Architect Matt White uses his basement space to accommodate these brilliant hideaway desks/storage units — going some way to solving the problem of messy playrooms in one go
Create large, flowing, multifunctional spaces
Lots of our clients now ask for open plan floorplans, but we try to investigate if they mean completely open plan or rather a combination of some large, flowing multifunctional spaces mixed with a few more intimate rooms. A separate office or playroom can help give some clarity/sanity to life with children. Even a little niche with a simple desk or a defined corner with a big toy cupboard would work. I would also rather have a utility room and laundry space which is separate to the kitchen/living area. Traditional living rooms are also still popular for family homes — a cosy and well-proportioned room which is separate to the open plan areas.
I like incorporating views through open plan spaces so you can see out of the room itself — omit internal doors and align the openings and corridors so you can always see beyond, which is simple but very effective. Another way to add intrigue and a sense of ‘beyond’ is by including internal windows so you get a glimpse of the space next door. Even generous rooms can feel enclosed unless you create a sense of journey.
For us, family homes tend to work best if they are well connected to the outside — in my experience children (and pets) like coming and going. I always try to make sure I can see where the children are from the house — even if it means changing the kitchen layout or adding a longer window somewhere.
Homes designed with families in mind have to work well on a practical level, enabling parents to see children where possible
Bedrooms are probably less important than the living spaces and in most family homes we build there is typically one vaulted bedroom for the adults but the children’s rooms are much simpler, with less oak framing. I guess the trick is to remember that children grow up and so while you might be happy to share a bathroom when they are cute little babies it is probably a less attractive proposition (for both parties) once they reach adolescence!
Children’s bedrooms don’t have to be large, but that shouldn’t rule out fun being incorporated
My husband Ben and I are currently building our own family home and we really wanted to capture a feeling of adventure for the children. We have designed a large open plan kitchen with a ‘snug’ zone (for watching films as a family) on one side. There is also a utility room, boot room, office and playroom, so we can all happily live and work together. But we have also added a veranda with a swing (perfect for our daydreaming in the sunshine) and secret cupboards that run from one room to another — just for fun. And I am not sure who is more excited by the extra-long handrail that is perfect for sliding down St. Trinian’s style — them or us!”
Merry Albright, Border Oak
Traditional values still count
Neil Dawson, Snook Architects
Forget the estate agent — have fun!
So many of today’s houses are a bit too serious and more concerned with what the next purchasers may think rather than what you would like. I generally find that those who design their houses well for the way they want to live, to suit the family, will find that those coming along next will also love it.
This house (below) which I designed for a client is bright, cheery and inviting. It has a slide which is a daily used shortcut from the bedrooms to the kitchen table. The sloping site and L-shaped return forms a natural amphitheatre that is used as a basketball court with the wide steps up to the garden acting as tiered seating for the crowd.
A slide in this home provides a fun shortcut to the kitchen
A zip wire zooms kids from the top of the garden into the house. Sadly the fireman’s pole going from the attic floor to ground was a bit too much for an otherwise cooperative Building Control department. The kids who live in this house love it. So why not loosen up, forget the estate agent and have some fun!”
Des Ewing, Des Ewing Residential Architects
A family home must have a heart
Flowing open plan spaces that contain living/dining/kitchen plus study are vital for our social discourse, while we cook, eat, watch TV and work. Light is the other key component to a successful family home. It is critical to the wellbeing of the inhabitants.
It’s a classic design cliché, but think about where the family are gathering of an early evening after days at work and school. This might well be in the kitchen — if so, design it with that in mind
It’s also really important to design in spaces where members of the family can retreat, switch off and contemplate life. So the snug or secret window seat is vital for those of us who like to escape for some quiet time and switch off from our 24/7 devices.”
Darren Bray, PAD Studio
Choose flooring carefully
For a busy, family home, a rustic wood design in a mid-toned shade (as seen in the Kährs floor below) will disguise foot and paw prints. It’s worth investing in a quality, branded floor with a durable lacquer or oiled pre-finish, as the construction and finish will be superior. If you choose an oiled floor, you will need to periodically replenish the surface treatment but this will effectively top-up the protection. Many treatments can be added to water, so can be applied really easily with a mop, and don’t forget finishing accessories like beading and skirtings — they can make a real difference to the finished look and many ranges now include options that match floors for a seamless installation and transition between rooms.”
Harvey Booth, Country Manager, Kährs UK and Ireland
Adjustable showers are ideal for kids
Be sure to keep it minimal. Banish clutter, choose fittings with clean lines to create a sense of space. Go for a shower with concealed pipes for a spa look, whether it’s over the bath or in a separate enclosure. Consider a shower with a bath fill to eliminate the need for taps.
Technology makes life easier and creates a streamlined look. Digital showers are super safe for all the family with push button controls and no fiddly levers. Choose a divert design to cater for everyone, a drencher head for a relaxing soak plus a hand-held adjustable shower for a quick pre-school splash. Adjustable showers are also ideal for kids of different heights. Switch between the two heads at the touch of a button and you can programme your preferred outlet to start first. Look for the functions that make life easier such as remote control, pause and timer features.
Lighting is very important in bathroom design but often overlooked. Go for dimmable lighting that you can change according to your mood and time of day.”
Joanne Savage, Aqualisa Brand & Design Director
Images: Jeremy Phillips; c/o Dew Ewing Architects; Nigel Rigden