Starting out in design as a child-free, single man, I didn’t grasp the full responsibility of designing a home for a family with children in it.
I recall one particularly sharp, fragile vase I put into a client’s home, along with a white fabric sofa – my mistake only becoming clear to me once I had a child of my own.
You soon realise that small hands grasp at interesting things and, in a moment, that fragile thing can be damaged – the child, not the vase.
Day-to-day family life can be a challenge but that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be stylish.
Here’s how to create a family-friendly home that is flexible and fashionable.
The living room of Darren Palmer’s house at Bondi Beach. Photo: Jessica Hromas
A practical palette
White isn’t exactly a no-no but you have to be aware that it may not be its best white for long.
You can Scotchgard or buy fabrics with built-in stain and water resistance but, apart from getting removable couch covers that can be laundered regularly, a safer bet for families are materials you can wipe down, or textiles with some colour variation built in so you don’t see marks from wear and tear.
High contrast patterns are good, while patterned textiles with natural variation will best mask day-to-day wear. Colours should be approached like white to a degree – flat colour will give an opportunity for stains to show but variation in surface texture can be more forgiving.
If you want to feature block colours, try to avoid applying them in large areas to carpets, rugs and sofas and limit their use to decor objects and soft furnishings as they can be cleaned or replaced more easily.
The materials you use throughout need to be chosen with the needs of the inhabitants in mind.
Carpets and rugs should be soft enough to suit the skin of little feet and knees. Consider the possibility of falls and bumps, so any flooring should be soft with a smooth, non-abrasive texture and forgiving enough of spills and accidents.
A plush pile carpet or rug will be soft under foot but is also flat in texture, which will show up any marks and may wear more than a mixture of loops or textured fibres.
Zoning and storage
A safe way to zone your space is by height, putting delicate things you like out of reach but still in view for you to enjoy.
Extend this logic to your kitchens, bathrooms and laundries because while child locks are a novel idea, Houdini kids can quickly disarm locks that adults can fumble over.
Plenty of storage is a must, especially if you wish to keep your house in a sense of order, some of the time. Boxes to put things in their place, shelves where items always live, storage chests for toys and blankets can all help you to pick up at the end of the day and return your home to normality.
If you’re a little tight on space consider integrating storage into your coffee table, side tables or ottomans so you can quickly stuff everything into a nice, neat place and tuck it under furniture out of site.