Are you building a house? Renovating a current one or mentally designing a future move? Yes? Then read on.
We designed and built our house before we had children and we did a few things wrong.
Here are ten facts everyone should know about designing and building a house that will (eventually) have young children living in it.
Some of these things we planned for but others have really surprised us and resulted in some maddening moments.
Hopefully you can learn from our experience.
Avoid at all costs: the dreaded textured carpet.
1. Include a bath
This is something we got right. We added an ensuite and planned for the main bathroom to eventually be a ‘family bathroom’. Our first plans didn’t include a bath but I was certain that a bath was an essential part of childhood. One of the three bedrooms has been made slightly smaller to accommodate the inclusion of the bath but it has been well worth it.
The bathroom has become the hub of activity in the evenings and its placement near the kitchen has been excellent in case I have to feed one child in a high chair while the older one bathes under my supervision.
If I could do it over I would include a much larger bath for two adults to fit once the kids are in bed… but for now we are glad we included one.
The bath is essential for life with kids. It can be used as an activity centre for messy play and immersing a child into a warm bath is an excellent calming technique for an overtired or stroppy infant.
2. Choose carpet that is durable and not too textured.
We didn’t scrimp on carpet and bought a thick wool sisal carpet. The wool aspect has been great for our babies being able to go barefoot most of the year. We chose a dark tone knowing that I love my red wine and coffee but the spills that come with children could not have been foreseen.
We have been happy with the warmth and durability of the carpet but the sisal texture of it drives me mad. Between the lovely raised designs are little grooves that are annoying dust magnets. With our (pretty powerful) vacuum cleaner, you still have to vacuum in several directions over a single area before an area is really clean and even then I am dubious.
It is really frustrating especially for things like cracker crumbs and sand and glitter… In fact it was the frustration I felt while vacuuming just now that inspired this post.
3. Consider placement of rooms carefully
We didn’t plan for this but our current house plan means that my studio doorway is opposite my son’s room. This is PERFECT for allowing me to get some work done while still making sure that he is happy and safe playing. It also means I am not far away from him at bedtime and I can leave his door open for him to sleepily watch me sew/draw.
On the other hand, our bedroom is on the opposite end of the house from the other rooms. This seemed like a good idea but I don’t like having my children far away from me at night. Similarly this made our first transition of moving our son from our room to his room more difficult in hindsight. It also meant that he stayed in our room longer than we had originally planned because neither of us wanted to venture that far to keep checking on him… (it feels like a really long way in the middle of the night).
4. Use double gib for internal walls
We added sound insulation to internal walls between the lounge and the master bedroom with late night movie watching in mind but in hindsight, we should have used it for all internal walls.
Kids are noisy.
When you have two under two it would be nice if one child’s crying didn’t disturb the other one…
The main bathroom shares a wall with our son’s room and it is a real pain trying to bathe a second baby/clean up the toys/flush the toilet quietly while mister two is trying to sleep in the next room.
Also, when it used to be the guest room – it would be nice to be able to use the toilet without the guests hearing everything. Ahem.
WARNING: Be careful with sound deadening devices though – in early weeks with my son I happily cut vinyl to make Splat Mats right outside his room thinking I would definitely hear him if he cried. Stupid double glazing meant that when I checked on him he was really upset and I still don’t know how long he had been crying… 😦
5. Add more storage
Our house plans included the usual linen cupboard, built in wardrobes in the bedrooms and a walk in wardrobe in the master bedroom. It seemed like a lot.
Add more. Then more still. You will need more storage than you can ever imagine…
Consider a ‘giant chuck cupboard’ that could be used to sweep all kid stuff out of the way before guest arrive. I would love one of those (some days I feel like I am WADING in kid stuff. WADING! Gah.)
6. Add more power points than you think you will need
When designing a house on paper and adding little symbols for power points, it is easy to feel like you have enough. Two in each bedroom, for example, is standard practice for either side of a double bed BUT when you have children’s furniture in a room that was designed for a double bed, chances are that you have just covered the power outlets.
Our kitchen also seemed like it had enough (6) – but once phones are charging and a mixer is plugged in and you also have a kettle and a toaster… well just add more.
7. Use utility flooring
Our house was initially carpeted with just the utility areas set up as wet areas.
Since having children, we have lifted the carpet and made half of our open plan house wipeable/wet mess capable.
I got SO sick of vacuuming wood chips (from our wood fireplace), sand, fur and food from the carpet that lifting it was the right thing to do.
As a great side effect it has made our open plan house feel bigger with a lighter colour on the floor as well as delineate living spaces nicely. The kids can also ride trikes/crash trucks inside without us being too precious about the carpet.
Choose a hard-wearing surface option for action areas.
NB: We originally wanted bamboo laminate flooring but this is not designed for wet areas at all! The amount of spills etc that we have experienced make me very glad we didn’t go for bamboo laminate.
8. Buy extra wallpaper or extra paint
I fell in love with a textured hessian-look wallpaper that looks like fine sacking dipped in soft green paper pulp. I still love it, but after a bike was dropped against it, a truck was thrown at it, banana was spat at it and a chair was scraped on it… I wish I had a few more spare rolls handy.
Consider headboards that go along the side of a child’s bed to protect your wall covering too.
9. Consider placement of furniture
It’s a lovely idea to have ranch sliders everywhere to take in the view of the bush valley we look over but with an open plan house it means we actually have very few walls to put furniture against.
10. Use vertical railing on gates
We thought we were being so clever adding swing gates to sections of our wrap-around deck so that we could have safe areas for children and dogs to play. Something we never considered was that little feet can fit through the railings and climb the diagonal bracing on the back of the gates. I don’t normally mind my son climbing, but I really do when it is a 4m drop on the other side of the railing…
How is your house set up to cope with children? What advice would you give for someone designing their own home?
Thanks for reading. Like this post? Click ‘follow’ before you go (on the right) and take a moment to check out the cool things I make here.