Repurposing unusual architectural spaces
Along with oodles of charm, old houses often also offer a supply of peculiar spaces. The challenge for contemporary users of such homes is what to do with strange little nooks and crannies. How do you capture the valuable space and assign a useful function without a major renovation?
Exactly how do these oddities occur in the first place? When an old structure is added onto over many years you see the results of changes in how we build. Take a beach cottage originally constructed at the turn of the last century, with no insulation and no regard for current safety codes. Perhaps a chase must be built to afford a way to run ducting for a forced air heater according to current standards or all new electrical wires must be run in a fashion that requires some minor wall changes. New requirements may produce a slightly offbeat floor plan.
Folks find closed-up fireplaces, blocked-off closets or staircases that have long been closed up. Therefore the other way that strange little nooks appear is when you open up such “lost spaces” and discover a hollow area that can be recaptured for some useful purpose. Shown here is a spot where a dormer window may once have been positioned. We don’t know if something was added onto the house and rendered this opening closed, but we might assume that is how this unusual shape was born. In instances like this, it is wise to hunt for the perfect size of furnishing to transform the spot into a functional one. Most households can use a simple work surface for a laptop or notebook. Thanks to wireless electronics, it isn’t even necessary any longer to include electrical outlets in order to create a completely functional spot. Of course, in this rendition there is the availability of a task light; making the place more appealing.
This space could also have been converted into a mini library with open shelves that follow the triangular shape. Alternatively, the depth is healthy enough to have been converted into a handy clothes closet even though it demands custom shape doors. One could install a tension rod for low hang- ing items such as family winter jackets or table linens. If custom doors are too costly, hide stored items with a folding screen.
I am a huge fan of successful storage designs for under-the-stair spaces in homes of all ages. Generally, we are left with extra-deep closets in the space under a stair and in some layouts there will be an entire wall of about 12 to 13 feet of cavity just waiting to be captured for some unique purpose. While there is the challenge of odd height, there is also the good depth of the stair treads to be considered. Certainly, 36 inches of depth can be considered ample storage when outfitted with rollout shelves. If one doesn’t wish to use the entire depth, a simple 12 to 14 inch deep shelf can be constructed as well for display or book storage.
Consider carefully how you might invest a little energy into transforming an extra-spacious stair landing into something your household might find useful. Could a very wide hallway offer some type of storage in a home starved for closet space? If you block off one of the entrances to an old back porch accessible from a bedroom and the kitchen, might you create a new standalone laundry room by using a compact stacking washer/dryer combination? When we are open to looking at odd features in a new way, we are bound to discover a better way to use them.