Updated: October 3, 2022
To achieve maximum benefit, homeowners should strive to make their homes a place where they can do it all: work, play, entertain and relax. The old adage “Your Home is Your Castle” has never been truer today, with many homeowners looking to upgrade not only the aesthetics of their homes, but to add new, imperative functionality, as well.
No matter the square footage, any space can be made more useful and flexible with the right planning. How do you design your existing home to achieve multifunctional spaces and effectively double or triple your usable footprint? Enter Transformable Interior Design. If designed properly, less space can actually provide more comfort, agility and function, while maintaining attractiveness and flow.
Table of Contents
- What is Transformable Interior Design?
- Before Starting: Review Your Home’s Functional Infrastructure
- Step 1. Combine Room Functions that Make Sense
- Step 2. Do Not Lose Focus of Your Room’s Primary Function
- Step 3. Build or Buy Transforming Furniture
- Transformable Design Resources
What is Transformable Interior Design?
Transformable Interior Design – a narrow aspect of Transformable Design – is the practice of creating dynamic interior spaces that seamlessly provide multiple functions, layouts and uses on a daily basis. This practice often relies on using transforming furniture and adaptable built-ins within open spaces, to create multifunctional rooms.
We include the application of smart home technology (AKA Home Automation Solutions), as well, as it can enable the inside environment to dynamically adjust to the needs of its inhabitants. This concept is also referred to as Adaptive Performance which helps to: reduce energy consumption; enhance occupant comfort; and better optimize space use.
For the scope of this article, we use the term “multifunctional design” to conveniently convey the underlying principles of “transformable interior design”.
The Origins of Multifunctional Design
Multifunctional design for the home is not really all that new – have you ever lived in a studio apartment? Then you likely understand how a limited space needs to seamlessly serve different functions. Converting a studio from a gathering place for friends to a formal dinner to an evening slumber retreat should be effortless. Thus, thoughtful design, smart space planning and well-suited transforming furniture are all essential to imagining and creating enjoyable multifunctional rooms.
Before starting on the details of a given room, we recommend first considering your home’s overall functional infrastructure.
Before Starting: Review Your Home’s Functional Infrastructure
Before evaluating new functions of a specific room, be sure to consider what functions you may want in EVERY ROOM. Just as everyone desires a home with “good bones”, contemporary homeowners should also desire houses with “good function”. This implies that a house has an underlying infrastructure that is highly adaptable and useful. A good functional infrastructure can consist of the following elements.
Smart wireless devices and secure network technology can go a long way to expand the functionality of any room, plus outside areas (e.g. security systems, thermostats, media systems, intercom systems, lighting, shading, irrigation, etc.). We strongly recommend speaking with professionals within the Home Automation space, as they can help you choose vendors and solutions that will be widely used, supported and improved for years to come.
Consider your audio needs throughout your home and outside spaces. Would you like the ability to pipe music into all of your rooms or simulcast the audio of your main media room to other parts of your house? Will you want the ability to use an intercom system or speak to visitors at the front door without your mobile phone?
With adequate sound insulation, any room could, in theory, serve as a “media/music/gaming/conferencing” room, such that loud sounds will not disturb other members of the house. Sound privacy has become especially necessary with the recent trend of multiple members of households working from home. Noise reduction can also help improve sleep quality for light-sleepers.
Also related to the proliferation of Zoom conference calls from home, is the need to ensure visual privacy for your office backdrop. Many options exist that can help temporarily provide visual privacy within a shared area, such as: drapery rods with curtains; large floating artwork; floor-to-ceiling folding screens; large bookshelves on wheels; wooden slat room dividers; sliding doors, like barn doors, to close off two connected open spaces; and shades, if you need privacy from the outdoors.
Step 1. Combine Room Functions that Make Sense
After reviewing your “universal” functional needs, you can focus on combining functions that make the most sense for your selected room. This is especially important as you undergo a renovation of a single function room, as this is the best time to build multifunction capability into a space, while improving flexibility and utility. When planning a multifunctional room think about activities that complement each other or are an extension of one another.
For Example: Cooking, Eating & Socializing
Many homes today already have the most ubiquitous multifunctional room: the Eat-In Kitchen. A widely popular design that is functional for both preparing, socializing and enjoying a meal. A well designed, multifunctional kitchen facilitates unobtrusive preparation and cooking areas, without sacrificing comfortable dining space, all within the same room or extended space.
Modern kitchen designers have helped to create this multifunction vision by recreating the ever present kitchen island or peninsula. The single function kitchen’s island or peninsula may have had two sinks, ample countertop space, which in many cases, doubled the counter space that was almost never used. It is important to consider your actual space needs, such as areas in your kitchen for food prep, appliance placement, etc.
This multifunction design has since expanded its usage to incorporate a connection to a family room that eases entertaining family & guests, while preparing food and drink throughout an extended social event, like Super Bowl Sunday. An often requested feature for major kitchen renovations is the ability for the busy “chef-host” to be able to enjoy and interact with guests during meal preparation and service.
