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Today, in their homes, everybody is short of space. Large houses are expensive to buy, to maintain and to heat; and usually rate demands are exorbitant. So families are tending not to move as the children get bigger and more numerous. The spaces remain the same, but the demands on them are greater. Consequently the same spaces now have to do extra work; one way is to re-organise your rooms so that one room will cater for several different functions.


Careful planning is the basis of success for dual-purpose rooms. Analyze your requirements carefully. It is helpful to make a list of everything you expect your room to do; then try and arrange these functions in the order most important to you. You may well have to make some compromises and it is a good thing to have your priorities sorted out. Thus the list for a teenage bed-sitter might read: 1 sleeping, 2 studying, 3 reading, 4 playing records, 5 entertaining – although the occupier might put further down the list than his or her parents would!. Draw up a rough room plan and note on it all vital measurements; include the way doors open, the position and height of windows, position of lighting and power points, etc. Draw out your plan on squared paper using a scale of 1:20. Then working to the same scale, cut out the shapes of all the bits of furniture which you hope to use in your two-way room. This enables you to move them around on your plan until you are satisfied that you have found the best position.


The exact nature of your furniture will obviously be determined by the functions you expect your room to perform. However the need for plenty of storage is a common denominator in most two-way rooms. First thing to do is to make a list of all the things you will want to store, noting particularly large and bulky items that may need special provision Whatever storage system you choose, make sure you utilise the inside of cupboards to maximum efficiency, with racks, hooks, adjustable shelves and so on. A cheaper alternative to a fully-fitted system is open shelving, or open box ‘pigeon-hole’ units. You may well find that you need to provide a sturdy horizontal surface to be used for eating, studying, hobbies and so on. There are various ways of doing this. You can fix a wide shelf on a folding bracket to fold away when not in use;.this is useful when space is tight. Or you can bridge the gap over two chests of drawers – cheapest way to do this is to use whitewood or second-hand chests and an inexpensive flush door. Or you can fix a wide shelf at a height of around 700-750 mm…. this can simply be fixed to the wall with cantilevered brackets, or could be part of a wall-shelving system. Make sure your fixings are really firm as your shelf will be doing the duty of a table, bearing considerable weight. Remember that low-level furniture and fitments make a room seem larger. Moving about is easier too, because however thin you are, you take up less space at ankle/ knee level than at hip/shoulder! Sometimes removing or cutting down the legs of furniture you have already can work wonders. Floor cushions, low-level tables and beds all add to the illusion of space. So do wall-mounted fitments; a wide shelf will seem to take up less room than a table or desk with bulky underframe.

The way you arrange your furniture is important: the plan you made to start off with will be helpful here. You must have room to open doors and drawers; make sure that there is no possibility of two doors, or a door and a drawer, jamming together when they are both open. You will also need to leave room to move around.

The position of your window is important: it is pleasant to sit near a window for reading or working, but on the whole beds are best sited away from windows, because of the problems of downdraughts from cold glass.


Two-way rooms tend to be busy rooms, with a lot going on in a smallish space. Plan your colour schemes as a background to these activities. Restful schemes, built up from neutrals or tone-on-tone of the same basic colour, are ideal; you can always add bright touches of colour with small accessories at a later date. Avoid excessive use of pattern; it is likely that your floor and wall areas will be ‘broken up’ by furniture and fitments; a busy, pattern will just add to the confusion. You can use mirrors to increase apparent space. If you place a mirror at right angles to a surface where it meets a wall or a cupboard, you will seem to double the surface; if you can position these mirrors so that you do not see your own reflection, the illusion will be complete. In the same way, if you place a mirror on the wall at right angles to a window, you can throw light into a darkish room.


Two-way rooms are hard-worked rooms: remember this when you select your floorings. Choose a flooring that wears well and is easy to clean, in a medium colour that will disguise dirt and staining. Suggested floorings: hard-wearing cords and carpet tiles, vinyl sheet or tiles, sealed cork tiles, or plain pile carpet.


Preferably, a dual-purpose room should be able to be heated independently from the rest of the house when necessary, so that the room can be used when the central heating has been turned off. Plan therefore for a small heater of some kind, whether electric or gas. Oil heaters may create a problem as they give off considerable water vapour which may cause condensation.

