Hello, my friends! We're continuing our series on kid-friendly design, and today's guest is a very, very special one—my very own Mom! My mom, who is incredibly creative (and probably the reason I ended up as an interior designer), has spent so much of her life caring for children, from caring for the children of families in our community, to my two older brothers and I—between us, there's an 11 year span—and now, taking care of her grandchildren: four and seven year old girls.
I asked her to talk a little about both experiences, and to share the differences she's seen between designing for children as a parent and designing for kids as a grandparent. Here's what she had to say:
Designing as A Parent: Creating Functional Closets was KEY
As a parent, I remember being frustrated with how the kid's closets were a waste of space, cluttered and hard for both the kids and adults to keep it organized. Finally, my husband made some adjustable wood shelves for me, from top to bottom. It was a pretty wide closet and I had two sons, so I had him divide the closet into 3rds. Two sections were adjustable shelves that I labeled, and one section was for hanging, with one rod up higher and one lower.
Each boy had a row of labeled shelves, and a rod for hanging some items like dress clothes, shirts and sweaters. Each boy used a shelf for t-shirts, for shorts, for sweatshirts, for underwear, etc. with a laundry basket at the bottom of each. Higher shelves were for items not used as often, or for toys or games. It made it so much easier to find items, and It was so easy to put their clothes away too (eventually they started doing their own laundry).
When My daughter came along we did the same for her closet, except with two sections. One section with adjustable shelves, and one section with two sets of rods. Eventually we took the bottom rod out when her dresses and skirts got too long. Since it was a smaller room, we also had two sets of wall units with shelves and drawers that could be arranged differently through the years.
Creating Built-In Storage on a Window Wall
My husband also built shelves on each side of their window wall, with a bench under the window making a window seat. Each boy had about three or four adjustable shelves with a light, and a storage cupboard at the bottom. There was also storage under the window seat. This is a great way to add storage to a room, especially when you have a window in the center. Now, I use this area to store items for my photography business.
Using Captains Beds to Save on Floor Space
We also bought the boys twin beds with three deep drawers on one side, and the other side was space for storage. We got rid of the dresser and it made for so much more room. For a while their beds were the only furniture in the room. This way they had more room for playing or hanging out, and when you have lots of furniture... things just end up piling up on them. They used the 3 deep drawers under their bed for PJs and Jeans, and probably some of their toys. We could always make changes as they grew, the adjustable shelves were great. As they got older, we added 2 small desks for them to do homework at the foot of their beds.
Creating a Designated Play Area
In the basement, when the boys were small, we had a large area where we took a piece of long countertop and made a kind of table with some kid chairs. Under the counter we had storage bins where they stored their building toys, legos etc. So they had a place they could build or do art, and lots of floor space.
Designing as a Grandparent: Making Your House Fun
Recently, I have been watching my granddaughters through their preschool years. I don't really have to deal with clothes, just toys. We have four levels in our house, so basically we have a few small sections on three of those levels where they can play. Grandparents definitely need a place for kids to play if they want their grandkids to love going to their house ;)
Creating a Kid's Zone in The Living Room
Since our living room is so long, we made a small area at one end kind of set up like a play house, with a table and chairs, a small kitchen set and plastic storage drawers with dolls, doll clothes, art stuff etc. Then, down in our office off the family room, we have some shelves with various toys and games, and again plastic storage drawers for storing dollhouse furniture for the fold up dollhouse, and some legos.
I think plastic storage drawers or some kind of bins are great; we just pull the drawer out and take it to wherever they are playing. We also have a small rack with some dress up clothes in there (which they love!).
Different Zones for Different Toys
Upstairs, we have some vintage American Girl stuff in my daughters old room set up that they love to play with. We try not to mix the toys from these areas, except maybe for the dress up clothes. Now that they are a little older they know: there is a place for everything, and everything in its place. So they know when they are done playing with something, it gets put away before they can get out something else. It's amazing how they know where everything goes, like in the kitchen, I believe putting everything back where it goes helps them to get good at organizing.
This Season is Just That—A Season
As Grandparents we don't have all the responsibilities and time restrictions that parents have, so it's easier to monitor this because we have the time. Of course, there are moments when time is limited where we don't worry about them putting something away, so they will have more time to play, but in general they are pretty good at it. We know time with them as little children is limited, and they will quickly grow out of the days when play is most important, and then our rooms will be back to normal—though I'm not sure if I am happy about that!
More About Shelley
In addition to being a caretake for my two adorable nieces, my mom is an awesome photographer. In fact, I don't remember a time in my life when she didn't love taking photos! She especially loves taking photos of newborns, nature (especially the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks who hang out in her front yard), family portraits, and . Most recently, she is enjoying going on adventures with my dad in their new T@B camper...and yes, it is a darn cute camper!