What’s a bonus room, you ask? It’s a room that’s not considered a 100 percent full room, because it may lack the comforts of a “standard” room—like windows or closets. Often these rooms live above garages or under the stairs. Maybe they’re tucked away in a basement corner somewhere.
Bonus rooms do offer a few advantages—they’re additional space that’s not counted in your home’s assessment as a full room. Even if they’re lacking a door or windows, four walls, or they have a lower ceiling, you’ll still get that bonus of square footage without the home or business tax obligation.
So, what can you do with that room?
Create a library
- Add floor to ceiling shelves on all available walls.
- Have windows in the room? Consider the space between the window and walls for narrow shelves and extend the sill out to make built-in seating.
- Incorporate natural light whenever possible but incorporate plenty of artificial light to encourage evening reading.
- Need more ideas? Check out these 25 home library designs.
Playroom for the kids
- Incorporate a mini-ball pit and a pint-sized drawing station.
- String up faerie lights and plop plump beanbag chairs around.
- Handy with tools? Create a desk that folds up against the wall—and features a chalkboard on the underside when it’s not serving as a homework center.
- Incorporate bright colors, especially if the space is small, accessorizing with pillows, throw rugs, blankets, wall art, and lamps.
- Create distinct activity areas, spaces designed for specific purposes like a table for arts & crafts, a media center, a video game nook, or a reading hideaway.
- Do your little person’s décor tastes change regularly? Pick one wall to use as a focal point and decorate it with decals, which are easier to remove and update as her interests move from princesses to pirates.
- Need more ideas? Check out this article on creating a fun, functional playroom.
- Movie dates aren’t an inexpensive proposition any longer. Once you add in dinner—and a sitter—a movie night’s going to cost $100 or more. If you’re a major movie buff or prefer to watch movies in PJs from the comfort of your own home, your bonus room might make a great home theater.
- Square rooms create harmonic distortions, so rectangular rooms work best.
- Fewer windows are better—so a basement’s the perfect spot to convert. But if you do have windows, cover them up with heavy curtains and shades or use black-out style window treatments to reduce annoying reflections and sound-causing distortion.
- No need to cover your walls with egg crates or other home-style sound buffers. You can buy acoustic wall tiles that cost between $4 and $20 per square foot, and usually come in 1’x1’ or 2’x2’ squares. These sound absorption panels prevent echoes and help modulate high and low frequencies. Looking for a less expensive alternative? Use peel and stick carpet tiles.
- If you’re not using acoustic tiles—or only tiling part of your walls—use as dark a color paint as you can stand, because bright colors will reflect the light from the screen and become a distraction. Also, make sure you’re using eggshell or flat paint in neutral browns, tans, or olives. You’ll definitely want to avoid using gloss and semi-gloss finishes.
- Once you’ve prepped the room and moved to the next step—adding equipment—you’ll need to consider a few more things. Sound technology has become quite advanced, and home theater speaker systems are no different. The ideal distance for mounting speakers depends on several variables. Audioholics has a good formula to calculate speaker locations.
- What furniture will you choose? Lazy-Boy recliners or something else? Once you’ve picked your furniture, you’ll want to set your screen on the wall. The optimum distance is 1 ½ to 2 ½ times the diagonal width of the screen—so don’t sit any closer than 7 ½ feet from a 60-inch television, and no more than about 12 ½ feet away.
- The ideal viewing height is setting the center of the display screen at eye level. If you do elevate the screen, tilt it in so that it faces the seating area.
- What else might a home theater need? Baskets or shelves to store remotes, media, and snacks, and perhaps a mini-fridge, too.
- Using your tax refund for a bit of a splurge, check out these ideas for home theaters.
Hobby or craft room
- Like to crochet, make cards, or paint? Tired of using the kitchen table to design your masterpieces? Consider converting your bonus room to accommodate your hobbies.
- You’ll want a sturdy work table with lots of work space.
- Sinks are wonderful additions to bonus rooms used for crafting, especially if you’re working with paint, clay, or other messy media. If that’s not possible, consider adding a potter’s bench where you can store a bucket for dirty water and a container with a spout, plus all your cleaning supplies.
- Clear plastic bins make it easier to identify what’s stored where, and shelve, whether built-in or free-standing, also help to organize.
- Other storage tips include using tension curtain rods to display wrapping paper in unused space between cabinets.
- Muffin tins and ice cube trays work great to store smaller loose items.
- A peg board with hooks is perfect to hang supplies like ribbon, scissors and other tools.
Need more ideas? Check out these tips for organizing craft room work spaces.
- Bonus rooms work well for home gyms, too. But you’ll need to evaluate the space to see what works best.
- Consider adding a mirror, proper mats under machines to protect the floor, good lighting, and maybe even a television.
- Many home gyms include a treadmill or elliptical machine, weights and a weight bench, and a heavy bag. If you’re going to add a machine, think about which one you’ll use the most and which gives you the most bang for your buck.
- For home gym ideas, check out this link.
If you want to get the most out of your bonus room, there are a few things to consider. You may want to add heating, cooling, and insulation if it’s lacking. Most building codes require that a heat source can maintain a temperature of 70 degrees at a point that’s three feet above floor level—note that portable electric space heaters aren’t considered a permanent heat source.
Add windows for light and egress so you’re up to fire safety code, especially if you plan to use the bonus room as a spare bedroom. Your windowsills should be no higher than 44 inches off the floor with the windows’ net openings at least 20 inches wide and two-feet high.
Converting your attic to a bonus room? Most codes require minimum dimensions of 70 square-feet, with a sufficient number of electrical outlets so there’s no fire safety hazard from excessive electrical wires. Whether you wire the junction boxes yourself or hire an electrician, you’ll need to protect all wiring and calculate the proper number of boxes needed.