When your children leave home, you'll have more space than you've had in years. It's the perfect time to redesign, renovate and rethink. Instead of an empty nest, think of it as a blank canvas overflowing with potential.
Make it suit you
Interior designer James Treble, from Channel Ten's The Living Room, says this is the time to transform your home from a space that accommodates everyone to a sanctuary built around just you and your partner.
"You're now living in a quiet, clean and tidy space with nobody to pick up after, and this an exciting time to reinvent your home and adapt it to your new lifestyle and needs," he says. "One important consideration is the room layout and furniture placement. It's probably looked exactly the same for many years, and it worked well when there were many people living in the house, but now it's time to look at it with new eyes."
He adds: "Think about where the sofa is, do you like where that armchair sits? Does that coffee table work, or should it now become a comfy ottoman to put your feet up?"
Once you have a feel for what works for you right now, let the ideas flow. James says that starting small, just by changing cushions, homewares or a throw, can reignite your creative drive and lead to an entire top-to-toe makeover.
"Remember, this is your home, and it's now about how you feel in it and about suiting your needs, so get a little selfish – you deserve it!"
Reinvent the kids' rooms
With the kids gone you might find yourself with as many as three or four former bedrooms all crying out for new functions. Even just one repurposed room could make a huge difference to your home.
"Hopefully the kids have taken most of their things with them,' says James, "and what they've left is possibly best stored away, leaving you to decide how to use these rooms."
Ideas, he says are endless, depending on what's important in your life. "What about that home office you always wanted, or that creative workroom for you to spread out and get messy with your hobbies or to find peace to write a blog or your memoirs?" he says.
Other ideas include a home gym, yoga studio, meditation space, or a music room where you might practice a new instrument or use the extra kid-free time to brush up an old musical skill. If you love film, you could install a couple of cinema-style comfy seats and a giant screen to make the most of your Netflix subscription.
Create a cave
Speaking of screens, a spare room can also be a handy solution to those battles for TV room territory. "If you and your partner watch different TV shows from time to time, James says, "maybe a separate man cave, or in fact a lady cave, is what's in order."
The latter, he says, can be enormous fun. "Get out those favourite glasses you've had for years, set up a cocktail bar, paint the room bright yellow or add some wallpaper that you love, then invite the girls over," he says.
eBay is filled with cool and kitsch retro furniture and even freestanding bars to make a tropical tiki den, a shabby-chic nook, a Scandi-cool retreat, exotic mahjong parlour or any recreational hideaway that inspires and delights you. It's such an appealing idea that you may find you've started a new territorial tussle over who gets the cave.
Channel your inner hotelier
Some empty-nesters relish the new opportunity to entertain visitors they'd rarely had room for, or even use the space for Airbnb guests. This brings the chance to create the guest room of your dreams. Use photos of beautiful hotels as your inspiration, pore over interiors magazines and enjoy the search for unique pieces to finish the look.
A guest room can be more whimsical and conceptual than your permanent bedroom, an atmospheric space for people to escape to for a while. Consider even adding a mini fridge, tea making area or a spare TV – all attractions the kids will also appreciate when they pop back home to visit.
"Of course the kids can still come and stay," says James. "But why not buy a sofa bed that can serve two purposes, or even a day bed set up with lots of cushions for you to enjoy an afternoon nap or a good book?"