexes into a guest room depends on how you exercise. If you have an exercise bike, a full rack of weights, and a bench, then trying to move all that out of the way is going to be a workout on its own.
However, if you practice yoga, do body-weight workouts, or don’t need a ton of equipment, it can be a quick shift to roll up your mat and tuck it into a closet. Some of the same details that you might focus on for an exercise room—aromas, plants, air movement—can make for a really comfortable guest room.
If you’re a music, book, or movie/TV lover, a private oasis where you can focus on and enjoy those hobbies can be priceless, and a flex room can be a perfect place for that. The good news is that lots of the things you want for that room—comfortable seating, relaxing colors and décor—are things guests will appreciate, too.
One challenge might be the amount of space any physical media takes up. If you have stacks of books, records, or Blu-rays all over the floor, it might not be an easy changeover to a guest room. Smart storage is a good solution for this adult playroom, just as it is for the kids’.
Here’s one that can appeal to adults, kids, or both. The particulars of this type of room depend on the crafts going on. Someone doing sewing projects will need a large, flat surface to lay out and measure fabric. A painter might need to prioritize natural light. A woodworker might need… well, to go work in the garage, or an outbuilding workshop. (Even a perfect flex space craft room can only adapt so far!)
As with most of these multi-use spaces, organization and storage is key to keeping the space flexible and not turning into the room where everything is piled on the bed.
This is a separate section because all the spaces listed above require lighting. The ideal solution would be to have good general overhead lighting that can be dimmed, mood-setting accent lights (also dimmable), and focused task lighting that is customized for the brightness and color spectrum best suited for the task. Craft room lighting won’t be the same as reading room lighting.
If you’re not in position to gut the flex room and customize the lighting, there are ways around that. Use the “flex” part as inspiration: select light fixtures that can be adjusted, moved, and dimmed or brightened. Floor lamps with arms that can be repositioned, for instance. Even the clamp-style reading light can have a place in this plan.
LED technology has made it much simpler and cheaper to customize where you have lights and how they look. (You can even have them change color and pulse to the beat of music if your flex space is a dance room!)
A good, useful flex room is about balance. What percentage of the room do you want for one use compared to other uses? If you want a flex space that’s 60% office, 25% yoga room, and 15% guest room, use those numbers to guide your furnishing and décor decisions. With a little creativity (and a lot of smart storage) you’ll have a flex space that matches your needs.