One of the charms of older houses is that they sometimes contain some quirky spaces. Often that means that a little house has grown over the years along with the assorted families who have lived there.

The challenge is to make use of those unexpected shapes and sizes, but possibilities abound. One odd little corner can assume myriad forms: an exercise space, a cozy homework area, a reading nook or maybe a centrally located playroom.

Older homes often have deep porches that can be captured as useful interior areas. Here (photo, right) we see a space that might at one time have been on the outside of the original home or might have been a little waiting room popular in another era. Now, however, it has been transformed for a more modern function.

Less than 90 square feet, this small room has become a complete music conservatory filled with light from charming casement windows. The crisp white woodwork and ceiling at once add character, blend with the original architectural style of the house and provide a good reflective surface.

A chic khaki accent color is used minimally on the upper section of wall. Carefully reiterated in the area rug, the neutral color is combined with slate and more snow-white. This is an artful way to weave together some color with the heaviness of the dark wood found in the bulk of the musical instruments.

This same cozy room might become a home office for a different homeowner by placing a folding screen around the desk or drawing board. A curtain could also be hung from the office side of the opening. This could be pulled closed for privacy or in order to quickly hide a sloppy desk from guests.

The space alsocould be a play area for toddlers with bins for toy storage and shelves for books. The area rug is an effective way to dampen sound and provide a soft surface on which the children can play. A curtain or screen would be useful in closing off the area from the unexpected visitor or the parent who doesn't like the visual cacophony.

Emptied of furniture except for a comfortable chair and reading lamp, this spot might also become a serene adult getaway. Yoga mats stored in a low chest under one of the windows might allow for a stretching area and yoga practice spot removed slightly from the rest of the household.

Consider closing off the opening with woven wood shades or even beaded curtains for a slightly exotic ambience. Using a white sheer instead would make the division more permeable and soft. This material would be especially suitable if the area were used as a baby's napping place or downstairs nursery for daytime convenience.

Placing two low bookcases across the wide opening is also a way to partition the space. Orient the unfinished side toward the room and either stretch fabric across the rougher backside or actually finish it off in a more permanent manner. In this way, the separation would be less bulky and more useful.

Chests are great for this use, but keep in mind that they can be a little deeper than the typical bookcase. For the music room theme, such a piece could be used to stash away sheet music and hide music books from sight.

Since these tiny spots are often located on the way to the main living area or kitchen, it's important to keep them clean and uncluttered at all times - which is always the case in a small home. *

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.