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RISMEDIA, August 28, 2010—(MCT)—While today’s real estate market is keeping many home buyers on the sidelines, there’s no need to feel stuck in your house. You can still move out and up within your own home. The latest lifestyle trend is shuffling the old floor plan—without adding on—to make our living spaces new again. Converting a spare bedroom into a dressing room, for example, is becoming a popular option.

“I just started one of these projects,” said interior designer Alan Karlin in Kansas City, Kan. “People want a place to neatly put their shoes and purses, a place they can just step into and not jump from closet to closet to get dressed in the morning.”

Bedrooms-morphed-into-dressing-rooms are especially desirable in older homes, which can be storage-challenged. Intrepid homeowners are taking advantage of smaller rooms near the master bedroom, and they’re stealing ideas from department store and boutique dressing rooms to go along with the clothing racks: plush ottoman seating, stylish chandeliers, art on the walls and full-length mirrors.

Some residential dressing rooms even incorporate built-in cabinetry with glass doors and storage islands with natural-stone countertops and customized drawer organizers akin to high-end kitchens.

Still, dressing rooms can be more practical than luxurious, said Mike McMahon of Life Uncluttered in Overland Park, Kan. “Electricity doesn’t have to be upgraded, and walls don’t have to be knocked down,” said McMahon, who designs and installs storage. “The equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. And it can be taken down and moved if the homeowner decides to relocate in the future.”

Karlin says effective clothing organization is key to a home functioning and looking better. For that same reason, he is also a big fan of mudrooms, a place to store sports equipment, backpacks and the rest of the everyday stuff we dump after school or work. “People are repurposing their laundry rooms off the kitchen and turning them into mudrooms,” Karlin said. “And then they’re moving their laundry rooms upstairs near the bedrooms where the clothes are. It makes sense.”

A few years ago, Beth Stedry of Leawood, Kan., converted her dining room into a mudroom, a risky move because the traditional catchall spot is one of the first areas you see when you walk in the door. But the attractive built-in cabinetry creates a surprisingly eye-catching focal point. Most important, it’s functional.

“I shudder to think of life without it,” said Stedry, a mother of three boys who is expecting another baby in September. “It makes such a huge difference, because each person has his or her own place to deposit their stuff.”

Each cubby has hooks, perfect for beach towels in summer and coats in winter. A shelf at the bottom stores shoes; it’s removable so it can hold boots in the cold months. Stedry’s husband, Todd, keeps running gear in his. And there are spots to conceal cell phone chargers.

The Stedry family also changed the formal living room into a casual dining room with a sturdy harvest table. “All of this works better,” Stedry said. “And it’s nice and cozy to have a dining room with a fireplace.”

Dining rooms often are rethought these days as more families eat casual meals in the kitchen or on-the-go. Another common change is turning screened porches—sometimes storage dumping grounds—into family rooms that can be used year-round. Although initially that seems like an inexpensive conversion, it can get pricy, said Bo Steed of Steed Remodeling in Kansas City, Mo. “It can be $20,000 or $30,000,” Steed said. “You’re adding windows and walls and heating and cooling and flooring.”

Another thing homeowners are considering is creating a place to relax with wine and friends. Some people are switching butler’s pantries into wine bars and extra family living areas into tasting rooms.

“We’ve turned unused basement cellars into wine cellars,” said Kevin Transue, co-owner and principal designer at CHC Creative Remodeling of Lenexa, Kan. “With a little imagination, the most unattractive space can be really beautiful and functional.”

Of course, unused and unfinished attic and basement spaces have loads of potential. But you can save money if you simply repurpose an existing, finished space.

Dining room: A library-style office with bookshelves and a table that can be used as a desk or for a small dinner party. Or a music room, playroom or game room.
Living room:
A cozy dining room or office.
Spare bedroom:
Fitness room, man cave or project space.

Rethinking your space:
-Evaluate which rooms get cluttered and which go unused.
-Think about activities you want to do for which there isn’t room.
-Write an action plan of what would need to change for a room to accommodate that activity.
-Tear out photos for an idea file.
-Do the work yourself or hire a professional architect, designer and/or contractor to help.

(c) 2010, The Kansas City Star.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.