6 Main Tips to Consider When Designing Your Home For a Growing Family

6 Main Tips to Consider When Designing Your Home For a Growing Family

By Jen Hill
Designing a home is a big commitment. An even bigger commitment is deciding to grow your family. How do you create a home base that’s comfortable for a family of two, but will also function well for a family of four—or more?

Here are our top tips to consider when getting ready to design your home with the future in mind.

Look behind the mid-century facade, and a back patio offers an unexpected 180-degree view of the Los Angeles basin.

1. Be realistic and flexible

Begin by asking yourself, "What will take place in this particular room?" For instance, say you want a home office, but it will mostly be used during work hours. Say you also want a guest bedroom, but you don’t actually have guests very often. Consider designing a home office that has a built-in Murphy bed, which can also function as a guest bedroom when needed. This allows you to maximize the room’s functionality—and you won't end up with a dedicated guest bedroom that sits unused for most of the time. 

A Murphy bed in this guest bedroom sits behind Montague’s desk, allowing the compact room to function comfortably for both working and sleeping at different times. It’s made with customized millwork, Häfele bed hardware, and an Ikea mattress. When it’s open, it reveals hidden shelving. Photo by Naomi Finlay

2. Think ahead 

If you have young kids, a playroom is desirable—but what happens to that playroom when the kids grow up and no longer need it? Incorporate that change into the design of that space early on. What could this room be in the future when the kids are all grown up? Maybe it becomes that art studio you always wanted? If so, what can you do now to make sure the room will also work well as an art studio in the future? In that case, window placement would be essential. Think ahead, and you’ll be grateful down the road. 

"The third floor was a brilliant second or rather third conversation that D’Arcy sketched out in minutes," Waddell says of the playroom-office.

3. Plan for the unknown 

You planned on having one kid, but surprise, you’re having twins! Now what? It’s important to plan for the unknown, to some degree. Consider having one room that could serve several functions—be it an extra kid's bedroom, a guest bedroom, a playroom, or a home office. Then you won’t be short on space if the unexpected occurs. A little bit of "overflow space" will go a long way. 

Interior designer Merrill Lyons plays with her son in the Brooklyn home she renovated with her husband, Charles Brill, a lighting designer and cofounder of New York–based company Rich Brilliant Willing (RBW). The couple’s design sensibility is marked by a warm mix of historic periods and styles, punctuated with pieces by RBW, including the circular brass Cinema chandelier that hangs in the living room. The leather sofa and teak credenza are vintage; the 1960s rosewood Genius armchair by Danish designer Illum Wikkelso was reupholstered with fabric sourced from an outlet.

4. Build in extra storage space 

A growing family means a lot more "stuff" is about to inhabit your home. Think about all the extra things you’ll have around once you have kids, or more than you currently have (strollers, bicycles, games, toys, and books). The list goes on and on. If you plan ahead, your house won’t end up a cluttered mess. Built-in storage is a great way to provide organized space for books, games, toys, or other knick-knacks. 

Davor (with his wife, Abbe, and son, August) designed the main living and dining pavilion as a double-height space to increase its perceived volume, and added high cubbies for extra storage.

5. Design for aging in place 

Not only are your kids going to grow up, but so are you. Consider how the house is going to function when your kids are small, then teens, then no longer living at home. At the same time, consider how long you might live in the home yourself. If your plan is to live there as you grow older, consider designing for "aging in place." For instance, make sure hallways and doors are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Also consider a "beach" entry into the master shower, where you can enter without having to step over a curb. Even if you’re young and healthy, injuries can still happen that can render you temporarily immobile. So, it’s never a bad thing to plan ahead for these kinds of situations. 

Paola Navone’s Italian renovation features custom Carocim tile from Morocco and an accessible entry.

6. Have fun 

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to design your own home, have fun with it! Some things, like paint, are easily changed. (How about chalkboard or whiteboard paint for the kids?) So, don’t worry too much about committing to things that don’t require a lot of commitment. If you’re a human being, you’re probably already over-committed and worried about all the things that have to get done on a daily basis. Take a deep breath, relax, and have fun with the process! 

A chalkboard wall encourages creative exploration in the child’s room.

Follow these top tips and your new home will serve as the perfect container for all of the wonderful chaos that family life has to offer! 

Omer Arbel, the creative director at industrial design firm Bocci, was given three parameters when he began designing a home for his colleague Randy Bishop: Create a "profound" connection between the internal and external spaces; build only one level; and, most crucially, utilize a wealth of 100-year-old beams salvaged from a series of warehouses owned by Bishop’s ancestors.

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