The principles of building a great family and a great home are the same…
You’ve got to begin with the end in mind – having a clear image of what you’re working towards helps when short-term sacrifices need to be made. But the reality of trying to create your dream home and also be practical at the same time can be challenging. So to make sure that we keep things in perspective, I have three rules that guide me when I’m working with a family with children to make sure it’s a child-friendly home design…
Rule No 1 : Know what’s important to you and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Rule No 2 : Accept that other people have opinions, which is interesting, but not important when it comes to deciding what’s right for you.
Rule No 3 : Embrace the ‘imperfections’ and the things that make you different – not all families look the same, nor should all homes.
…and if you’re on a mission to create the “perfect home”, I want to share a few “reality checks” for you here…
Reality Check 1 : Sometimes Accidents Happen
Living rooms are for living so make sure your furniture is either washable or wipeable and you’ll be able to relax. Even if you have a “no food” rule on your couch, there’s likely to be the odd mishap with crayons, dirty shoes, or sneaky chocolate.
+ Look for good quality synthetic fabrics with variation in the colour and texture, so that marks have somewhere to hide.
+ Invest in a quality stain protector treatment such as “fibreguard” and if the whole cover can be removed and thrown in the wash, that’s a bonus
Reality Check 2 : Kids come with heaps of stuff
It doesn’t matter how selective you are about what you buy, there is always that grandparent or aunty that buys the biggest plastic toys they can find – inevitably these are the things your kids fall in love with. If you have a separate playroom where all this gear can be sent to, then you’re set. If not, lots of good, well-planned storage keeps everyone happy.
+ Make your storage flexible – you may start off storing play dough and blackboards, but you’ll be looking for somewhere to store school bags and skateboards before you know it.
+ Wherever possible, get your storage behind closed doors so that you can remove some of the visual clutter from your space.
Reality Check 3 : Meal times are messy
Even kids with the finest manners can be a mess at mealtime and apparently we need to keep feeding them until they can fend for themselves… That’s a lot of cleaning up. Make it easy on yourself and opt for dining tables that have a rustic grain to hide all the scratches and chairs that can be hosed off.
+ Depending on the size of your home, you may also need that dining table to double as a craft table and a hot desk for work, so make it as large as you can comfortably fit.
+ Look for solid timber tables (not veneer) that can be sanded back and re-coated down the track.
Reality Check 4 : Kids break stuff
Most of us like to be surrounded by nice things, but it’s smart to get these things as high as possible while you’ve got little ones around. Wall art and pretty lights are a nice compromise.
+ Skip the highly styled coffee table until kids are big enough not to throw things.
+ Feature pendants and wall lights give you a layer of style that avoids the need for loads of tchotchke to be scattered around the house…yes, I had to google how to spell that… yes, you can google it too if you don’t know what these are.
Reality Check 5 : They don’t stay kids forever
There will be challenging days where it’s particularly important for you to have a visual reminder that they won’t be kids forever – photo galleries are perfect for this. You won’t always have the
problem privilege of having to child-proof your home
+ Print off your favourite photos in black and white to create a cohesive collection. Perfection is not the objective here – photos from your phone that make you smile will always trump a professional studio shot.
Reality Check 6 : Family homes need a bathtub
If you’re familiar with the real estate market and spent any time researching family homes, you will have heard people talk about the importance of having a bathtub if you’re wanting to appeal to family buyers. But I don’t think the tub is needed for bathing young kids – it’s more to give grown ups somewhere to escape to.
+ Make sure there’s a lock on the door and a shelf beside the bath for a glass of something nice.
+ If you share a bathroom with the rest of the family, make sure there’s lots of storage so that you’re not fighting through a mass of plastic toys to get in.
Reality Check 7 : Some Kids are worse than others
Let’s be honest, some pets are cleaner than kids, but even the best trained dogs are going to make a mess of your floors. Your flooring needs to be tough enough to withstand the inevitable claw marks from games of fetch up the hallway.
+ If you love the look of timber floors, then go for something with a slightly textured surface so that scratches can blend into the grains of the wood.
+ Tiles or high quality, lacquered engineered timber boards will give you the most durable surface – make sure you ask your supplier about touch up kits so you’re ready if the need arises.
Reality Check 8 : We don’t all love cleaning
There are some design choices that you’re going to need to have an unwavering commitment to… if you want them to stay looking clean. Dark floorboards are undoubtedly beautiful but if dirty floors ignite your inner OCD tendencies, then a lower maintenance option might be worth considering.
+ If you love the look of dark timbers but don’t love cleaning your floors, then consider using this material in your furniture or a feature wall of cabinetry.
+ Invest in a robovac that can do the cleaning for you.
Reality Check 9 : Paint will fix almost anything
Our walls and ceilings make up the largest surface area in our homes and in most cases, these are going to be painted. The good news is that most problems can be fixed with a fresh coat of paint. So if one of your beloved children has let loose with a permanent marker on a wall or exploded their science experiment onto your ceiling, it’s a pain but it’s not a disaster.
+ Look for good quality wash and wear paints that will make cleaning easier.
+ Test the super powers of the ‘Magic Eraser’ before you resign to repainting.
Oh… and make friends with a painter if you can.
(You might find this blog post on choosing paint colours helpful too…)
Reality Check 10 : The kitchen is no place for your most precious things
The kitchen is one of the hardest-working spaces in your home and it definitely takes a regular beating, especially when there are kids involved. Some of the hardest hit areas are around the sink and the corners of your island cabinetry – so make sure the materials you’re using are able to stand up to it.
+ Marble is one of the softest and most porous bench tops available, so if you love the look but want something more hard wearing, then a porcelain slab is going to be a great option for you. If you want to know more about living with marble, this previous blog post I did might be worth a read too.
+ 2pack paint finishes can chip and scratch easily, so consider vinyl wrap or laminate options for something more durable.
If you want to know more about living with marble, this previous blog post I did might be worth a read too.
Reality Check 11 : Grown up spaces are important too
If you have the privilege of space, then creating a separate room that kids don’t have access to is a great way to carve out somewhere in your house for all the non-kid-friendly stuff that you love – you know, like the old ‘good room’ but without the plastic over the chairs and dusty wine cabinet.
+ If you don’t have enough space to create a dedicated ‘grown up room’, find a corner somewhere that can fit a really comfortable armchair that the kids will know is just for you.
+ Sometimes a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones is all you need
It sounds a bit dramatic I know… but hear me out. I’ve been on a long journey to figure out exactly how I can add the most value to projects I work on and I think I’ve figured it out…
If you think your biggest decision is whether to go for timber floorboards or tiles in your new home, then you might be surprised to see how many more decisions you need to make to specify your timber flooring.