Jennifer Leischer Design and Decor

Create usable square footage instead of wasting it

Jennifer Leischer Design and DecorCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Aug. 26, 2023) — When you move into a new home, temporary or forever, you’re faced with a blank canvas.

Big house, little house, it doesn’t really matter. The living spaces are more than likely designated into areas like living, dining, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms – but what if you need rooms that don’t exist?

It’s important to point out that while the living spaces in your home might have traditional purposes, there is nothing holding you back from how you want to use them. Each of us has different living requirements that make our lives more functional.

Some of us work from home and need more than a cozy corner on the family room sofa to do our work. You may require a home gym for personal health, or need a guest bedroom more often than for the occasional holiday guest.

If the living spaces you require do not exist in your home, you can take non-essential square footage and repurpose it in creative ways.

Rethink the formal living room

Living in the Bay Area, we all know too well that square footage costs are always at a premium. And spending money on space that isn’t being used or used in a way that doesn’t add value to the way you live is just as bad as throwing actual cash in the trash.

Everyone’s house plan is a little different, but there are three living spaces in a traditional house layout that can easily be transformed and used in nontraditional ways: the dining room, living room and a spare bedroom.

In traditional house plans, the living room has always been designated as a formal gathering space. If you ask your grandmother, it was most likely a room designated for adults and was off-limits to you and your siblings as children. No red wine, no roughhousing, and guests were rarely allowed. The living room was a shrine – a room you looked at, but seldom used.

While the formality of a living room might be special and nostalgic, it just doesn’t make sense to waste this square footage on a pretty vignette. Consider changing this room into something more usable that enhances your life. Perhaps a game room with a pool table, a few big TV screens and a wet bar. Or an overflow family room with a huge TV where your family and friends congregate for football and movie nights.

Maybe you need to create extra space for your family or group of friends with similar interests. This might be a music room or home study where everyone can stretch out, with their instruments or classwork spread out and easily accessed.

Turn dining space into living space

The formal dining room is another space that may not add much value to your everyday living. More often than not, these dining rooms aren’t typically big enough to accommodate large gatherings of family and friends. We might use them during the holidays, but what about the other 350 plus days of the year?

Consider turning your dining room into a den with books lining the walls, a writing desk, a couple oversized comfy leather chairs and a good sound system. Now you have a place to just sit, read and breathe.

A space for children is another option for the dining room as our “littles” aren’t very little for very long. If you’d rather not mix your family room with the playroom, but still want the littles nearby, the dining room is a great option.

And for those not willing to completely remove the dining room from their homes, the playroom solves an immediate space dilemma that is, sadly, short lived.

Consider workout room, art studio, or more

Extra bedrooms are like bonus square footage. If you’re not using these bedrooms for family members or friends, they really are just extra spaces waiting to be filled.

The most obvious answer is a home office or a great place for a treadmill or Peloton. But you could use this space as a generously sized walk-in closet if it happens to be next to your primary bedroom. An extra bedroom is also perfect for your hobby, if it isn’t something you’d like to be on full display or require the square footage in your dining or living room. A craft room, a TV room, an art studio, a music room, a meditation room, a library, a rental for family or friends coming and going, a posh place for your pet, and so on.

If COVID taught us anything, it reinforced that our homes are truly our sanctuaries. In order to personalize our homes, we should create the spaces that we need and not worry about traditional thinking on how homes should be used.

The key is finding the space within our homes and then actually using that space, as opposed to decorating an area just for the sake of decorating or saving square footage for when it might be used one day.

Thinking outside the design box may feel a bit uncomfortable, but when your family and friends are actually using these new spaces that you have created, it won’t feel a bit out of place. Instead, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to change things up.

Contact Jennifer with questions, comments and suggestions at

Jennifer Leischer
Jennifer Leischer

Jennifer Leischer is the owner of J. Designs Interior Design based in Clayton, CA. Combining a public relations degree from California State University, Chico, with further studies in design and interior architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Jennifer began her career as an interior designer in 1998, working for various firms in San Francisco and Orinda, and Denver, Colorado. She describes every designing moment, throughout her career, as a wonderful tutorial about the importance of relationships, open communication, and getting down to the basics of functional, yet stylish, living spaces.