Good lighting is important and you will need several different fittings to cope with multi-functions. All working surfaces, reading areas, etc., will need extra light: adjustable spotlights are probably the easiest fittings to install. As in all rooms, you will need one light that turns on at the door, but you may be able to find a more suitable position for this than the conventional middle-of-the-room. The flex can be lengthened and then the fitting hung from a hook in the ceiling at a convenient point… low over a table, for example, or beside a bed. A dimmer switch may be used for varying mood.


Different families will need different kinds of two-way rooms, but here are some dual-purpose ideas which you may find useful.

Bedroom/sitting room The ‘bedsitter’ of course is the classic two-way room known to students the world over. But the idea is useful for homes too, for older children, elderly relatives, au-pair girls and so on. Lessons can be learned from the neatly planned bed-sitters in modern hostels; for example, simple sliding doors could conceal a whole wall, with space behind them for storage, washbasin/sink and even a- cooking ring and grill. When planning these rooms, you should remember that the ‘sitting’ part may include sitting alone or sitting chatting with several people. Typical other activities may also include listening to the radio or records, reading, studying and so on. If you are including cooking facilities in your bed-sitter, you will also need to make provision for washing up; try and keep these facilities away from the main seating/sleeping area. Some sort of screen is ideal; this could be a set of open shelves which could be used to house the china or glass etc., when the washing up is finished. Alternatively, a simple bead screen, roller blind or curtain could be very easily fitted. In tall rooms in old houses it may be possible to build a platform, which can be used with a ladder as a high level bed. Then the space underneath can be utilized for a storage or study area, or for eating. You will need to leave headroom of about 198 cm. This idea is also useful for bedroom/ workrooms and hall/home offices. The bed is inevitably going to be used for sitting/lounging during the day. Make sure your bed is of a suitable type for sitting on – for example a firm-edge divan. If you can provide daytime storage for bedclothes, so much the better. Some beds now have ‘built-in’ storage in the base. Or it may be possible to provide boxes that slide underneath the bed. A continental quilt is easy to bundle away. Then the bed can be transformed with a tailored cover or gay spread and the pillows disguised as cushions with suitable covers. If the bed is along the wall, its width will be too deep for comfortable sitting, and you should provide plenty of cushions: firm foam bolsters or wedges are ideal. Alternatively, dispense with a conventional bed and use foam blocks of a suitable density for seating by day and sleeping by night. Bedroom/workrooms Bedrooms are ideal places to catch up on reading, studying, model-making, or whatever needs peace and quiet away from the television. Good heating will be essential and you will see a need for some sort of working surface plus extra storage.

Hall/home office If you have a large hall, there is often a corner that can be comfortably equipped as an ‘office’, with telephone, storage space and writing surface. In small halls, it may even be possible to use the space under the stairs.

Dining room/hobby room or study Dining rooms used only at mealtimes are ideal for studying or pursuing a hobby. You must, however, provide a generous working surface with good lighting where books, papers, stamp collections, etc., can be left undisturbed, otherwise constant demands to clear up for the next meal are bound to provoke family tension. Kitchen/second living room If you have a largish kitchen, you may have room for a couple of comfortable chairs and this makes a very pleasant place to chat. Add a good light and you have a place to sew or read. Add a radio/ cassette player and you have an extra place to listen to music, or radio talks/ plays.

Spare bedroom/TV room If you are tired of the way the television dominates family life, you can banish it to a spare bedroom. Adequate heating is essential. A convertible sofa with extra floor cushions is ideal. When the room is needed as a bedroom, you can convert the sofa into a bed.


Never have there been so many opportunities for relaxation and amusement within the home as there is today. How best then to arrange your home so that you and your family can not only go about your everyday life with maximum efficiency and minimum frustration, but can also relax and enjoy yourselves with maximum pleasure?


The first thing to do is to analyze your own particular requirements. It could be helpful to make a list of everything that each member of the family likes doing in his/her spare time and at the same time list the equipment plus facilities needed. Decide whether these activities are communal or solitary. Some activities that only involve one person nevertheless do not preclude the presence of other people in a room. Other activities are best done on your own – e.g. woodworking, using noisy power tools. Following on from this is the decision as to which parts of the house/flat are going to be used by which people for these activities. You may well find the answer in dual-purpose rooms. Bedrooms in particular can be pressed into service for use as day-time and early-evening leisure centres. It may also be possible to use a workbench in the garage; to kit out the attic; to equip the basement as a games room, or to add on a ‘den’ in the garden. There are certain basic points which you may find helpful to remember when planning for the leisure activities of your family.


