Annie Payne Column July 04, 2009

The largest house in America is in Asheville, N.C.

It boasts 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. It was constructed over six years and completed in 1895.

It served as the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

George Vanderbilt created the country retreat where he could pursue his passion for art, literature and horticulture. The home is still owned by family members, but it is open to the public as a luxury inn known as The Biltmore.

The average home has nowhere near four acres of floor space. According to the National Home Builders Association, it is more like 2,300 square feet.

Most American homes don’t have an indoor pool, bowling alley, gym or home theater, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have those in your average-sized house. It just takes a little more creativity and perhaps paring down ... a touch.

Just like we have to multi-task in our lives, our rooms can do double, sometimes triple duty, too.

The difficult part is to insure that the marriage of functional areas can coexist without having to separate under irreconcilable differences.

Here are a couple examples of how the rooms in my home have done “double duty.”


Who says that an averaged-sized home in Fruita can’t have its own art gallery?

My children’s happy artwork keeps my new red, front-loading washer and dryer, aka “Thelma and Louise,” company and staves off the drudgery of loading, folding and ironing.

I’ve collected inexpensive frames and given a place of honor to my kid’s creative creations.

They love seeing their artwork framed on the walls, and I don’t have a bunch of papers “cluttering” my refrigerator doors.

Not every art project goes in a frame. When they come to me with a new creation, we look at it with an art critic’s eye and decide why it is good, how it is different from the 20 other drawings of Pokemon they have done and if it is worthy of an “art showing.”

My kids learn to hone their art skills, and I don’t go broke buying frames.


For a couple of years, my husband, Secret Agent Man, and I co-existed happily in the same office.

When his “supersecret” responsibilities changed from operations analyst to acquisitions, it became clear he would need a little more space and privacy.

If you are sneaky enough to catch a glimpse of his computer screen, what at first glance may seem like a harmless material requisition, is actually missile launch codes, doomsday scenarios and other state secrets.

For weeks after being displaced from the office we’ve shared, I worked on my laptop in different corners of the house, but I needed a permanent space in which to write my articles, blog, update my Facebook status and “tweet” with my “tweeps” on Twitter.

I recently set up my new digs in the guest room. I bought a desk and chair and moved it into the room next to my parents’ circa 1970s bedroom furniture.

I now call it, the guest room + office, or The Goffice.

Deciding on the furniture arrangement was not easy. I knew I wanted my desk next to the window so I could spy on the people in the neighborhood park and enjoy the beautiful view of Colorado National Monument, but to do that, perfect placement had to be compromised. (Note in the photo that the bed partially blocks the closet door.) But, all in all, I am happy with the result.

So, if you come through my neighborhood park, give me a wave and I’ll “tweet” about what you are wearing and if you cleaned up after your dog.


Here are some tips on how and when, or when not, to merge your rooms:

• Look at the areas of your home which are used the least and think about how they could be more useful.

I go against the grain on what most lifestyle experts will tell you.

They say that gone are the days of the formal living room and dining room. I disagree.

Although, they are sparsely used, I love having two clean and quiet rooms to the left of the front door that are always ready to welcome unexpected guests.

But, if this is not your style, perhaps add a desk to your under-used living room to give it more functionality. Perhaps it will attract more use if it had more bookshelves and better lighting to make it a home library.

If you are lucky enough to have a formal dining room connected to your kitchen, but “formality” is not your style, use it as a playroom as I have seen some families do for their kids. Having the playroom right off the kitchen makes it easy for mom to keep an eye on the kiddos while preparing meals and cleaning up.

• Do not ask your master bedroom to be anything else but a bedroom.

I visited a home recently that had a TV, computer, sewing table and treadmill all in the same room.

How do those people ever relax enough to sleep?

You may know I’m a Feng Shui enthusiast and that ancient Chinese philosophy would teach you not to use your master bedroom as a work space or workout room. Let it be a calming sanctuary, a respite from the world and nothing else.

• I love the idea of combining kitchen and office.

The kitchen is already a hub of activity. It seems like a no-brainer to have your computer nearby.

As a laptop user, having my computer in the kitchen with me when I cook is helpful. I can quickly look up recipes or watch cooking demonstrations.

During the school year, I could check the weather, headlines and school menus while I prepared breakfast and lunches for the kids and never had to leave the kitchen.

There’s no need to bring in extra furniture. I used counter space as my desk and a kitchen stool as my seat.

Perhaps I’ll never live like the Vanderbilts.

My average-sized home, complete with The Goffice and art gallery are just right size for me, but whenever I dare to dream of living in a place like The Biltmore, an old adage comes to mind, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to clean all those bathrooms.”

For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s “Anniethology” blog online at


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