Our ideal homes are shaped by the differing needs we have at the different stages of our lives. So when you’re designing your new home, you’ve got the chance to make sure it fits around your particular life stage (of course the cleverest designs are flexible enough to be adapted over the years, too).
There are many ways to create the perfect home 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 it than that.
Two of the key considerations when thinking about the layout of your family home are visibility and connectivity. During the early years, you basically need to be with your children all of the time, but you cannot allow this to stop you undertaking your daily routine activities. To make this work for you, it is wise to make a percentage of your ground floor space open plan with secluded spaces for quieter rooms.
Open plan living works well for a family, but essential quiet zones away from from the hubbub have been factored in to this floorplan
The most successful combination of spaces for the open plan environment are 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 here.
Important aspects for the day living zone tend to be good natural light, access to the garden and an informal and relaxed feel.
A good day living space needs plenty of light and a layout that allows you to keep an eye on the kids while you work
Utility Room and Boot Room
With kids comes ‘stuff’! You will be washing clothes on a daily basis and in light of our weather, there is a good chance you will have a tumble dryer. Then there are the boots, the coats, the rucksacks, the scooters, the bikes, the swim kit, etc. and you will want to find a home for these.
Make this utility/boot room a good size with designated storage cupboards for each family member. A covered porch area is good for dumping dirty coats, boots and drying the washing.
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.
The All Important Snug
As parents, you need to treat yourself to some escapism away from the day living sector at the end of the day when the kids have gone to bed. To achieve this, I advise my clients to consider a snug lounge.
A snug lounge should be calming, perhaps with a real fire and relatively low levels of natural light. For a traditional project, consider a heavily beamed ceiling, reclaimed stone/brick fireplace, timber flooring and – for a contemporary project – perhaps just one statement wall of a tactile material such as natural stone and use of dark colours and finishes.
A snug lounge is most successful when it does not have access to the outside spaces.
Natural materials and huggable textures make this snug cosy in spite of the natural light and large dimensions
Studies and Playrooms
You will need a home study of your own, but also as the kids go through school, they deserve to have their own dedicated space for study too.
You may initially consider a playroom connected to the day living area for the early years and have your own study elsewhere. These two uses can never co-habit successfully in my opinion.
Parents tend to be more than happy to compromise on the size of the master bedroom in favour of the kids’ rooms. It is likely that you will want your children to have a study area in their bedroom (in addition to the family study area previously mentioned).
For the early years have their bedroom near to yours 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.
For convenience and peace of mind, it is best to situate a young child’s bedroom near your own
Ideally, each bedroom would have its own bathroom, but is not always possible due to size or budget constraints. Instead aim for one bathroom per two bedrooms as a minimum after you have provided for the master bedroom and typically the guest room.
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 is an important part of those early stage design discussions.
Family Activity Room
A loft space 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.
Designing and building your own home is surely one of the most challenging undertakings you will consider in your lifetime. It is also one of the most rewarding, and if the whole project has been based around you and your children and functions for you as a family on every level, surely it doesn’t get any better than that?