Starter homes or fixer-uppers come with plenty of imperfections: bathrooms that are small and outdated, unfinished basements that are dark and dank, rooms that are cramped or oddly shaped and space that is wasted or undefined.
The good news is that many bad spaces can be fixed with clever and creative design ideas. Sometimes it takes just a can of paint or a new piece of furniture to transform a space. Other times, you may have to call in a contractor.
Here are 10 awful spaces that have been transformed into awesome places.
1. Book nook
Was: Unused closet
Susan Jay Freeman, owner of the Los Angeles interior-design and space-planning firm Susan Jay Design, created this reading space from an underused closet in a room next to her client’s study. Her client wanted “a cozy place to read stories with her granddaughters,” she says.
“We opened it to her study, lined the walls with adjustable bookshelves, installed low-voltage lighting on a dimmer and created a platform for which a custom-upholstered cushion and pillows were added for comfort,” she says. “This became a cherished hideaway.”
2. Storage closet
Was: Dead area under stairs
Do you have an awful space under the stairs that you don’t know how to handle? One option is to use it for storage.
A closet can hide clutter, says interior designer Carrie Drosnes, former design producer for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
“Since there is no maximum height or depth required for a closet, it can be any size and can be used in a way that is most advantageous to the homeowner,” Drosnes says, adding that installing drawers is another option.
If the stairs are near the kitchen or dining room, the space could be ideal for a built-in wine rack, wet bar, pantry or a place to store crystal or china.
In this case, two cabinets — brightly painted to match the décor of the finished basement —provide ample storage room in an otherwise unused space.
3. Work station
Was: Oversized landing
Sometimes the wasted space is not under the stairs but next to them.
Drosnes says that a work area is a great solution for many areas of all sizes next to stairs. For example, an oddly shaped landing at the top of a staircase can be a good spot for a work station. A tiny vestibule, often found in older homes between the kitchen and stairway, can be a cozy spot to put a small desk.
“It allows (homeowners) easy access to the kitchen and to the upstairs while working from home in a small, specifically allocated space,” she says.
Built-in units can maximize the space in ways that store-bought pieces cannot.
An undefined space by the back door can too easily become a dumping ground for coats, backpacks, shoes and other gear that family members shed as soon as they step inside the house. Although this may create a mess in a small space, Maplewood, N.J.-based interior designer Alexa Harris-Ralff says there are ways to keep the clutter hidden.
The solution can be a built-in storage unit that matches your home’s style. A ledge, large enough to allow residents to sit and untie their shoes, and a tiled floor that can easily be mopped would complete a modern mudroom.
Harris-Ralff says she loves the look of locker-style storage, as well, if it fits. “It’s simple, easy to wipe down and even easier to assign each family member a locker,” she says.
Was: Not-quite mudroom adjoining tiny kitchen
Sometimes, a mudroom may not always be necessary — or functional. But the space can make a welcome addition to a small kitchen, especially the kind often found in an older home.
The owners of this 1918 Seattle Craftsman realized that their mudroom, which needed an upgrade, was large enough to accommodate a small pantry for the adjoining kitchen. The cabinet is 12 inches deep and offers plenty of storage shelves and a pull-out drawer below. It also was designed around an existing window, so the space remains bright and cheery.
6. Exercise room
Was: Weird triangular room
Oddly shaped rooms can be a challenge to furnish because most people prefer to put big pieces — sofas, dressers and bookcases — against the wall.
Turning the space into a home gym is one solution, because exercise equipment is typically placed in the middle of a room rather than along the walls.
Using the space for a reading, meditation or yoga room is another good option, Drosnes says, adding that plants, flowers, candles or a water feature can help make the space inviting and intimate. She also suggests using a rug or carpet and wallpaper.
7. Murphy-bed room
Was: Undersized sleeping quarters
Near the turn of the 19th century, William L. Murphy was living in a tiny San Francisco apartment. Frustrated with his lack of space, he invented a bed that folded against a wall when not in use.
The invention caught on and has never lost its appeal as a space-saving idea. The Murphy bed can transform a tiny, cramped room into both a bedroom and a usable space during waking hours.
Dozens of companies sell do-it-yourself kits for Murphy beds. Seattle’s Wallbeds Northwest, for instance, has kits that begin at about $1,000. Its basic units extend about 16 inches from the wall when folded up.
Was: Cellar closet
Does your basement have an ugly corner that makes you tense? Use that space for a sauna and you can relax there, instead.
Buying and installing a home sauna has become easier in recent years with the introduction of prefabricated, modular units that do not require framing or insulation. Many can be assembled in an afternoon. Prices for a two-person sauna of this type start at about $1,000.
Is it right for your home? Small dry saunas heated with infrared lamps require no special drainage and, in some cases, can be powered with regular 120-volt outlets. Larger infrared models typically require 240-volt outlets and possibly an electrician’s help.
9. Home office
Was: Tight, sloped upstairs space
The rooflines on some houses can severely constrain space in upstairs rooms. In some, an adult can stand upright only in the middle.
So what should a homeowner with an aversion to crouching do with that space? One solution is creating a home office that allows residents to sit, rather than stand, along the room’s perimeter.
“A home office or study room for kids would be good option because it can be set up to function based on the construction of the space,” Drosnes says. “The slants of the roof that cause the walls to be at odd angles can be wallpapered or painted, and floating shelves can be installed. Built-in seating or desk space can be custom-designed to work around the odd shapes of the walls.”
10. Efficient bathroom
Was: Overstuffed bathroom
Instead of the spa-like expanses of a modern bathroom, some homeowners may have to make do with a smaller space so overstuffed with amenities that there is little or no room left for the person who wants to use the place.
Technology and modern design can help you maximize the space you have. A wall-hung toilet can save a few inches in a tight room. A small glass shower stall can liven up an old bathroom that a tub dominates. Don’t forget about lighting and paint colors to make the space seem larger.
This article was originally published by Scot Meyer of SwitchYard Media on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.