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Designing a family friendly home

Can you have a family friendly house that still has style? Yes if you think about the practicalities and function of everyday life with kids. As well as planning for now you also want to be thinking about how the space will work as the family grows and needs change over time. So here goes with some things to consider that will hopefully help you design a home for your family that will stand the test of time.

Spaces & Layouts

With a family you will have stuff… tons of stuff… treasured things, messy things, faddy things. It's never ending but before we get onto storage (my favourite topic) you need to think about how your family is going to use the space.

If you are lucky enough to be building or renovating from scratch, think about how you would like to live. Do you all like to congregate together? In which case an open plan space is good to have. There’s been a trend for open plan living for some time now in family homes as it gives good sight lines to kids. But it can be noisy and leave you with nowhere to stash the clutter so the broken-plan trend has been quietly growing in popularity. By thinking about how you work together as a family and everyone’s individual needs you can begin to plan open and closed spaces that will work for everyone.

If you are remodelling or repurposing your home’s rooms then think about your layout in terms of where you spend the majority of your time and what you think would improve the flow of the house.

Do you need quiet zones to work and read? Then dedicating a distinct space for this will create a calmer home. Suiting the needs of multiple occupants, all with different lifestyles, can be tricky to get right. So working through what everyone does on a daily basis can be a good starting point.

Do you all play games as a family, or want to hang together to watch films? Then think about making a room into a multi purpose play and cinema room. The act of approaching rooms as multi purpose helps future proof them as well. A playroom with low level lounging seating (perfect when you have crawling kids and are playing floor based games all day) can then become a gaming or cinema room as the kids grow.

Or do you have relatives visiting regularly - in which case a spare room/office by day can work as a guest room when needed at night and free up more space for daily living requirements. The more flexible you can be the better as you will find that kids grow quickly and so the kind of spaces that will work best for you are also evolving all the time.

Do you entertain regularly? Or do your kids still go to bed early whilst you crash in front of the tv? Then making sure that you have doors to deaden sound from the living areas to the sleeping areas is a must.

Can you squeeze in an additional toilet (or even shower room for the teenage years) anywhere? Not only does this make life easier for all, it can be great for resale too.

Storage Storage Storage

Keeping everyone’s stuff under control is all about storage. If something has a place then it’s likely to find its way back there at the end of the day (or after some parental nagging). So finding clever storage solutions in every room will help keep your home a serene and organised place to live in (not to say you won’t have the odd bad day!).

So apart from the obvious cupboards and drawers what can you do? Well bespoke joinery can really maximise awkward spaces, add valuable understairs storage, make use of alcove spaces or streamline a room with a wall of hidden cupboard spaces.

Take time to look at where you can gain space without compromising floor space.

Whilst open shelves can be gorgeous to look at with lovely treasures on show, they can also look unsightly when stacked with mismatched games and toys. So using closed cupboards will help make the space feel more uniform and clean.

And in my world it doesn’t matter how messy the cupboard is inside!

The Heart of the Home

The kitchen is probably the hardest working home in the house and never more so than in a family home. It’s not only the cooking hub but will be where works of art are made at the kitchen table, homework is reluctantly done and where cups of tea or glasses of wine are drunk and the world put to rights.

If the room is large enough than a kitchen island with bar stool seating can be a great addition. Or bench seating (don’t forget the hidden storage) for squeezing in that extra guest or two. Flexibility is key again here. Multi functional furniture, hard-wearing finishes (more on that later) and lots of lighting layers will make the space as flexible as possible.

Clean and serene

Next up are bathrooms. Again another workhorse in a family home and also with evolving needs. A bath is invaluable with young children for wind downs and clean ups but a separate shower is also a winner for the teenage years.

Think about bathroom flooring that is easy to keep clean, non-slip when wet and consider dark epoxy resin grout (it will last so much better!).

Having heated towel rails for all the towels to dry (once you’ve picked them up off the floor of course), hooks for everyone and adjustable shower heads for swilling the mud away in the bath are all tricks to keeping the room clean and serene.

Entrances and Exits

And on the subject of mud, think about how you enter and exit the house. All the paraphernalia you need and where it can be stored. If it has a home it is far less likely to live on the hall floor! Coat and shoe storage is a must. If you are able to be ruthless then have a few pegs near the door for the everyday coats and then try to keep the rest elsewhere. Add pegs at a lower height for the kids coats and bags too. If you have room for a storage bench for shoes, it is a great addition to a hallway, and somewhere to sit when learning to tie those laces too.