Remember that colours create moods: blues, greys, neutrals and some greens tend to produce a restful effect, which makes a pleasing background for reading, or creative hobbies. Reds, oranges and so on are more stimulating: good for rooms where movement is going on, e.g. playrooms.


With adequate heating, many rooms can be used part-time for leisure activi ties. Extension leads are available for using electric fires or other equipment far away from a power point. As always, ensure you have the right lighting for the tasks in hand. ‘WORK’ TOPS

When planning for activities at a table try and think about the chair and the work surface as one unit. Choose a chair which enables the user to sit upright, in an alert working position, with good support for the spine. The chair should allow the feet to rest naturally on the floor, whilst providing support for the underneath part of the thigh. When sitting naturally in a comfortable position, it should be possible to rest the forearms on the table top. If the user is going to type, the keyboard of the typewriter should be at hand height when elbows are bent. Similarly, if she is going to sew by machine, the platform level should be at hand height. Work/table tops may have to be lower to accommodate this. And always make sure that there is comfortable knee room underneath. For notes on provision of work tops, see two-way rooms, above.


For reading, listening to music, chatting, snoozing, watching television and so on, a wide variety of chairs and sofas are available, with prices ranging from a few pounds for a floor cushion, to hundreds of pounds for a leather-covered chesterfield. What you choose is mainly a matter of personal prefer ence, influenced by your budget. Do you like to curl up? – make sure your chairs are big enough. Do you like to put your feet up? – consider footstools or reclining chairs. Do you like to rest your head? – you will need high-back chairs or sofas. Do you like to have a lot of snack meals, or endless cups of tea and coffee? — you will need shelves or low tables to cope with the crockery. Do you like sitting on the floor, in an ultra-casual fashion? – maybe floor cushions would suit you, and your family/friends. Have you got young children or pets? – choose chairs with removable covers.

PLANNING FOR PASTIMES Watching television Many families spend a lot of time watching television but very little time thinking about the best way to plan their room accordingly. Which room is the best room for the television? Ideally, the set should go in a small separate sitting room, leaving your main living room free for undistracted family gatherings, entertaining friends and so on. Make sure that everybody has somewhere comfortable to sit where all can see. Most televisions are positioned far too low for comfortable viewing, including those sited on their manufacturer’s stand. If possible, get your set up onto the wall on a special bracket sold for the purpose. Then you can swivel it to any angle, and you can arrange the wiring so that nobody trips over it. Ergonomic experts recommend a height of not less than 122 cm from the floor to base of receiver. Never watch television in a room which is completely dark: this can strain your eyes. Have at least one low wattage fitting turned on and positioned so that it is not reflected in your screen. Stereo equipment How best to accommodate your assortment of turntables, speakers, deck and so on? A good adjustable shelving system is the answer, having many advantages. You can get each piece of equipment at exactly the right level for your height and its function. The record-playing deck will not be affected by vibrations from springy floors. Some systems allow you to conceal the wiring in their wall channels and also to fix up useful lighting at strategic points, so that you can see what you are doing when you go to change a record. What is the best position for the speakers? As always, the arrangement that you like best is the ‘right’ solution, but here are some guiding points. In general speakers should be on a level with the head of the listener. Imagine an equilateral triangle, with the speakers pointing inwards at either end of the base line. The listening head should then be at the apex of the triangle. This is to say that the distance between each speaker, and the distance between each speaker and the listening head should be the same. As a further guide, within a room 4-5 m. by 3 m. , the speakers should be positioned 2 m. to 2-5 m. apart. A simple test to see if you are sitting in the right position: you are sitting too close if the sound seems to move from speaker to speaker every time you turn your head, but you are too far away if you can detect no stereo effect at all.

Rooms for stereo listening should not have large areas of bare floor or wall, as it spoils the tone of the music. Walls can be broken up with shelf units, hangings, wall fabrics and so on. Floors should be covered by carpeting plus underfelt.

It is a good idea to seal round the sides and tops of doors with self-adhesive foam-strip draught excluder to cut down on noise transmission to other parts of the house. Doors can be soundproofed with a facing of 13 mm. blockboard on either side. Home movies, slides, etc. If you like showing your slides and films, arrange your room so that you have easily accessible storage for the necessary equipment. Otherwise viewing sessions will not be as frequent as they could be, due to the inconvenience caused. Remember that lots of people may like to come and watch at the same time, and you may need extra seating. Stacking or folding chairs are useful, or small floor cushions for the kids.

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