How to Make Your Rooms Pull Double-Duty

Extra space always seems to be in high demand, but there's a good chance that what you need, you already have. Find out how interior designer Edith-Anne Duncan solved this common conundrum by assigning dual roles to one room in her new home.

Image by Dustin Peck, used courtesy of Edith-Anne Duncan

Text: Robert C. Martin

If you’re like many homeowners, you often lament the fact that your home isn’t large enough in certain areas, or doesn’t quite meet your needs in others, particularly when entertaining guests or accommodating family. So, one solution might be to add on, but what’s the payoff if you already have space that’s being underused? Rather than improving matters, these overlooked areas become more like glorified furniture storage. And with housing prices and construction costs at an all-time high, making the most of your house’s available square feet is key. To accomplish this, one of the best ways of utilizing space is by devoting more than one function to a room.

That’s what interior designer Edith-Anne Duncan accomplished when designing her new residence in Blacksburg, Virginia. Because she works from home and frequently invites friends over for dinner or cocktails, the designer needed a convenient place to meet with clients and a dining room that sufficiently catered to her family’s active lifestyles. So, instead of allocating separate rooms to these seemingly unrelated requirements, she combined them. “I like spaces that are not only vibrant but also functional and easily accessed,” she explains. “Because a typical dining room gets used only a couple of times a year, assigning a second purpose to it increases it’s serviceability.”

Design and build, Huntington Remodeling; Photography, Robert Tsai

Also, rather than placing these functions in the main sector of her home, she designed a distinctive pavilion that’s reminiscent of a sunroom or conservatory to contain them. This well-conceived structure also enables her clients to come and go without affecting the Duncans’ privacy. As a more contemporary touch, Duncan had large folding doors installed to supply her office and dining room with ample sunlight. “I love the flexibility of these doors, which stay open during the spring and fall months so that the entire space can tangibly connect with the surrounding property.”

Inside, the interior designer continued the pavilion’s garden theme. “The treillage treatment that I designed for the walls knocks the room’s formality down a touch,” she points out, “fulfilling my signature style of being “sophisticated casual.” Because client meetings also take place here, Duncan painted the room all white so that it wouldn’t visually compete with the business at hand. Even the built-in cabinetry that contains her office supplies and material samples is pristinely finished; when the desk unit and surrounding shelves are closed, they resemble a Chippendale breakfront that perfectly complements the nearby dining table.

Other spaces that lend themselves to more than stand-alone use are guest rooms, which can easily serve as a library or home office when company departs, and laundry rooms, where crafts and bill-paying can be separate but equal priorities. Even those rarely visited living rooms can come alive for special movie-watching or family game nights – all with a change of both intent and attitude. The trick is, of course, keeping one activity from interfering with the other. “When a room takes on multiple roles, you need a way to conceal each function,” Edith-Anne concludes. “Otherwise, everything left exposed can easily overpower a room.”

Design, Jodi Macklin Interior Design. Architecture, Rill Architects. Photography, Gordon Beall
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