We talk to three homeowners who converted an unused spare room in their home, or even their empty garage, into somewhere they could rediscover a passion, start a business or get fit.
- Tania turned her room into a jewellery workshop
- David created an at-home gym to save money
- Lisa always wanted a studio to create products for her business
Tania's jewellery studio
'I make jewellery and design clothes so our (very small) flat was pretty rammed with tools of my trade,' says Tania. 'When we were buying our house, we always had the thought that my husband would have a study and I would get a studio. I never thought I would get an entire garage but my husband was totally behind the idea.'
Tania's husband, Zsolt, explains why: 'I think I was looking forward to having the studio done just as much as my wife did. Tania always wanted a place where she can merrily work away and have enough room for all her tools, which are plentiful.'
The garage was a great space with some nice features, and Tania saw the opportunity to draw attention to them.
'We left the brick exposed but insulated it for warmth,' says Tania. 'The roof was painted white but leaving the beams exposed, and stained dark, so it was still a high ceiling. There was one small dark window which was replaced, and another window installed to give more light. We also added many, many socket banks.
'It is a purpose-built studio now, with one end of the room kitted out with my silversmith tools – jewellers bench, soldering station and polishing station. The other end has my sewing table, fabric store and other dressmaking accessories. I also have an enormous bookcase for my trade books and sewing patterns.'
'My favourite part is my stone radiator, weighing about 100kg. That was a bit of a pain to install but totally worth it,' she adds. 'It is really my dream studio, although it's also the last bastion of my storage. I love being in there and can get lost for hours in my creative kingdom.'
Zsolt talks of his relief: 'The benefit for me was the relocation of said tools from various corners of the house to the studio – a win-win!'
If you're planning on doing a similar thing to Zsolt, make sure you have the right buildings and contents insurance to cover your treasure trove!
David's home gym
'I turned my spare room into a gym; well, I call it a gym – it's a room with a lot of gym equipment in it,' says David. 'The room is a lean-to – a little room adjacent to the house. The previous owner, who was a photographer, used it as a darkroom.
'I decided to redo it as soon as we moved in,’ continues David. 'We gave it a paint and put some carpet down, and then fixed some things to the walls, like a pull-up bar.'
As with many personal projects, David can always find reasons to improve his gym – or, rather, ask his wife to help.
'We kept adding a few things over the years,' he says,' even though my wife doesn't use it, she does all the DIY – she's the one who fixes everything to the walls!' reveals David.
If you're tempted to do some DIY, even if it's on behalf of your partner, consider adding extended accidental damage cover to your home insurance policy.
David's gym means he can fit exercise into his busy lifestyle, but it doesn't quite scratch his workout itch.
'I joined a proper gym again in January, because I like to get out of the house,' explains David. 'But my home gym is great first thing in the morning, because a lot of gyms don't open until after 7am, so I can go into my home gym at 6am, before work, and get a workout in.'
'My husband and I were having an extension done to the house in 2005 and it made sense to do a garage conversion, turning our garage into an office, at the same time,' says Lisa.
'I am since divorced from my husband and now live in the same house with my new partner', Lisa continues. 'Originally, when he moved in a few years ago, we shared the office, but when I decided to launch a new business, I needed a room to display products. It’s now my showroom, office and store room.'
Lisa's partner, Mike, was happy to help her set up her new showroom, especially as it meant there was more space in his home.
'The work Lisa produces is gorgeous but as lovely as it is, we didn't want our house being used as a showroom to display things, which is what was happening,' says Mike. 'We bought the bookcases and desk items and I put them up in less than half a day. We added some little bendy spotlights and some additional shelves and it completely transformed the space. The house is now ours again!'
For Lisa, who has to store more than a party's worth of decorations at any one time, storage space was key.
'I bought a whole load of shelving, bookcase units and lights – we already had the desk but I needed floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall display and storage!' Lisa explains.
'It's a really flexible space,' she continues. 'The desk where I work often doubles up as a place to display centrepieces as well as make them. The bookcases show our hand-decorated candles, we use the storage crates as a wrapping area and the room also stores pieces that we've made before they get sent out.'
With a bit of imagination, some hard work and some money well spent, anyone can turn an unused space into a work station, a sanctuary, a showroom – or all three.