Dreamy wardrobe with shoe closet

What to Do With the Extra Space After Your Kids Leave Home

View Slideshow
Dreamy wardrobe with shoe closet

Dream Design

So, your youngest is gone and not coming back (fingers crossed ...)? Now is the time to transform a bedroom or bonus room or any other space that became the kids’ hangout into something you’ve long dreamed of. Read on for a sampling of what you can, finally, create — along with a “starter” suggestion for each theme — to meet your updated needs.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Related: Ways You’re Ruining Your Home and Don't Even Know It

Workplace of contemporary manager or freelancer with computer monitor on table

Home Office

The pandemic taught us, among so many things, how important it can be to have a designated, efficient space where you can work from home — or simply sit and pay the bills. If you've survived to date with a laptop on the corner of the dining room table or some similar makeshift effort, now’s the time to formalize the setup. Even the straightforward Brusali desk from Ikea ($55) would be an upgrade.

Related: How to Create a Home Office From Ikea Under $200

Abstract black oil painting in frame on empty beige wall of cozy bedroom

Guest Room

With family visits being gently reinstated, you may no longer have to point your out-of-town sister to the couch. Create a versatile guest room — as simple or elaborate as you want to make it. Consider a daybed as the focal point, so the room can be used for more than just sleeping. Inexpensive options include the Manassas Twin Iron Daybed by Gracie Oaks, selling for $170 on Wayfair.

For more great home improvement tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Color speaks when words cannot
Charday Penn/istockphoto

Art Studio

Now may be the time to finally release your inner Picasso. If you’ve always wanted to paint, sculpt, or otherwise dabble in the fine arts, why not foster your creativity with inspiring surroundings? Go all in with the 145-piece Meeden Deluxe Artist Painting Set ($150 on Amazon), which includes a French easel, brushes, paints, pads, canvas, and more.

Related: 10 Cheap Ways to Fill Your Home with Art

Home rehearsal room

Music Room

Were you once a frustrated pianist or perhaps a wannabe rocker? Resume your musical journey with a simple instrument and probably some lessons, as well. You might want to investigate a “starter” guitar or a portable keyboard, such as the CT-S200BK Casiotone ($120 from Casio Music Gear) where you can “explore 400 great sounding tones and 77 rhythms with full accompaniment, plus 10 types of reverb to add depth.” Rock on!


Related: Home Improvement and Decor Trends for 2021

Private gym in the attic of modern house

Home Gym

Dread the early morning drive to the gym? Well, you’d have no excuses for missing your workout if you had the gym under your own roof. Start setting yourself up for at-home workouts with equipment like the Flybird Adjustable Weight Bench, complete with 620-pound weight capacity and incline/decline ($128 on Walmart Marketplace).


Related: Which At-Home Exercise System Burns Calories Fastest?

I love this shape
Built in shelves in luxury master closet
PC Photography/istockphoto

Walk-In Closet

If you have drooled over the decadent walk-in closets showcased on reality TV shows or in celebrity at-home profiles, drool no more. You can have your own version of a walk-in closet/dressing room at long last. Opt for built-ins or portable racks, leave plenty of room for shoes (of course), and don’t forget the finishing touch: a full-length mirror like the glam gold-accented Ogcau model ($180 on Amazon). It can be hung or leaned against the wall, its graceful arched shape adding an air of luxury to your day.

Related: 30 Essentials You Need to Buy to Keep Your House Organized

Home Theater

Home Theater

Have a designated space for movie night with your own home theater. You can opt for “stadium-style” seating, an extra-comfy couch, or simply a selection of bean bags tossed about the floor. Once the screen goes dark, dig into some freshly made popcorn thanks to the Paramount Popcorn Machine ($80 on Amazon), guaranteed to fill the air with that classic movie-house scent.

Related: 50 Ways to Get Creative With Your Popcorn

Kettle on wooden desk next to yellow pouf and flowers in japanese interior with moon poster. Real photo

Meditation Room

Breath deep ... your moments of peace have finally arrived. Turn a spare space into a meditation room where you can transport yourself to a world of serenity. Fill it with things you love and a color scheme that soothes. Cap it off with the gentle sounds of a waterfall like the Resin Rock Fountain from Hi-Line Gift Ltd. ($75 from Wayfair).

Related: I Started Meditating, and This Is What Happened

rolled towel on massage table


Tired of doing your manicure at the kitchen table — or having your masseuse set up the table in the middle of the living room? Once you create an in-home spa, you can use the space to not only experience a bit of pampering but also use the time to reconnect with that lost sense of tranquility. Kick things off in style with a splurge on yourself, like the "A Day Off" Spa Gift Basket ($60 from Wine Country Gift Baskets), which features Cru de Provence lavender-vanilla scented spa products such as lotions, bath salts and soap — and even waffle slippers to keep the focus on slowing down.

