When I was 5 years old, my family moved from Mobile, Alabama to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We then spent most vacations each summer driving back to Alabama to visit relatives. I was the youngest of three and often spent my time with one of my parents during these trips, but I usually enjoyed it. My mother would take me to visit her cousin Annie. Annie and her husband never had children. Every visit we sat in the 3 season glassed porch where Annie felt I would do the least damage. She was very nervous when we sat in the living room with her beautiful glass decorations. If I actually even slightly moved my shoulder, she reacted. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy our visits. My mother always complimented Annie on her beautiful home. I didn’t like sitting on a sofa covered in plastic.
When you have children, life changes. Parents learn quickly that you have to kid-proof certain things and make choices that function for an active family. Some questions to consider when designing your home include:
- will there be plenty of natural light? and where will the natural light sources come from?
- can you see the garden or other places where kids will be playing from the most used parts of the house?
- is there enough storage – especially for toys, books and games?
- is it durable and practical – e.g. my white couch is not normally a great idea if you have young children with sticky fingers.
Designing a home for a young family means thinking about some specific things that will help to make it more functional and comfortable for you. Today I’d like to discuss some dos and don’ts in making a stylish setting that is also comfortable for family living. Most of us do NOT want to sit on sofas with plastic covers, but we also don’t want our homes to look like a day-care center. The solution is a middle ground of comfortable, attractive and even sophisticated rooms that can withstand just about everything kids dish out. Remember the danger zone for young children is anything within about 45 inches of the floor and plan accordingly.
Combine Open and Closed Spaces
Open-plan living is popular in many homes. It’s great if you want to bring everyone together, especially if you have young children. You can make dinner while the kids are playing and watch over them at the same time. But it’s also important to have some closed spaces so that everyone can have space to themselves. We all need a little alone time sometimes so, apart from bedrooms, it can also be a nice idea to have a den that’s separate from the communal space. Open-plan living can get a little loud and chaotic, so calmer spaces are a nice addition to your home.
Designing the Nursery
A nursery is probably one of your priorities if you’re got an infant or if you have a baby on the way. Your baby might sleep in the same room as you for the first few months, but transitioning them to a nursery can help you to get into a new sleep routine. Your nursery doesn’t need to be the biggest room in the house, but there are a few things you’ll need. If you’re not sure where to start, try reading Baby Furniture Buying Guide: What Do You Really Need For The Nursery? There’s no need to go overboard and buy nursery items you won’t actually use. If you’re low on space, you’ll definitely want to stick to the basics so you can make the most of the space you have.
Think about the future when you’re designing a nursery. Will you be transitioning it into a toddler room soon? Will your toddler move to another room so a new baby can settle in? It won’t be a nursery forever, so it’s smart to think about how you might change it in the near future. You want to be planning for how a family functions now but you also want to be thinking about how the needs of the family will change over time as the family gets older or larger.
Is a Playroom Necessary?
Whether to give your children a separate playroom can be a tough question to answer. Of course, first you need to have the space available. But even if you have a room you could use, is it worth it to make it a dedicated place to play? There are advantages and disadvantages to having a playroom. Your kids get somewhere to play that’s not the bedrooms, leaving their rooms for sleeping. It means they have a shared space, so they can keep their own rooms to themselves. But a playroom can also encourage the collection of way too many toys. When you have more space for them, it’s easy to store more of them.
It’s ultimately up to you if you want to have a playroom. If you have the space for one, it can be a nice room just for your kids to have fun. On the other hand, that room could become something else. There are other places in the house where they can play.
Consider Bathroom Space
One of the biggest areas of contention in any family home is the bathroom. When you have multiple people who need bathroom space, there can easily be a lot of fighting about whose turn it is and who’s taking too long. When you’re moving into your first family home, you might not need a lot of space just yet. But as your family grows, it can definitely pay off to have invested in more bathroom space. You don’t need one bathroom per person, but it can be helpful to have at least one for parents and one for kids. Adding an extra shower could be one of the best moves you make if you want to provide enough bathroom space.
