Mar 11, 2023

5 Ways to Make Every Inch of Your Home Work Smarter, Not Harder

By Nora Taylor

One of the most frustrating moments of spring cleaning comes after you’ve thrown out all the clutter, put your sweaters away for the season, and donated everything that no longer serves you. It's the moment you realize that you still have so…much…stuff.

There's no need to start purging pieces you love for the sake of clearing space, but many spaces in our homes can work harder. Kitchens, closets, and offices are all prime for doing more, whether that means extra storage, a multiuse workspace, or simply a room that's welcoming for a variety of activities.

It can be difficult to know where to start and what to do to squeeze more functionality out of your dwelling, beyond the core small-space tips of using more wall space or maximizing under-bed storage. So we tapped a few DIY experts, designers, and professional organizers for their suggestions for adding multifunctionality around your home.

Swapping out a few pieces of furniture that serve individual purposes for one flexible piece can save a ton of space. "I find that modular furniture lends to creating a flexible space that is not only functional but looks beautiful at all angles," says blogger and designer Tennille Murphy, who selected a three-piece banquette for his breakfast area instead of a traditional table setup. "The banquette not only serves as an eating area, but its versatility is perfect for lounging, hosting team meetings, and even makes an ideal backdrop for calls and shooting content. The right piece can turn even the smallest area in your home into a multifunctional space that can be anything you need it to be."

That being said, you don't have to run out and purchase new furniture. First, take a look around your home for unused space. "One particular hack that I have found helpful with lack of storage is using the negative space under various consoles as storage space. I buy clear, stackable shoe boxes and label the outside with the contents stored," says designer Jessica Blue. "I then find a decorative fabric and have a local seamstress hem and pleat the material to create a skirt on Velcro snaps to conceal everything. This creates an elevated and decorative approach to typical storage methods and adds a layer of softness to any space."

Not only can the right lighting scheme change the mood of the space, but it can also support how you want to use a room at any given time. "Lighting can instantly transform a space, so having a specific light fixture in the area you're using for various purposes in the room can help transition between different activities," says designer Eliza McNabb. "A task lamp, hanging pendant, or wall sconce are all great options. If working with an odd nook, a light fixture can transform it from a dark cavern to a gallery-like display space."

It's easy to take our designated storage spaces for granted…a lazy Susan here, a cutlery organizer there. But by adding just a bit more utility to already-useful spaces, you can store more and store it more efficiently. "One of the best ways to build multifunctionality into new or existing spaces is by showing love to cabinetry interiors in kitchens, bathrooms, and closets," Ashley Williams and Michelle Nelson of Wanderlust Aesthetic tell us. They recommend looking for easy-to-install products like blind-corner optimizers ("lazy Susan's glamorous younger sister"), automatic waste containers, and powered vanity drawers.

You can also put your more decorative items to use on your shelves and in your cabinets. "My favorite purchases or DIY builds are those that serve a dual purpose: items that have a useful function but at the same time are decorative and add beauty," says DIY consultant Jennifer Sanchez. "This can include simple things like pretty bins or baskets that can be displayed on shelves but store items that you actually use in the space."

Make sure that you’re still prioritizing your style and comfort over pure function. It can be easy to get overly excited about your new storage organizing system (Labeling bins is kind of hypnotic, isn't it?), but make sure that your new plan works for how you actually live in your space. "Storage containers are your friends until they’re not," says professional organizer Thrisa Hodits. "Make sure to do the work of sorting and streamlining your items before purchasing storage solutions. The solution should be specific to your needs and your space."

And remember, multifunction doesn't have to mean an expensive build-out or weeks-long project; it's all about what works for you and your space. "In my home, our living room is basically our family gaming room. But it doesn't have to look like it, just function like it," says DIY design expert Ursula Carmona. "You walk in and you would never imagine this sophisticated space has board games and video games hidden away in the built-ins, or that the stylish coffee table transforms into a puzzle station. I firmly believe in designing for the way you live, and even the way you want to live." Amen to that.