The Multi-Use Bedroom Retreat
Oftentimes functions that you may not ordinarily associate as complementary, actually do make sense in one room. We encourage you to think about your own lifestyle and design your functionality around the way you actually live within a particular room, or would like to live. Take a page from our example.
When renovating our Master Suite, we gave considerable thought to functionality and utility that would make it the perfect evening and weekend oasis. Our inspiration evolved from experiences over the years at various luxury hotel suites. Fond memories can serve as terrific vision and motivation to get just what you want in a new design.
Once we were satisfied with the specifications for the spa bathroom, we set upon design of the main bedroom area. Our weekend morning ritual often consists of breakfast in bed, followed by copious amounts of YouTube catch up. Depending on our schedule, we might take in a couple of movies before we actually leave the room for the day. Yes, there are times when we stay in our bedroom all day, especially after a particularly grueling week.
Most important for us, was having the ability to make coffee, preferably double lattes, in the en suite, without a lot of fuss. We had the General Contractor build a high cabinet in the hallway that separates the bedroom from the master bath. This cabinet houses an espresso/latte machine, a mini fridge (for cream, milk and other perishables) and utensils for coffee, tea and evening cocktails. The cabinet doubles as a mini bar in the evenings.
Admittedly, we were not unique is this approach, as the inspiration for this type of multifunctional bedroom bar is quite plentiful. However, we did have a favorite example that really solidified our desire for this feature from DXV designer Genevieve Ghaleb.
The Multi-Use Media Room
An example of a truly blank canvas, multifunctional room is to reinvent the classic “TV Room” into a versatile, modern media room. For this exercise, it may be helpful to envision a converted guest bedroom or open basement, if your space is limited.
Though we recognize that large, wall-mounted flat screen TVs are hugely popular, we cannot encourage you enough to consider purchasing a projector system, with retractable screen, no matter your budget. A retractable screen can provide invaluable flexibility, while enhancing the style of a space, when not in viewing use.
Even if your media room is small, projector systems exist where the projector can be placed close to a blank wall. An example of a state-of-the-art, elegant ultra-short throw projector is Samsung’s new projector Premiere, which was designed to mesh with your interior design. Its minimal and natural appearance allows it to harmonize well into any space. This marks a renewed focus on ensuring that prevalent consumer electronics products pay more attention to your home’s aesthetics.
We also realize that large theater seating furniture is popular, but by choosing smaller pieces with multifunction ottomans, you will introduce more options within your space. Moveable furniture can enable you to easily open your space to accommodate yoga or other fitness activities that only require a small area on the floor. Large, on-floor cushions and pillows can also facilitate a comfortable and flexible space that can handle a larger number of guests.
When considering choices for your home theater/media room, we highly recommend speaking with professionals, given the wide range of options and changing technology landscape. You may be surprised to learn what is possible and how you can create a solution that perfectly addresses your preferred usage (e.g. streaming, music, gaming, karaoke, lighting effects, over-the-air, etc.). For musicians, media rooms have also been evolving into music studios, both for performing and recording.
The bears in mind the second rule of designing a multifunctional room.
Step 2. Do Not Lose Focus of Your Room’s Primary Function
In our bedroom example, we neglected to mention that our primary requirement for the bedroom en suite was to accommodate a king size bed. This was not a trivial task, as the original quirky layout of the room made this infeasible. Once that design challenge was painstakingly resolved, we made the strategic decision to invest in a high quality mattress.
One’s sleep health should never be an afterthought when renovating your primary bedroom. If you ever doubt how much you should justify spending on a mattress and frame, consider how many hours you spend sleeping and how important sleep is to your overall health. If necessary, we strongly recommend shifting budget from elsewhere.
That said, we were fortunately also able to add a chaise lounge chair, a large salon chair, along with a guitar, and a Smart TV to allow the room to also serve as a relaxation retreat. The most important point is that the main function of the room was not diminished. The king size bed, reminds us that the room is in fact a bedroom, and a consistent restful night of sleep is the primary goal.
With the appropriate pieces of furniture, the space tripled its utility, without inhibiting flow or compromising comfort, aesthetics or main function. We can still use the room for impromptu cat naps or quiet reading, without disturbing the elegance of the space.
This is perhaps a point that bears repeating as a room, such as a bedroom, in and of itself, would normally only be used in the evenings for sleeping. However, with added features such as a minibar, chaise, small reading table and portable instrument, it has multiplied its utility and serves more than one function for 24-hour comfort.
Step 3. Build or Buy Transforming Furniture
Years ago, transforming furniture (also referred to as transformable furniture) primarily consisted of Murphy Beds and Convertible Sofa Beds of varying quality and staid styles. Today, however, there are innovative manufacturers that are inventing amazing furniture to accommodate this growing lifestyle trend.
For a great example of an innovative furniture maker that is expanding the popularity of transforming furniture, be sure to read Transformer Table: The Transformation of a Rising Company.
When choosing transforming furniture consider your options for items with efficient storage. For example, a foot rest or ottoman that is also a table with ample storage is the perfect accompaniment for a family room, bedroom or great room.