As for the design of your bathroom, it needs to be practical for your family. Even if you’re short on space, prioritizing a bathtub will make your bathroom more family-friendly. Design bathrooms that are easy to keep clean and that have plenty of storage space for the whole family’s things. Don’t forget about safety in the bathroom too. You need to prevent slips and falls, as well as keep the toilet lid down if you have toddlers.
Think About Your Future Needs
Your family might be young now, but it won’t stay like that forever. As time goes on, your family might grow and you’ll all get older too. So it makes sense to think about what your needs might look like in the future when you’re designing your home. That doesn’t mean you have to think about 10 or 20 years from now, but it’s worth considering how your family might be different once your kids start school or if you have more children. This could change things like how your rooms are set up or how your family spaces can best provide for your needs.
Create a Laundry Room or Mudroom
We all know it’s important to have places to eat together and hang out together, but there are smaller spaces that can be just as important for families. Rooms like laundry rooms and mudrooms can be much more significant than you might think. They help to keep the family organized and they’re also ideal for transitioning between outside and inside. This is especially true if you have pets that might need to be washed off before they’re allowed inside. Spaces for changing out of outerwear, storing shoes, or even showering before really coming inside are all great to add to a family home.
Plan for the Flow of Traffic
Something that’s easy to forget about, but could be crucial to how your home functions, is how everyone moves around the house. If there isn’t a good use of space and flow of foot traffic, you can find everyone getting in each other’s way. You end up all bunching up in one area, knocking into each other, and generally just getting on one another’s nerves. This is where your use of corridors, as well as entranceways, can really make a difference. Having plenty of space and taking steps to prevent clutter can help to improve circulation around your home. You can make sure everyone has space to move around to prevent bottlenecks—and arguments.
Focus on the Kitchen
The kitchen is arguably the most important space in your family home. It’s not just somewhere to cook. It’s a space where everyone gathers, where the kids do their homework, and where everyone comes to grab snacks at any time of day. It needs to work for your family, both now and in the future. It needs to be functional and practical, as well as flexible. An open-plan design with a dining area works for a lot of families. Adding a breakfast bar or island gives you somewhere casual for breakfast, snacks, and light meals. As well as thinking about the big things, don’t forget the smaller decisions. When you have young children, you might want rounded corners for counters to prevent any accidents.
Choose Durable Walls and Floors
If you have children, you can expect your walls and floors to take a bit of a beating. From drawing on the walls to spillages of all kinds, there’s likely a lot of damage coming your way. So picking durable options can help to keep everything looking smart and lasting longer. Some paints are designed to be easier to wipe clean, so they can be perfect for your walls. But finding flooring that will stand up to family life can be more difficult. Wooden floors, stone, or even polished concrete can all be durable options. But you also need to think about safety, and carpets or hard floors with rugs can be a softer place to land for little ones who are still finding their feet.
In conclusion . . .
Your home must work for all of the family. You don’t want to spend your life worrying about stains and breakables, but you also need a warm, relaxing environment that welcomes all who enter. One thing I love in modern design trends are the use of baskets for storage. In the family room they’re great for throws, extra pillows, and other necessities. There’s no need to hide the baskets and items are close at hand. I suggest you also include the kids on decorating decisions when appropriate. I selected the new color paint for my bedroom walls when I was 14 years old. I was at the age where I would window shop furniture and household items and plan my future home. No I didn’t buy anything; I just dreamed. I chose a color radically different than the one my father had chosen years before. I quickly tired of it and knew I made a mistake. I certainly couldn’t blame my mother as I had chosen the color. It was a learning experience and I had to live with it.
No matter how carefully you select furniture and finishes and arrange the rooms to avoid problems, when kids are in the mix, accidents will happen. So stash wipes and stain removers in key spots around the house, keep a smile on your face, and enjoy your children while they’re young. They grow up so fast.
This is a collaborative post but all opinions are my own.
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