My three kids, dog, bunny, fish and husband are the best university for family design. Six boys (counting dog, bunny and fish) vs two girls.
Crash course lessons in Family Design 101 have included Middle Son converting our home into an indoor soccer field, while Dog tries to turn it into a restroom (both soon learned neither was an option).
And then there’s Bunny. Who-can-ever-get-mad-at-that-super-soft-and-floppy-eared-bunny Bunny? I did, with him thinking that our base boards are chewing toys. (Did I mention he is free range? Aaaah…Bunny).
So yes, I know what it is to have a family, and how a home is not a museum.
I also completely get it when a client says: “Give me the most inexpensive rug you have, because Ralphie will use it as his personal toilet”. And I too nod in solidarity when a client quakes at the idea of a white sofa.
So you’d think that Family Design 101 would have taught me to design for families. Not so, and so. Here’s the oxymoron.
I continue to be compelled to design beautiful homes, which happen to also be practical. Surely it’s beautiful or practical? Or practically beautiful? Or beautifully practical? Never beautiful and practical.
Well I’m here to tell you it.is.possible. Here’s how.
- Make the most used rooms the most welcoming
While this seems both simple and obvious, I have had clients who complain that their kids overrun their living room, and steer clear of their family room.
Well, can you name one kid that would rush into a cold sterile environment? Picture it: no rug, no soft pillows to snuggle up on, and cold hard sofas engineered to survive a jello disaster. If only someone wanted to sit on it. Given the option, kids gravitate towards comfy and cosy.
- Choose fabrics wisely
We live in a time of great innovation and limitless options. Faux leather feels so much like soft buttery leather. Teflon-coated fabrics unthreatened by little ketchup hands. Outdoor fabrics that are so fabulous, that they work indoors too – and can even be bleached!
Seriously, there is no excuse not to create a magnificent sofa. We are drowning in options.
- Pretty works, pretty expensive doesn’t
Give yourself a break. Put furniture into the family room that is good value and quality, but not the most expensive you can find. This room is going to be used, used, and then used again.
My own family room furniture is seven years old. It has lived through a lot. I bought it knowing that it was going to work hard, and knowing that one day I was going to have to either reupholster or get rid of it. It still looks great (good fabric choice), but is getting towards the end of its lifespan. I am okay with that. Not the most expensive piece in my house, but it’s served us well!
- Deliberately create that family space
Try carve out one space in your home where everyone gravitates towards. In my home, that space is the breakfast-room table. It’s 16 years old, teak-wood, and every lump and bump holds a memory.
I want my kids to sit at the table and color-in and do their projects. I created a space where everything you want to do, from eating to carving an ancient Egyptian plaque, is done. No one is hiding out in their bedrooms because our home is not a museum
- Don’t forget about pattern!
Put wallpaper on the walls. Let throw-pillows ooze personality. And choose rugs that have the most incredible designs, are super-soft (your toes will thank you!), but cost next to nothing! Put art on the walls, and be creative with accessories.
Make the most used room in your house a fantastic and welcoming space.
- Have fun, relax, and enjoy your family
That stain on the rug may always be there, but so will the incredible memories.