Make Your Home Work For You

By Kate Riley October 18, 2012

We’ve been talking about removing some cabinets around the bay window in our kitchen and replacing them with open shelving.  It’s something I’ve been considering for a while since I’m loving that style lately, and I might have Matt on board to tackle that project this weekend!  Speaking of tweaking your home to suit your style, I’m also excited to welcome back contributing writer and expert home flipper Liz from It’s Great to Be Home

Liz is a wealth of information when it comes to changing out spaces to suit your lifestyle and she’s back with her six smart tips on how to make your home work for you right now.   Please welcome back Liz!

  make your home work for you


“Whether you’re planning to live in your home for all of eternity or sell it tomorrow, it’s always a great idea to adapt your home to work with the way you live, and unless you’re living in a house that you built yourself from the ground up, chances are your abode could use a few tweaks to fit your lifestyle.

So when you find yourself faced with a spare afternoon or weekend, think about tackling one of these six projects to make your home work for you – they’re easy, not too expensive, and can be conquered without busting out the serious power tools.  

1.  Create an Entryway.

How many times have you entered a house and walked straight into the living room?  It’s especially common for homes built in the 50s-70s.  While there’s nothing wrong with that layout, wouldn’t it be nice to have a proper entryway or at least a space that functions like an entryway? Everyone can use a place to drop their keys, check their hair before they walk out the door, and maybe even greet guests without making them feel like they’ve walked straight into your personal living space.

So how do you go about creating an entryway?  Just follow this simple formula to create a basic entryway: add a mirror + ledge or console + bowl or tray for stuff!

entry console mirror bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

the marion house entry

House and Home

Of course, there’s always room to gussy things up!  If you have the space, you might want to add a little seating by tucking a bench or ottoman under the console. You can also up the amount of storage you have with baskets and storage ottomans.  Finally, think about dividing up an open floor plan by positioning furniture to create a sort of "hallway" coming from the front door.  It’s easy to do this by using the back of a sofa or chairs to divide the space. 


2. Trade the Formal Space for a Home Office.

A formal living room still has its place in some households, but most folks simply don’t need or want designated "formal" and "casual" living spaces. So what are you supposed to do with that lonely formal living room or dining room?  The most popular way to utilize this otherwise wasted space is as a home office – we did this in our own home and have never looked back!  Luckily, creating a home office one is as easy as adding 3 simple elements: adding a desk + chair + storage.

emily clark home office

Emily A Clark


Once those "must haves" are in place your home office is all set – and if you need a little more quiet or privacy you can always close off your home office by installing French doors or even some stylish curtains.


3.  Amp Up the Storage. 

Have you ever heard anyone complain about having too much storage?  Me neither.  Unless you won the closet jackpot I’m guessing that you could use an extra cabinet or two.  Luckily, there are zillions of great pre-made cabinets out there so you don’t have to shell out the big bucks to add custom storage solutions to your house – the answer to your storage woes is as close as your local IKEA or Home Depot.

storage around staircase bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

storage southern living

Southern Living

The first step is to take inventory of all of the stuff lying around your house that you wish was tucked away out of sight – once you know what you have you’ll know what size/type/amount of storage you need.  Next, take a good look around your house – see any bare walls, or empty nooks and crannies?  Those areas are crying out to be filled with pre-fab cabinetry to hold your goodies – you can even get creative about where you add your new storage utilize naked space around a window, doorway, or staircase. 

When you’re choosing your cabinetry, make sure to give yourself options for both open and closed storage, whether the closed storage is behind a cabinet door or in a pretty box or basket – it’s always nice to be able to hide the clutter.  You can even fabricate inexpensive shades like in the image above to disguise part of the storage.  Finally, don’t worry about the store bought cabinetry looking, well, store bought.  You can always turn IKEA Billys into bookcases like Kate did


4. Carve out a Mud Room.

Unless you are the tidiest person or family on the planet, your home can definitely benefit from a mud room.  Having a space near the back door or laundry room where family members can kick off their muddy shoes, drop their backpacks or purses, hang up their gloves and mittens is especially handy in wintertime. 

mud room bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

liz caan mudroom

Liz Caan Interiors


A “mud room” doesn’t have to be expensive, expansive, or even a room, just a space with a few storage essential that simplify the daily routine.  Baskets and hooks go a long way to corralling outerwear, boots, and backpacks that are used on a regular basis.


