As I previewed earlier this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about whether and how to design our home with kids in mind when we completely overhauled our apartment two years ago. I was heavily pregnant with Little L at the time (you can read more about that and our terrible timing here) and how he’d fit into our lives was at the forefront of my mind. Reflecting back, almost two years after we (finally) completed the renovation, I can safely say that we chose the best route for our family: we designed a home for us, a home that we love living in, and it has turned out to be a great home for Little L too.
Lesson #1: You can totally have the house you want, stark white walls, uncarpeted floors, open stairs, the lot.
To some it might sound blindingly obvious and to others it may sound a little controversial. But here’s the thing: the choice to pursue the aesthetic you want, to have a house that takes design into account, and that incorporates all the gorgeous elements you’ve been vigorously pinning and adding to your ideabooks, is entirely achievable without compromising your child’s safety. Children are curious, adventurous, and often full of boundless energy; the way they explore and use their physical space is vastly different from the way adults do. But they’re also highly intelligent: they learn quickly how to navigate their environment, what is safe and what isn’t, what is allowed and what isn’t.
Throughout the entirety of our renovation, our contractor and various subs would ask me, “are you sure you want to have a bannister that he could climb so easily?” and “are you sure you don’t want to raise the fireplace a little higher so that his curious hands aren’t tempted?”. Over and over again, my response was that we hoped to create a home that was right for our whole family, and if and when problems arose we would address them. That might sound foolish, expensive, or both, but we had big dreams of parenting a child whose physical world was our physical world, one in which we all lived happily (and safely). Those are still our dreams, and we all love the apartment we live in.
When the apartment was complete and featured on Houzz, there were a good few people who chastised our choices, speculating about how they would impact our children and our life in this home. But Little L loves our concrete floors (probably more than we do) because when he was commando crawling they were a brilliantly fast superhighway around the house and now because he can ride his scooter or tricycle without the hindrance of carpet. Has he fallen? Yes. Has he ever been truly injured? No. We also have a concrete coffee table with nice sharp corners. We have open stairs, with a bannister that is admittedly very ladder-like. We have stark white walls. We have a gorgeous loft bedroom that is on a separate floor from Little L’s room (very occasionally necessitating middle of the night trips up and down). There are windows into Little L’s room that don’t have window shades or curtains, and the light from the rest of the house permeates his room even when he’s sleeping.
Yet we have found, that with appropriate guidance, Little L has learned where he can run wild with abandon and where he needs to exercise some caution. He knows that there are many places to indulge his love of drawing, and that the walls are not one of these places. He has learned to sleep well, despite the light and sound that enters through those windows. In short, he’s been accumulating this knowledge and experience day in and day out in our home, living fully in the house that we all call home, and to date we’ve had no trouble.
Perhaps our approach isn’t for everyone; we’re all different after all, not only in terms of aesthetic but in terms of parenting too. But for those kindred spirits thinking about design-conscious living with kids, I just want to let you know that it’s entirely possible, even enjoyable, and that your kids will be no less happy in a beautifully curated space.