I'm going to start this post by apologizing for not talking about this topic more! As a person without kids, I often forget to talk about the kinds of challenges and details that go into designing a space that will be used by both adults and children. In all honesty, most of our clients DO have kids, so we face that challenge regularly! But for some reason, the topic has escaped my blog.
The fact is, kids can make for some tricky design decisions, and because they grow and change so quickly, their spaces need to do so as well. I don't have children myself, but I wanted some first-hand insider info, so I reached out to a handful of my creative friends to see how they've tackled kid-accessible design in their spaces. Lo and behold, I received some FANTASTIC responses! Everything from a single paragraph to full-on blog posts!
So, for the next several weeks, we'll be making up for lost time and focusing in on kid-friendly design. Let's dive in!
First up, I chatted with my friends Trent & Kelly, parents of 1-year old Hank. They had some great ideas about both maintaining your aesthetic with a toddler in the fam, AND about safety:
First, Hank’s playroom with the bulk of his larger (more obnoxious 😂) toys is in our finished basement so that we don’t have to keep these things on the main floor and throw off our aesthetic. However, we obviously want him to be comfortable and have SOME toys on the main floor, so what we did was tuck his most favorite smaller toys into a drawer [in our living room builtins] that he is able to open himself, but that we can quickly tuck things away when we want to clean up or hide them. We have allowed his play kitchen on the main floor in the dining room because it’s cute enough 😆
ALSO, we have put all of the dangerous kitchen items in one cabinet under the sink that we tie closed with a dish towel so he can’t access, and have made all of the other lower cupboards filled with items that we don’t mind if he pulls them out (like Tupperware etc.).
When initially thinking through this topic, I did a little brainstorming with a friend and fellow business owner. Chris, co-owner of Two Kin Photography, takes care of his 5-yr old son full-time. He had some great insights into creating a space where kids feel welcome and can thrive both physically and mentally:
It’s really difficult to make things kid friendly and not messy. And the answer is not hiding all of their sh*t. Create a "kids sh*t corner" that is well organized and accessible. Don’t hide toys. You have kids and they like to play—don’t hide that. This is your child’s home as much as it is yours; they need to feel safe and welcome (I never felt welcomed in my house because my mom was so anal about how our house looked).
Use educational posters/games as design pieces. Make things easy to open/accessible (obviously not dangerous things), but...make your kids feel welcome and safe with your design. And create alleys and spaces where your kids can run.
Next up, I chatted with my business bestie, Natalie Kaman, of At Home Design & Staging. Natalie has four kids of her own, and shared some tips from her personal experience, as well as how she coaches clients who are designing for kids:
In creating kid-friendly spaces, storage is key! In living spaces, go for storage ottomans and tables with 1 or more drawers/doors. Also, buy seating with performance fabric and attached back cushions to limit the size of the forts that will be made 😂
In bedrooms, look for storage options under beds, in nightstands, and desks. Invest in furniture that can conceal toys, clothing, crafts, sports equipment and board games, while still being in reach of the ones using them.
The same rule applies in bathrooms and mud rooms: those open lockers and open bottom vanities look cute, until all your coats, totes, and toiletries are on display.
Lastly, I reached out to some of our closest friends from college, Natalia and Mike, parents to 10 month old Pippa. Just prior to Pippa's arrival, the two of them purchased a new home, and so, they had some GREAT insights into designing around the arrival of a new baby in a new home:
We began thinking about kid-friendly design right when we got pregnant. We were living in a tiny bungalow with a kitchen fit for a mouse and very, very steep stairs to the single-room second story. We loved that little house, but we thought that the poor sight lines and tight layout would have been tough with a kid. Now, this option doesn't exist for everyone, but we had the privilege of being able to move to a house that worked better for us, which was in a community with a lot more kids. I was several months pregnant, so setting up the new house for baby was everything!
After Pippa was born, the first few months of her life were really about maximizing both connection and convenience. She slept in a bassinet beside the bed, and her rocker and changing table were in our bedroom for easy transitions. She wasn't really moving much then, so we just made sure to have a stationary place to set her in our most frequented rooms if we needed it: bouncy chair, bassinet, and then her play table. The play table stays in the kitchen and we stub our toes on it every day, but she loves being able to watch our goings-on while she stands, rocks, and fidgets with her toys. This is a worthy design trade-off to me!
Now that Pippa sleeps in her own bedroom—and all of her furniture is in there too—we're focusing on making the master bedroom into more of a haven for us. I feel really protective of this space! I try to make the bed every day, keep the laundry folded, and use soft, low lighting. I'm looking for solid older pieces to complement the newer furniture we bought when we moved in.
For the rest of the house, our biggest focus is on safety. We're working on blocking off the stairs, mounting the TVs, affixing furniture to the walls, and replacing or rounding off sharp corners for when Pippa becomes mobile (she's so close to crawling!).
For Pippa's room, I bought Greenguard certified furniture to minimize exposure to furniture treatments. This was important to me before, but now I'm extra sensitive about the materials and products we bring into our house. I also bought furniture that would be gender-neutral and timeless (the top of the changing table comes off so that it can be used just as a dresser) for Pippa as she grows and for future kids if we decide to have them.