Related: How to Practice Self-Care While Stuck at Home

Game room in the upstairs attic type style room
PC Photography/istockphoto

Game Room

If downtime includes a bit of competition in your household, then a designated game room might be an ideal use of newly found space. You can splurge for a centerpiece such as a pool table or pinball machine or opt for a little of everything with the Deluxe 15-in-1 Tabletop Board Game Set/Game Center ($45 from Amazon). Depending on the mood of the day — and the participants — this set is ready, offering everything from checkers to chess, backgammon to playing cards and more. Game on! 

Related: 19 Fun Family Games to Keep You Entertained at Home

Extra room specifically used for arts and crafts
PC Photography/istockphoto

Craft Room

The pandemic brought hobbies back to life in a big way. Free time had to be filled. Distractions were welcome. Now, people find they still enjoy making jewelry, doing origami, creating collages, building model boats … you name it. It’s a luxury to be able to step away, mid-project, and come back to your work at a later time — something a craft room allows. The Honey-Can-Do Rolling Storage Cart and Organizer ($63 from Amazon) can bring at least a little order to the proceedings. 

Related: Mobile Caddies and Other Storage Ideas For Your Home 'Office'

Alcohol with glasses.

Bar / Lounge

No need for a designated driver when the bar’s in your own home. Create a place where you can sip a couple of leisurely glasses of wine or a specialty cocktail with no pushing, no crowds, no rude patrons to spoil the experience. And design it to your own taste or choose a theme — tiki or speakeasy, art deco glam or classic dive. Not sure which way to go? In the meantime, store some libations on the Old Dutch International Westwood Gold Bar/Serving Cart ($188 from Home Depot).

Related: Spirits and Mixers Every Home Bar Should Have

Real photo of a colorful room interior with a desk, sewing machine and threads

Sewing Room

For those who have had to pull out the sewing machine and set it up every time they wanted to work, a sewing room can be a delight. You can stitch up clothes — and gifts, from totes to quilts, for those kids now settling into their new homes. Add that final touch to each project with a quick pass of the iron, a task made easy with the Homcom Drop Leaf Ironing Board with Shelves and Storage Boxes ($187 on Amazon).

Related: 21 Reasons to Look Forward to an Empty Nest

Playing video game. Console controllers.

Man Cave

Sometimes a man just needs his space. And his TV. And his video games. Carve out a man cave to his liking and make sure he knows it’s really his with a doormat that also (gently) pokes fun at what’s behind the closed door. The personalized man-cave welcome mat — with the slogan “Where Men Can Be Men” — is available for $31 from Personal Creations.

Modern sofa on light pink wall background with trendy home accessories, home decor interior, luxury living room. Stock photo
Lilas Gh/istockphoto

Lady Lair

Let’s be fair — instead of a man cave, it can be a lady lair. A woman needs her space, as well. Create a room to do whatever she wants — or nothing at all. Bring in a velvet chaise lounge, fill the room with scented candles ... anything with a feminine feel. Embrace calming pastels or go bold with a “beautiful face” wall sticker/decal ($11 on Amazon).

Climbing tree for cats in the apartment
Denise Hasse/istockphoto

Pet Retreat

If you hate having the scruffy old dog bed in the corner of the kitchen or always wanted to indulge your cat with something dramatic, consider turning the spare room into a pet retreat of sorts. You can use the space for storage of leashes, grooming products, and the like, as well as a place where they can get away from it all. (All creatures need a breather sometimes, right?) Splurge on your furry friends with the Orvis Memory Foam Couch Dog Bed (starting at $269 from Orvis and said to promote “superior joint and muscle health”) or the Go Pet Club 72-inch Cat Tree & Condo Scratching Post Tower, enlivened with leopard print ($124 on Walmart Marketplace).

Related: Stylish Pet Products You Won't Be Ashamed to Own

Book Shelves


Open a new novel from your favorite author and escape into another world. Having a true home library can make that classic experience even more enjoyable. Create a room that’s academic or mod in feel, whatever you fancy. Buy a few lamps, some throws, and an easy chair or two — and you may never want to emerge from your literary salon. Start the process with eye-catching shelves like the Hessler Metal Standard Bookcase by 17 Stories ($207 from Wayfair).

Laundry Room

Laundry Room

If you’re tired of climbing stairs with heavy laundry baskets (though admittedly those baskets may be less full these days) or you simply don’t like your laundry area, then you may want to consider creating a true laundry room. This transformation could be a bit more elaborate but might prove worthwhile if it makes your life easier. Keep a sense of humor about it all with a “Loads of Fun” wooden laundry room sign ($23 from Amazon).

Related: Are You Making These Laundry Mistakes?

Green tile gives beauty and unique charm to this basement bathroom
PC Photography/istockphoto


The house may have fewer residents, but if you plan to have numerous visitors/guests, you might consider an additional bathroom. You might even want to break through a wall to create an ensuite setup. This is another “not-just-cosmetic” transformation, so consider the end result before proceeding. If you do go ahead — and once the essentials are in place — you can decorate in a manner as playful or practical as you wish. A statement piece such as the Hansford Collection 3-Light Polished Nickel Clear Glass Coastal Bath Vanity Light by Progress Lighting ($79 from Home Depot) will shine a light on how you’ve changed things up.


Related: 12 Ways to Save on a Bathroom Makeover