5.  Expand you Living Space to go Outdoors.

It’s not always possible or economical to add more square footage to your home – so when you feel like your house is bursting at the seams, throw open the doors and enjoy some outdoor living.  It doesn’t matter whether your outdoor space is a huge backyard or a teeny balcony – you can make it a great place to hang out.

deck with outdoor seating bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

seating with fire pit


It doesn’t take much to make the most ordinary spaces welcoming – all you need are places for you and your guests to perch, some sort of lighting so that you can enjoy your space into the evening, and then a little greenery to remind you that you’re outside.  Adding a heat lamp or portable fire pit allows you to enjoy the space even in colder months.  


6.  Take Charge with a Command Center.

Whether your household has 1 person or 15, it can be overwhelming trying to stay on top of schedules, invitations, and all the clutter of everyday living. You can set up a command center in as little as half an hour and finally feel in control.

command center bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

pottery barn command center

Pottery Barn

Find a spot in your house that members of your household pass by every day – that way everyone will be sure to notice the command center and make updates as necessary. Your setup doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a message board to tack up notes and schedules, some storage boxes or hanging organizers for clutter, and a notepad and pens for making additions to the message board.  Now, instead of answering the question "Hey, when is…?" 15 times you can just point to the command center. Priceless.

So there you have it – 6 ways to make your home more functional in a jiffy!”

Thanks Liz!  I love how these six ideas are ones you can tackle in a weekend and that encourage you to make your home suit your lifestyle and your needs!  You can catch up with Liz at her inspiring blog It’s Great to Be Home

Have you incorporated any of these six ideas into your home? 




  1. I love Liz and her inspiring blog. I agree with every single one of these tips. I actually began implementing many of them months ago. Although my home is newer construction, we also have the whole “no dedicated foyer” issue. It’s the only thing about my house that I hate. When we were first looking for a home I swore it HAD to have a foyer. That didn’t quite happen so “creating” one was first on the to do list. Great post.

  2. I have done just about all of these things in the last year so I wholeheartedly agree! Granted, my new foyer and office is the result of some major construction, but it can be done easily in most people’s homes.

  3. I love this post. Thank you so much Liz! I can do every one of these things and didn’t even realize it until I read this. Thanks again!

  4. wow! this is going around a lot now, i guess. just 3 days ago rachel from smallnotebook asked ” Do I work for this house, or does the house work for me?” it’s totally true! if you’re constantly putting in lots of effort keep your home organized then you’ve got to change your system. good suggestions, CG.

  5. I see a lot of people doing the open shelving. What do you do about the dust? My few dishes that sit out get kind of icky

    • Hi Kate! We are only going to use our everday dishes for the shelving, the ones that get washed frequently, hopefully that will work for us. :)

  6. So agree with making your spaces work for you. And having it organized makes it just more enjoyable. Love your blog :-)

  7. I have been working on the entryway for awhile now, but it’s still completly empty because I only have 38 inches for a console table. I want the table in the first picture. I’m going to have to go hunt one down!

  8. Looking forward to seeing your open cabinets. It takes some “guts” to use a room to suit your needs instead of what it was intended for. It’s about making your house yours instead of a show house to meet the expectations of others. Ooh. That was “heavy”!

  9. We use a bedroom as my husban’s office. That as different as I get. I usual am not brave and use the rooms what they are inteded for, LOL!! I can’t wait to see your open shelving I am sure it will be spectacular.


  10. I love this post! I plan to make my dining room function as both a dining room and an office. Why waste the space as just a dining room? And I need to make a command center in my kitchen. Right now my open bar space serves as a landing spot for a lot of stuff and I need it to be more consolidated.

  11. Even in Michigan, with our cooler fall and spring months, we are able to expand our living space outdoors if done properly! A fire ring, whether permanent of portable, helps to chase away the chill!

  12. Thank you!! This post is both inspirational and practical. I’ve just shopped my home and have new ideas for arranging our stuff.
    aka “stuffmanager”

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