Though many empty nesters choose to downsize, some reallocate their current space instead. This was the premise behind a project by architect Lauren Tolles, founder of Maison Birmingham — a luxury design-build firm specializing in kitchens and bathrooms with a showroom in Downtown Birmingham — who turned her client’s lower level laundry room into a multifunctional space.

Although it still serves as one of two laundry rooms in the spacious Birmingham residence, the larger one now houses a craft room and storage for various supplies.

As Tolles explains, the homeowner wanted to create a room for generations to come. “She has kids in the area with hopes for grandkids in the future,” she says. “This way, she doesn’t have to worry about the house getting messy and there’s a multipurpose space for crafts and laundry that has a TV, too.”

An island divides the room into different zones for the tasks at hand. “One person can be doing laundry and another can be doing crafts,” says Tolles.

“She likes to craft and tinker,” says the architect about her client, who also utilizes the remodeled room for gift-wrapping at the island where she can sit and watch TV.

Because the space has a treadmill and also functions as a home gym, a mirrored wall remains in place.

Porcelain tile from Ann Sacks covers the floor. “She wanted something beautiful that was more economical and durable,” says Tolles.

Painted cabinets are easy to clean, and the Cleopatra Quartzite countertops give the homeowner the bling she likes while delivering a look not often found in a utilitarian setting.

A beveled subway tile backsplash behind the washer and dryer lends another unexpected touch. “It gives that finished, polished look,” says the architect.

While those who choose to move later in life often feel like they’re downsizing, Tolles says the new home isn’t always that different from the original. “It just has fewer bedrooms and more everyday spaces,” she says.

Empty nesters who would rather stay put can get creative with their existing spaces like Tolles did with another clever update to her client’s home that was done in the master bedroom, where a kitchenette became a makeup vanity. “Since they’re now living there by themselves, they didn’t need this area for privacy anymore because they can go to the kitchen for coffee,” she says.

Adaptable areas such as these often appear in new construction, where Tolles says you might see a library or a workspace on the main floor that can eventually be a master suite or a mother-in-law suite. In anticipation of a change at some point, an adjacent bathroom is part of the initial plan so that there won’t be a major remodel required in the future.

In the meantime, Tolles says that since retirees tend to use a home office more often, they want a nice space with an attached bathroom for added convenience. “It creates flexibility down the line,” she says.

For information, call (248) 203-6006 or go to

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at

Read or Share this story: