We place different demands on our homes at different stages of our lives and the cleverest designs are flexible enough to be adapted over the years. If you’re looking to create the perfect family house — whether you are designing a new one from scratch, or renovating — it’s a great opportunity to ensure you home matches your needs.
There are many ways to create the best house for your growing family, and some ideas, such as the open breakfast kitchen, have become de rigueur in recent years — but there is much more to designing a family home than this.
A Great Family House Starts with a Good Layout
Two of the key considerations when thinking about the layout of your family house are: visibility and connectivity.
During children’s early years, you need to be with them most of the time, but still need to be able to undertake daily activities, like cooking a meal. And, as they get a little older, being able to keep an eye on them playing in the garden, from the kitchen or living area, is ideal.
To make this work for you, it is wise to make a percentage of your ground floor space open plan, with space for more private, quieter rooms or areas, too.
The most successful combination of spaces for the open-plan environment is kitchen, dining and family living. This, I term as ‘day living’, and it is likely you will spend 70-80 per cent of your time in these multifunctional spaces.
Important aspects for this child-friendly, open-plan zone tend to be:
- good natural light
- access to the garden
- storage for toys and games
- and, an informal and relaxed feel.
Dedicated Storage Space is Essential
Utilities are essential as you will be washing and drying clothes on a daily basis. Outdoor access from this room, with a covered porch area, is a good idea for dumping dirty coats, boots and drying the washing, too.
Make this utility and/or boot room a good size with designated storage cupboards for each family member. After all, there will be coats, rucksacks, scooters, swimming kit, and all manner of items which need a home.
You may also want to locate the ground floor WC within this sector of the house as it is more often than not used by the family as opposed to the occasional visitor. This room often ends up being the main family entrance into the home — well away from guests.
Adult Space is Important in a Family Home
As parents, you need to treat yourself to some escapism away from the day living sector when the kids have gone to bed. To achieve this, I advise self builders and renovators consider a snug lounge.
A snug lounge should be calming, perhaps with a woodburning stove and relatively low levels of natural light:
- For a traditional project, consider a heavily beamed ceiling, reclaimed stone or brick fireplace, and timber flooring
- In a contemporary project, a statement wall of a tactile material such as natural stone or timber cladding and use of dark colours and finishes can work well to create a homely, relaxed environment
Studies and Playrooms are Essential
You will need a home study of your own, but as the kids go through school, it is a good idea to include a dedicated space for homework in a family home.
You may initially consider a playroom connected to the day living area for the early years (which can evolve as a space for homework as children grow) and have your own study elsewhere.
How to Design Bedrooms in a Family House
The location of bedrooms is key:
- For the early years, children’s bedrooms should be near to the master bedroom for feeds and supervision
- For school and teenage years, however, you will want to locate them further away as this period tends to involve drum kits, electric guitars, noisy friends and general chaos
Fun furniture like bunk beds, lots of storage, and potentially a desk, are all good additions to a child’s bedroom.
Planning Bathrooms Suitable for the Whole Family
Aim for one bathroom per two bedrooms as a minimum in a family house. Ideally the master bedroom will feature its own en suite, separate from the family bathroom.
As the children get older and certainly through their teenage years, there will be increased pressure for each room to have its own bathroom, so this may be an important part of those early stage design discussions when building or renovating a home.
Family bathrooms should ideally contain:
- plenty of storage (for bath toys and the like)
- practical flooring, which is slip-resistant but able to withstand lots of puddles of water
- underfloor heating can be useful for ensuring splashes and spills dry quickly
- and, ideally both a shower and bath (or a shower above a bath).
An ‘Activity Room’ is a Good Idea
A loft conversion or basement is a great place to create a designated family activity room where you get to spend quality time together.
This could include a home cinema, table tennis etc., and you should specify good levels of sound insulation throughout this space for it to be functional.
Finally, a Family House Should be Fun
“Family homes should be functional, practical, durable, comfortable but also fun! Is that not what having a family is all about?,” says architect Des Ewing.
“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.”