Empty nest decorating: Ideas for your grown kids’ old bedrooms


After more than two decades of occupying space in your house, your kids have finally graduated from college and landed their first jobs. (We’re thinking optimistically here.) Although it’s sad to see them move out to start life on their own, you can take solace knowing one thing: You can have their rooms!

Now that you have all that extra square footage of prime real estate, here are some ideas for what you can do with it beyond creating the obvious home office or guest room. And if you have more than one kid who has moved out, you can try several of these — you deserve it.

Home gym

It’s a lot easier to get to the gym when it’s just down the hall. The key to actually working out in it is to make it a comfortable place where you will want to spend time. Quite often, home gyms are assembled haphazardly, with, say, a treadmill and a few dumbbells stored in the corner of a room. That’s not a motivating place to exercise. Start refreshing the room with a bright coat of paint, like a vibrant orange or a bold shade of blue, to energize you. For storage, purchase lockers or cubbies. Have a mini fridge stocked with water, apples and wet, eucalyptus-scented rolled towels for instant refreshment. And make sure there’s a television. Running on the treadmill is so much more bearable when you’re watching the Food Network.

Yoga room

If it’s peace, tranquility and impossible body poses you want, set up your own yoga studio. Having an in-home yoga space reduces your stress immediately, just by eliminating the need to drive to a yoga studio, find parking and fight for a prime position in a class. For wall colors, choose hues predominant in nature, such as soft greens and blues. Set the mood with calm lighting by installing dimmer switches and avoiding harsh overhead can or track lighting, opting instead for ambient lamps or sconces. Accessorize with aromatherapy candles, potted orchids and a sound machine. And if you like to do yoga with DVDs or online classes, you’ll also want to find space for a television monitor. 

Media room

Since I’ve mentioned a television in the first two ideas already, the obvious next option is a room devoted entirely to watching television. I actually like having a dedicated media room, because it gets the television out of the living room or bedroom. While seating furniture should be comfortable, make sure it also provides enough support for your back and neck to withstand a Netflix marathon. Also choose stain-resistant, non-white fabrics, so you don’t have to worry about spilling drinks. Have enough side tables to rest your plates and glasses. And select media storage that has doors to keep your equipment and DVDs out of sight.

Craft room

For anyone into crafts and DIY projects, you know that all those supplies take up a lot of space. That’s why smart organization is so important for a craft room. Countertops and cabinets — of the sort used in a kitchen or a garage — provide a valuable work surface as well as storage. Storage on wheels, such as utility carts with multiple tiers, will help you move your stash around the room. And old furniture, like armoires and trunks, can be repurposed for creative organizing. Also, select a tall, counter-height table as your central workspace so you can stand while you work, rather than be hunched over. Most important, a craft room should inspire you, so fill it with things that spark your creativity — vision boards, artwork, past projects, even family photos.

Snore room

One of the biggest trends in making use of extra bedrooms is the “snore room.” It’s for couples who might go to bed together but opt to separate during the night because one or both of them snores. Instead of going into the living room to sleep on the sofa, one person can retire to a peaceful night in the snore room. This room is also perfect for those who enjoy late-night reading or television watching. Decorate your snore room as you would a guest bedroom, but make the bed especially comfortable, so sleeping in it does not feel like a sacrifice. In fact, furnish the room with a bed identical to the one in your master bedroom, with similar bedding, and it will feel like you’re sleeping together — in spirit. 

Walk-in closet

The ultimate fantasy for many homeowners is not a swimming pool or a game room, but a walk-in closet and dressing room. And by converting an extra bedroom, you can have a haven for your clothes that Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City” would envy. Plan what closet components you will want against your walls by using an online closet design tool (there are many of these, just do an online search), and you can purchase the elements at stores like The Container Store, Lowe’s or Target and install them yourself. If you’re not the DIY type, a handyperson, independent contractor or a professional closet company can do the work for you. Also, think about how boutiques display clothing — using freestanding racks, bookcases, armoires and tables in the middle of the store to feature items. Of course, have a full-length mirror. And don’t forget the mannequin or dress form to model your outfit of the day.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

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