How to create a family-friendly home without sacrificing on style

How to be victorious in the struggle to keep your stylish home from constantly turning into a children’s playground

We all have an ideal for our homes, how we want them to look and feel. But sometimes our vision of perfection may not dovetail with family life. What’s important is to follow what feeds the soul, and when it comes to our homes, this is all about balancing practicality and beauty.

In a home a family grows together and, with that, needs change so it’s worth thinking of this when you plan a renovation or new build. “With the increasing shortage of suitable family homes, designing flexible and multi-purpose spaces is not only smart, but it’s also essential,” says Nadia Sakey, house doctor from One Nine Design. “If you design well and future-proof in the beginning, choosing stylish furniture that is functional, adaptable and long-wearing,” Nadia says, “there should be no need for functional change from toddler to teen.”

Toddlers and young kids: 

Consider form and soft lines: Steer away from sharp edges and nasty corners, not only for visual ease but also for safety. “When I am selecting furniture, I am a big fan of the round shapes, stone, warm metals and timber, which never tire in the style stakes, rather than glass and concrete,” Nadia says. “I choose storage ottomans with tray tops over hard-edged coffee tables.”

Have a room dedicated to adults only: Create a retreat in which toys are not featured in any way, shape or form. Make this a space to display your more expensive, precious items such as vintage vases, record collections and high-end lighting that you’d rather keep away from curious little fingers. Simply close away with a stylish sliding door.

Guide children to respect items: While placing your favourite objects in a separate room, there’s value in teaching children to look after things within the home too.

“Teaching your children to respect and care for their home and belongings is giving them invaluable life skills,” says Vic Bibby, interior designer from Bibby & Brady. “Keep your precious items high on the bookshelf, but also on your coffee table and lower shelves, showing your kids to be gentle with them. Your friends and family will thank you for it when they show the same respect in their homes too.”

Choose fabrics wisely: Don’t limit yourself to dark, neutral fabrics that hide stains easily. “You don’t need to rule out light fabrics and colour schemes if your heart desires it,” says Nadia. Fabric technology has advanced, she explains, and even some outdoor fabrics are suitable for indoor squabs and sofas. “Teflon-coated fabrics that are washable and have a higher rub count than 30,000 are also a safe choice for style, durability and longevity. If you love a fabric that doesn’t pass the kids and pet test on the washability and durability scale, choose furniture with slip or removable covers.”

Safe and suitable furniture: You may want a breakfast bar at the kitchen island, but this isn’t always safe for a toddler. An alternative is to bring in a kid-sized table and chairs so you don’t have to worry about accidents. Keep it in the same colourway as the rest of your kitchen – you can even get mini version of designer chairs.

Storage is your friend: 

A clutter-free home allows busy family members to find their belongings quickly. Allow for this with a large wardrobe in which you can order toys in labelled boxes. An area near the front door is ideal for placing coats, bags and umbrellas. Section an area for each child with an on-trend paint colour so they can identify where their items go, with reachable hooks. Interior designer Annick Larkin suggests finding multi-functional pieces of furniture that double as storage too. “Try a modular sofa with built-in storage beneath the seats, a coffee table with a magazine rack below sideboard with shelving for baskets.”

Teens and beyond: 

Broken-plan spaces: For a layout that caters long term, Nadia suggests planning ahead. “Smart planning is starting as you mean to go on – future-proofing,” she says. “While needs change as the family grows, the space and how you design in the beginning doesn’t have to compromise on style.” She refers to a common mistake young families make when renovating or building their new home: to not look at future needs. “They get excited about open-plan, but broken-plan spaces, which are designed to be flexible allow for additional separate space and can be opened out or closed off from the main living areas.” These, Nadia says, provide multiple uses throughout the years, from
a quiet adult space, playrooms or teen breakout spaces.

Go modular: When it comes to furniture, Nadia suggests buying flexible styles that can be “configured in many ways, suiting any space or purpose”. Some even have smart options with built-in technology for charging, playing music or adding light options. “An item like this with a 25-year guarantee and the ability for its stylish fabric or leather to be changed easily in years to come is also a smart move.”

Embrace unused spaces: Be creative with areas in the home that aren’t being used; even a small space can be taken advantage of. The more you can build into the otherwise “dead” spaces in your home the better, Nadia says. “In teen retreats and flexible spaces, incorporate study spaces behind moveable walls or sliding doors among other necessary storage requirements,” she says. “This is becoming increasingly popular in new builds where working from home requires space but the budget doesn’t stretch.”

Go multi-functional: Open-plan kitchens that merge with a living space are great for accommodating all ages and create a family hub where everyone can gather, Annick says.
The key is to create several zones within the whole space to cater for those doing homework, people chatting and someone reading.

“Opt for rounded ends on islands and peninsulas, and go for practical, wipeable shaker-style cabinetry in a stylish white or neutral, matte shade,” she says. “Gloss cabinets will reflect more light; however fingerprints, dirt and scratches will be much more noticeable.”

Let them create their own space: Teenagers need their own area away from family life. “Turn a second living room into a media room for your teens and their friends, or convert some space in the garage,” Vic says. Include their design input; your teenagers will feel they’re a part of the fabric of family life if they help design part of the home. “As they step towards independence more, it’s a great time to allow them to make some of their own decisions,” she says. “So let them be involved in choices such as paint colours and decor. Whether it’s their own bedroom or a separate retreat, these spaces should reflect their tastes and needs, and ideally, still work with your own aesthetic.” Annick suggests adding a couple of velvet beanbags, a rattan hanging chair, or a daybed in their bedroom to create different spots for people to sit.

Words by: Catherine Steel.

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