So now that we’ve talked about designing a beautifully curated home that is simultaneously right for the whole family, it’s high time to turn to some of the specific little things I learnt while designing our home. I’m talking about the juicy little tidbits that make up (the beginnings of) a list of things to keep in mind when designing a home for your family. I searched high and low for lists like this and didn’t find much so I hope this will be helpful to those of you in the throes of planning, designing, or renovating.
The standard-height bathtub. I made a fly-by mention in the intro post about the bathtub issue. When we were renovating our home, I was (as I’m sure you might imagine) pretty focused on the details and left very little up to the professionals involved as far as fixtures, finishes, and furnishings were concerned. In an incredibly ironic twist of fate, the one thing I left up to someone else ended up being less than ideal. It was the bathtub for the downstairs child/guest bathroom. Since the tub was built into the bathroom and the visible side was covered by gorgeous rough-cut stone tile, it seemed to me that any tub with modern-ish lines on the inside would be more than sufficient. Alas, I was really wrong.
I remember very clearly the day we walked into warzone that was our house under construction and went to see the bathroom and the new tub that had just be installed and sealed earlier that day. I remember being entirely taken aback by how deep it was and wondering whether that was standard depth (or whether there even was a standard depth). After much Googling and back and forth with the architect and contractor, it became clear that in fact the tub was a good few inches deeper than standard tubs. A few inches, no big deal right? Wrong. Bathing little kids is most typically done while kneeling on the floor or sitting on a nearby toilet and if you have to awkwardly crane over the edge of the tub to support, play with, or lather your child, it’s a quick recipe for backache.
So what exactly am I advocating? Look for a standard depth tub when you’re choosing one for a family bathroom. Standard depth ranges from 14 to 17 inches deep and tubs of this depth are obviously easy to find in many shapes, sizes and styles because they’re, well, standard. I’m telling you, your knees and back with thank you.
The big, open shower. From a kid standpoint, our master shower is hands down one of the best design decisions we made for our loft, and I recommend it to renovating friends (with and without kids) at every chance I get. So what’s all the fuss about? It’s big. Like really big. This means that when Little L was a baby we could comfortably take a shower while he lay in his baby bathtub at our feet. You know those parents who say, “ugh, I haven’t showered in days, I just can’t get a free moment?” Well, due in large part to our shower set-up, that’s not been our experience. We’ve been able to take Little L in the shower with us safely and comfortably from his first week of life and he loves it. And now that he’s a toddler, the shower has become a fun playspace too. If you have the space for a large shower, please please please consider it; we absolutely love it and would do it again in our next house in a heartbeat.
The bathroom dimmer switch. During the renovation I remember getting many a quizzical glance from the electrician as I begged him to put a dimmer on every last light in the house. I’m one of those people for whom there can never be enough light in the kitchen and dining room (I like to be able to see what I’m eating!) but who simultaneously enjoys a bit of softer lighting for more quiet moments. And so, with great fervor I set about to ensure that we had a dimmer on every switch in the house. I about near succeeded in this effort, and having dimmer switches in Little L’s room has been particularly great. However, as I learned more recently, it turns out I forgot to make sure the family bathroom had this little luxury.
Fast forward two years: Little L was sick and we were having to get up with him in the night and take him into the bathroom for a steam session (story of our lives in flu season), or to go to the bathroom, or to get medicine, or for any one of a hundred other reasons. For these activities you need a little light but don’t want to have to turn on the blindingly bright light that inevitably awakens Little L sufficiently for him to think it’s daytime and chirp happily, “Mumma, wanna play cars?”. Enter the dimmer switch, which is a great addition to the parental box of tricks for easing your child’s transition back to sleep.
Pretty obviously, the recommendation here is to put dimmer switches in the bathroom. You’re probably thinking, um, hello Jessica? Have you heard of the nightlight? And why, yes, I have. The thing is, most nightlights are a) way to dim to read a medicine label and/or b) kinda ugly and not something you necessarily want hanging out at eye-level in a bathroom used by guests too. So choose a dimmer switch, which is quick and easy to install, and which allows you to choose just how sleepy or awake you’d like your child to be during those middle of the night escapades.
Childproofing. Ah yes, the eternally complicated child-proofing question. I’m just going to get it out of the way and say we’ve only made two child-proofing actions in our house and for us that’s been entirely sufficient. We chose to plug the wall sockets with these (heads up, they’re a little impossible to get out) and put magnetic locks on our push-activated cabinets. We did not end up locking any other cabinets in the kitchen because our design (unintentionally) seems to have obviated the need. How? Principally in two ways: first, our drawer pulls and cabinet hardware are pretty minimalist and hard for little fingers to pry open and second, we have a lot of deep drawers that are prohibitively heavy.
We have not covered the corners of our furniture, laid out extra mats to cover the concrete floor, or done anything else, because it just hasn’t seemed necessary. There was a small period of time when Little L was just learning to open door handles and thought it was awesome to escape out the front door but we put an end to that pretty easily by simply employing the upper lock.
Childproofing is really a question of your own approach to parenting, and I know for some families this means going all out (did you know there are services that come and childproof your home, top to bottom?!) But if you’re anything like us in your approach, you just might find that playing it by ear, watching and learning from your child, and reacting if and when you see a need, is a perfectly suitable solution for your family.
To be continued… This post is LONG and it’s probably better to pause here and catch my breath a little before continuing on and adding to the list. Admittedly, four things don’t make much of an exhaustive list especially since, as it turns out, three out of the four items are about bathrooms. How did that happen?! Nonetheless, I’m going to keep adding to it as I think of other things to consider (and of course as we add children to our family and have to deal with the complexity of more than one child!).
Are there things your did in your home with(out) the kids in mind? Things you wish you had done? Go ahead and share them with us in the comments section below so we can add them to this list and help other families living by design.