Tamsen Round Storage Ottoman
This efficient yet elegant storage ottoman looks great in a family room or bedroom, and has plenty of space inside for games and blankets. A double row of nailheads finishes the minimal style. Available at Pottery Barn.
Bluetooth-Enabled Ottoman with Storage
A more functional ottoman with storage, that also houses a speaker system that can connect via Bluetooth to your phone or other enabled devices, is yet another great inconspicuous invention that provides entertainment or speakerphone capability for a home office. Available at Wayfair.
Lift-Top Coffee Table with Drawer & Storage
This adjustable coffee table enables you to create a convenient and comfortable workspace by raising the level of your laptop and storing it when you are finished with it. Available at Overstock.
Sobro Coffee Table
This innovated coffee table comes equipped with: Refrigerated Drawer, Bluetooth Speaker System, and USB Charging Station. Available at Wayfair.
Furniture that doubles as seating offers a multifunctional purpose when both in and out of use. Remember, the room should never look cluttered, but instead the furniture arrangement should present a balanced, clean and effortless look.
Where to Source Transforming Furniture
Innovative advances in the furniture industry are producing transforming/transformable furniture, which is quickly becoming a must have for the modern home owner. With the ability to create multifunctional rooms in the blink of an eye, with minimal effort required, the modern living room can be transformed into a modern bedroom. Office space can suddenly appear in a rarely used guest bedroom with the flick of a finger.
As previously mentioned, there is a proliferation of companies devoted to designing and manufacturing transforming furniture for the modern age. Leap years ahead of the old, obvious looking sofa bed, these new products are well designed, easier to transform and of better quality than the generation of products that preceded them.
Expand Furniture’s products are designed to open up space in the home while serving multifunctional purposes. The thought and value designed with each product reflects the company’s mission of being the “Premier Online Specialist in Expandable Space Saving Furniture”.
They offer both original designs, as well as those of top designers. Best of all, products are shipped directly to consumers, cutting out the need for resellers, shipping delays and over-the-top pricing. Expand is also able to produce custom pieces should you have a bit of ingenuity in mind that they can help bring to fruition.
This brief video demonstrates just a few of the items that have made Expand a household name in the transformable furniture industry:
Arguably the pioneers of transforming furniture, Clei, an Italian furniture designer, offers some of the best well-heeled concepts for the futuristic home. Started over 100 years ago, Clei incorporates customers’ everyday use and needs in their designs. Their products include tables that transform from office to banquet dining length, functional wall units that provide sleek, multifunctional spaces with an almost “James Bond-esque” quality.
The brainchild of an MIT-educated, award-winning, design engineer & entrepreneur, Hasier Larrea, Ori Living was founded in 2015 to introduce robotic interiors, as a way to expand space in finite, small footprints. Current products allow retrofitting into existing units to create home offices, disappearing closets and beds that float up and down from the ceiling on demand, at the touch of a button.
The creator of the popular Flexible Love expanding chair, was founded by Taiwanese designer, Chisen Chiu. This eco-friendly seating system is also an adaptable piece of art, which can be extended into a 12-person seat bench or compacted down to a single seat. The innovative design is constructed of high-quality craft paper/recycled wood, which is durable, sustainable and recyclable.
Though not a furniture maker, California-based LaCantina Doors represents the best-of-the-best of indoor-outdoor living possibilities. They are a pioneer in designing and manufacturing large opening door systems and windows. Regardless if you have the budget, their impeccable work is invaluable to imagine what is possible for any space that yearns to seamlessly connect with the immediate outdoors.
Admittedly, we have been captivated by many opulent examples of their installations, whether in luxury resorts or high-end residences. We were excited to see this installation example in a more modest residential setting.
Designing a room for more than one purpose has been made easier with the advent of advances in technology within the furniture industry. Creating hybrid spaces requires that you design with purpose and functionality in mind, with the awareness that inventive concepts in furniture and room design systems will deliver 24-hour usage to a well designed multifunctional room.
The 8-hour room is an aging concept, as homeowners look to reinvent the lesser-used areas of their homes. Always keep in mind that less can be more, thanks to the creative designs of companies like Ori, Clei, Expand, Stretch Designs and LaCantina.
Transformable Design Resources
- Pinterest Collection of Transforming Furniture
- Video of 13 Smart Furniture Transformers
- Transformable Design Methods
- Hoberman Associates: Transformable Design
- Pinterest Collection of Transformable Architecture
More Interior Design Articles
- Transformer Table: The Transformation of a Rising Company
- Flexibility: The Only Home Design Trend That Matters
- How to Choose Interior Design Services from Virtual to Full-Service
- How Homeowners Can Work Successfully with an Interior Designer
- Crowdsourcing Your Renovation with GoPillar
- How to Use Havenly for Your Interior Design Needs
- Interior Design: Everything You Need to Know
- Home Design Shows on Amazon Prime
- Home Design Shows on Hulu
- Home Design Shows on Netflix
- Home Improvement Channels on YouTube
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