If you have the space then utility and boot rooms are life savers when it comes to kids. It gives you a space to get out of the cold, de-robe and store the current sports/outdoor gear. So think about storage in these rooms, hooks for coats, storage for kit or even individual lockers to keep everyone in order and things looking good.

And if you are looking at your utility room then think about hanging rails, ceiling hung drying racks and high level storage (for washing detergents) as the washing machine is never empty is it?!

The Practicalities

Once you’ve got the layouts nailed then it’s time to think about the finishes. Flooring in a family home is a key one. You need hard-wearing options as your floors will be subjected to heavy traffic, spills and stains but you’ll want to be warm and comfortable for all those hours you will spend sat on the floor playing too.

So look to surfaces that are durable, stain proof and easy-to-clean. Getting it right first time means you won’t be in a position of having to change the flooring later on (not an easy job always). So spend a little more on the things you won’t change. Solid and engineered timber, stone, polished concrete, and tile are all great options for busy spaces, but don't discount less common flooring types either — cork and rubber can be great options for family homes and are really growing in popularity.

If you decide to go for a carpet, bear in mind that polypropylene carpets offer good resistance to dirt. You might also want to take a look at a product called Unnatural Flooring which looks like natural flooring yet is made from woven vinyl and polyamide making it fully washable and really durable. But natural carpets such as jute, bamboo and sisal are all naturally low in VOC (volatile organic compounds - chemicals added to solvents in paints and latex carpet backing)

Rugs are a great way of changing up a space and adding in some warmth and comfort but steer clear of light colours which will show up stains easily. And if you can add a rug with pattern then all the better (until you are looking for that last tiny lego piece of course!). There's no rule to say that outdoor rugs can't be used indoors, too. They're easy to clean too. Or look out for rugs meant for high-traffic areas. Rugs and soft furnishings are also a practical way of sound deadening a space.

Flexible seating is also a great option. Sofas that have washable covers (or leather) are great options. Poufs, floor cushions, and ottomans are perfect for extra seating in a living area and can also be repurposed for den building and jumping between when ‘the floor is lava’. Rather than coffee tables an ottoman with a tray on top can be perfect for avoiding sharp corners - as we all know kids heads are a magnet for a sharp corner. We purchased a leather beanbag years ago that has been a daybed for the babies, additional seating at gatherings and is now a gaming beanbag with the tweenagers - but it still looks gorgeous - in fact more so as it has softened over the years.

When decorating there are lots of paints out there now with low VOC levels or opt for an eco paint for guaranteed peace of mind. Always looks for washable paints when the kids are

young too as they are much more durable and can happily withstand a wipe or two with a cloth to get rid of sticky fingerprints.

And a last note on safety - it’s always worth crawling around your house (yes crawling!) to see where hazards might be. And ensure you fit safety locks to windows upstairs so you have peace of mind if they are playing in their bedrooms out of sight.

Pink and Blue

When it comes to decorating the kids' rooms then consider the longevity of how you design. Kids rooms are meant to be fun (but calming enough to sleep in!) but as your child grows then so will their taste. So avoid the gender stereotyping of pinks and blues and look for a neutral backdrop and hard wearing adaptable furniture that can grow with them. Then have fun with accessories and layering that are easy to change up as their interests change over the years.

On a practical note - go for good quality window dressings, blackout blinds can be invaluable if you have a light sleeper and would really love a lie-in past 5am!

I so enjoy getting kids involved in designing their family homes. They tend to love being asked for their opinion and it makes sense to get the input of all household members if you want to ensure this is a space that is enjoyed and appreciated by everyone. Plus it opens up the creative side and you might find some of their ideas fabulous.

From cosy reading nooks to a swing from the beams, giving your home a playful edge can really encourage relaxation. And being creatively inclined myself I like to always encourage kids’ creativity so add a chalkboard into a playroom, or a dedicated cabinet of art supplies and have an ever-changing wall to display their framed art. A pinboard or shelf for awards and certificates is always a lovely thing to add as well and allows a space for all those tiny treasures that children collect along the way…

Adult Only

And finally, if you have the option, design an ‘adults-only’ space where no toys are allowed to migrate to. A place that when they are all finally asleep at the end of the day you can close a door on the rest of the house, sit down, relax and breathe…

If you'd like any support in getting the family home you want then drop me a line today. I'd love to help.

Photo credits: DEN LIFE interiors, Michael Oxendine, TwentyTwentyOne,, Sven Brandsma, Christian Mackie, Brina Blum, Karolina Grabowska, Collov Home Design, Sandra Seitam, Julien Lanoy, Jon Nathon-Stebbe, Guzman Barquin.

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