designing for kids and pets

Designing for kids and pets, and creating a family friendly home doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t mean you have to put off renovating until the little ones are older. If you have kids or pets then you know it takes a little more care and attention plus a good routine to keep your home neat and tidy. If you’re renovating or building a new home, designing with kids and pets in mind can be tackled using two broad strategies to make sure that your dream home remains your dream home. Planning for your storage needs and choosing the right finishes are the two areas I concentrate on when it comes to designing with kids and pets in mind.

Before the coronavirus, and COVID lockdowns kicked in, our homes were seen as places to escape from the day-to-day grind. Now, they’re becoming the epicentre of all we do. The lines have become blurred beyond anything we’ve lived with before and the home is at the centre of everything.

When I first started designing I had no idea the complex, perplexing, baffling, complicated mess we adult humans are. I am dead serious when I say I really thought it was about the aesthetics, the look of the room. I almost cannot believe the naivety and sheer audacity! To be honest I thought I’d fallen in love with sheer curtains and brocade fabrics but what I didn’t understand was my innate ability to observe humans and translate that into a space that takes into consideration the elements and principles of design and then layer the aesthetics on top. 

Back to messy adults though. The interactions we partake, the thoughts we have, the reactions we have, the experiences we retain sees some of us floating along subconsciously in a somewhat blissful happy stupor until we’re thrown into consciousness in an extremely ungraceful fashion. 

I’ve been knocked into consciousness and yes it was extremely ungraceful, completely unflattering and terrifying. Although I keep trying to crawl back into my safe, secure den where my subconscious can just take care of daily life, I’ve realised that it ain’t going to happen. There are periods where being awake is peaceful, I’m unperturbed by outside stresses, my creativity sky rockets and everything falls into place without, it seems, any effort. I’m not trained in quantum physics, psychology, wellness or mindfulness, but I get that tapping into play and allowing curiosity enables that wonderment that children experience to blossom and come to the fore.  We want to enhance, rather than inhibit the opportunities for curiosity and that’s where good design can play a role. If you watch how kids play, and pets for that matter, they really don’t give a shit do they. Have you ever seen a toddler who cares that they might have play-dough on their hands and then use the wall to pull themselves up? Shrug. Have you ever seen a puppy stop and think I better not rip up this cardboard box ‘cause the floor has just been vacuumed. Shrug. Sleep.  We want to enhance, rather than inhibit the opportunities for curiosity for all members of the family.

Before the coronavirus, and COVID lockdowns kicked in, our homes were seen as places to escape from the day-to-day grind. Now, they’re becoming the epicentre of all we do. Many of us are still working from home, some of us are schooling from home, we’re sharing office spaces with others who are probably in a completely different industry, we’re setting up new routines to accommodate for our new way of life. The lines have become blurred beyond anything we’ve lived with before and the home is at the centre of everything. We still need a home that provides escape from technology but we also need them to transition easily and fluently between work and home spaces. We want to create spaces that are hard wearing and can take the crap that’s thrown at it from everyone in the family, kids and pets included.

Functionality
Let’s face it, the little ones in your family always seem to have a lot of stuff. Whether it’s the pram, walker or high-chair when they’re babies, the sports gear, scooters, bikes or lego as they get older, there is always a lot of paraphernalia that goes hand-in-hand with children. To some extent pets fit into this category with bowls, toys, leads and other gear specifically for them. So, when we’re designing a home for kids and pets, having the right storage is going to be critical. Think about the mix of storage you’re going to need to make your day-to-day life easier use the planning phase to map it all out on paper to get it right. Build this into your renovation or new build design based on what you need now as well as what the future holds. Look to include both short-term and long-term storage and think about including both small and bulk storage. Whilst hidden storage and custom joinery will cost you more in the short term, the long term benefits and the ability to customise this to suit your family cannot be underestimated.  Having the right storage for your family means that everything has a place, reduces your stress and improves your every experience of your home. You can read about different types of storage here.

Finishes
When it comes to designing for kids and pets it’s important to consider the long-term wear and tear of finishes, ease of cleaning and how each finish looks with daily use.  Consider using extra heavy duty or commercial grade flooring and washable low VOC paints. Avoid high gloss floor finishes and use enamel paints on doors, skirtings and trims. If your budget can stretch, and it suits the aesthetic, consider using anti-fingerprint surfaces in your kitchen and vanities.

This article was first published 30 March 2019. Update published 7 September 2020.

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