When planning a home extension, people often aim for a magazine-worthy look, a stylish interior they’ve seen on the BLOCK or on Instagram or Pinterest. Everybody wants their home to look great and nowadays we have all the resources to realise even the most ambitious and sophisticated projects. However, as anyone who has actually built their home, finished a big renovation or a home extension in Melbourne knows, finding the right aesthetic and designing a beautiful environment is probably the easiest part. What’s difficult is creating a design that not only looks good but is also practical and functional, capable of withstanding the everyday wear and comfortable for the whole family.
This last part is what we’re talking about today. Kids test the limits of our designs in ways that can be difficult to anticipate. It’s true for families that have outgrown their homes and want to extend and for young parents who usually need to make adjustments to their home to make it safe for children. Analysing other people’s experiences can give you at least some ideas of what to expect. Let’s look at some of the provisions that you might want to put in place.
From babies to toddlers – making your home safe
Let’s start with the youngest and most vulnerable kids and their needs. It’s common for expecting parents to start by setting up a nursery, buying a crib, a changing table and other necessities. However, before you get carried away choosing wallpaper patterns and mobiles, there are some important practical details.
- The location of the room. You want the nursery to be close to the master bedroom, so you can hear if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night. At the same time, you need to minimise loud noises and any other potential interruptions – a good night’s sleep is going to be a rare enough luxury as it is. Choose a room that doesn’t get direct sunlight in the morning and is far enough from the front door or the entertainment area.
- Drafts and cold floors. Young children can get sick really easily, from too much heat and not enough fresh air just as well as from the cold. So, climate control is essential. Don’t skip out on proper insulation and buy a soft and comfy rug for when your baby starts crawling. At the same time, make sure that the nursery doesn’t get too hot and humid and don’t forget to regularly air it out.
- Allergies. Choose hypoallergenic materials for the items that your baby will be in direct contact with. This applies primarily to clothes and toys, but it is also true for the crib, the carpets, the wallpaper and the paints that you use.
- Ample storage. Clothes, diapers, bottles, toys, prams and rockers – there are many many new items that you are going to use every day for the next year or so. Take care to install convenient storage items ahead of time – including open shelves for stuff you need often and drawers to protect pacifiers and chew toys from dust.
- Safety measures. Before you know it, your baby will become a toddler and start exploring the world around them faster than you can keep up. Plan ahead and install safety gates on the stairs, window guards and padding on sharp corners.
Kids – all the fun and games
If you’re looking to extend or renovate your home to make more room for your kids, you likely already know just how much of a menace they can be when they play. Once your children learn how to walk, it doesn’t take them long to start running and from then it is a very thin line between having to protect them from everything that can potentially hurt them and having to protect your home from being completely destroyed. Here are some useful adjustments for this period.
- A play area. It probably won’t prevent your entire home from becoming a playground, but it is still a great addition. You may even want two separate areas – indoors and outdoors. Use softer flooring materials to reduce the risk of falling and have fun with colours and decorations you use there.
- Washables. It also makes sense to make your home easier to clean. Buy slipcovers for your furniture and use easily washable materials for your flooring and walls. This includes removing rugs in high-traffic areas in favour of simple laminate or vinyl floors and picking wall colours carefully.
- Cool designs. Designing a room for a young child can present some unique challenges. On the one hand, kids aren’t too picky about interior decorating and you can make them happy by simply sticking their favourite cartoon characters here and there. On the other hand, children grow and change very fast, so you’ll need to find some ideas that will keep their rooms interesting for at least a few years. We recommend keeping the walls somewhat neutral – perhaps using bright colours but avoiding anything that’s only relevant to a particular age – while brining more character through curtains, furniture, carpets, posters and other items that you can easily replace as time goes on.
- The right furniture. These are the most formative years and it is important to give kids everything they need to grow up healthy. This includes researching desks and chairs that encourage the right posture, finding the best mattress for a healthy sleep and so on.
Teenagers – give them a little privacy
You’d think teenagers would have the least special requirements – they are almost adults, after all, and aren’t likely to try chewing the wallpaper or throwing a football at the window. This transition, however, proves difficult to cope with for many parents who still see them as kids. Plus, teenagers in general aren’t all that easy to understand a lot of the time which often leads to conflicts. Let’s try to figure out the best ways to meet their needs and curb the worst of their attitude.
- An extra bathroom. As teenagers start paying more attention to their looks and spending more and more time in the bathroom, tensions start to rise around who’s taking the longest time in the shower and who’s holding up whose morning routine. This is a pretty clear indication that your home needs an additional bathroom. Consider adjusting your home’s layout to add one.
- A study nook. High school is not easy. And getting into university can also be incredibly stressful. Help your child by setting up a convenient study nook with shelves for their textbooks, good lighting and minimum distractions.
- Room for growth. In some ways, teenagers change even more rapidly than younger kids. And, unlike when they were young, they are no longer happy with you making design choices for them. When designing a room for a teenager, make it neutral enough to let them bring in their own creative touch, allowing them to change it as their interests and tastes evolve over the years.
Elderly Parents Moving In
As life continues to unfold, our homes often adapt to multigenerational living. One common scenario that many families face is the need to provide a living space for elderly parents. It’s a significant shift in the dynamics of your home, and thoughtful design adjustments can make this transition smoother and more comfortable for everyone involved.
- Accessible Living Space. When elderly parents move in, accessibility becomes a top priority. Consider creating a ground-floor bedroom and bathroom if possible, to eliminate the need for climbing stairs. Installing handrails and grab bars in the bathroom can greatly enhance safety and mobility.
- Comfort and Convenience: Older family members may require additional comfort features. Invest in an adjustable bed or a comfortable recliner to ensure a good night’s sleep. Adequate lighting and easy-to-reach switches can prevent accidents and improve their overall quality of life.
- Functional Kitchenette: Design a kitchenette to suit the needs of seniors. Lower countertops, easy-to-reach shelves, and a well-organized pantry can make daily tasks, like meal preparation, more manageable. Consider installing appliances with simplified controls and ensuring non-slip flooring.
- Safety Measures: Implement safety measures throughout the house. Install smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and security systems that provide peace of mind for the whole family. Additionally, address any tripping hazards by securing rugs and keeping walkways clutter-free.
- Privacy and Independence: Balance the need for care and support with maintaining your elderly parents’ independence and privacy. Create a separate sitting area where they can relax or socialise with visitors. Privacy curtains or screens can provide a sense of personal space within shared living areas.
- Regular Check-Ins: While designing the space is crucial, regular communication and check-ins are equally important. Ensure that the lines of communication are open, and your elderly parents feel included in the decision-making process regarding their living arrangements.
In the pursuit of designing a family-friendly home extension, it’s crucial to remember that every family’s needs change over time. As your family grows, ages, and evolves, your home must adapt to accommodate these changes. From the earliest days of preparing a nursery to making space for a teenager’s growing independence, and ultimately, welcoming elderly parents into your home, the journey of family life is filled with unique design challenges.
The key to success is a balance between aesthetics and practicality. A beautiful home is meaningful when it’s also comfortable, safe, and functional for all family members. By considering the specific needs of each family member and taking steps to meet those needs, you can create a space that truly embodies the concept of a family-friendly home. Designing with flexibility in mind allows your home to evolve with your family, ensuring that it remains a haven of love, support, and comfort for years to come.