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Design with Children in Mind

BOWA Builders share tips for design that works for the whole family.

McLean basement renovation by BOWA features children’s reading nook under the stairs.

McLean basement renovation by BOWA features children’s reading nook under the stairs. Photo courtesy of BOWA Builders

Whether it’s a closet, the kitchen or a study area, there are numerous ways to incorporate child-friendly design into any space, and children today are becoming more and more involved in the process. Even if the child is toddler-aged, simple tasks, such as picking colors, themes or bedding, can help them feel that they are part of the process. Besides being used more frequently, greater input in the planning stage should result in more pride in the space later and a desire to keep it neat and tidy.

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Child's study in Vienna.

STUDY SPACES. A well-designed study area can be invaluable when it comes to helping a child stay focused and motivated. The kitchen is a popular choice for such a designated area, as parents are readily available to answer questions, keep their young scholar on task, and supervise internet usage.

Have a wide hallway or nook elsewhere in the home that doesn’t receive a lot of traffic? As another option, consider transforming this unused space by placing a desk against the wall, adding wall cabinets or shelving above it for holding supplies, and providing the area with adequate lighting.

A recent project in Vienna features a whimsical study that was built in one of the turrets of the house. The study opens up from the bedroom into an octagonal room, and includes a storage bench for additional seating, lots of windows streaming in natural light, and a high ceiling with three-dimensional hanging stars.

In another recent project, a reading nook was carved out under the stairs. This little hideaway features a daybed with big, comfy pillows and built-in shelving for holding the children’s favorite books.

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BOWA basement renovation in Great Falls features ample storage for childrens' toys.

STORAGE SPACES. Children have stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Books, toys, clothing, sports, hobby and school stuff. The question is: where to put it all? Collecting it as soon as it comes through the door can help to avoid it being strewn all over the place, as children (and their clutter) come home in a whirlwind of excitement from school, games and play dates.

Individual cubbies for each child in a foyer or mudroom can help to keep family members organized and prevent any mix-ups of belongings. A closet that features built-ins with plenty of drawers, cubbies, hooks and shelving will help encourage independence by giving children the ability to grab what they need and easily tidy up too. Some parents choose to remove the doors to make a closet even more inviting for their little ones to use. Hanging a set of curtains or draping fabric from a rod can add color and complement the overall design scheme, while hiding the contents at the same time.

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BOWA kitchen remodel features child-friendly seating at the end of the island.

KITCHEN DESIGN FOR THE SOUS CHEF. There are a number of things to do to help a future chef feel at home in the kitchen.

If it’s time for a kitchen renovation, consider creating a set of counters at a lower, child-friendly height so they can help with the cooking. As children grow, this area will continue to come in handy when baking and doing other tasks.

Also consider placing light-switches at lower heights for a youngster’s easy reach, or installing light-switches with automatic sensors to avoid bumps in the dark.

Worried about a little one climbing on the countertop? Providing children with their own set of dishes in a base cabinet will eliminate the need for them to reach those items on high shelves.

In addition, placing the microwave at a lower height allows for easier accessibility and can help foster an earlier sense of autonomy for one’s loved one. Consider having a pull-out drawer-style microwave installed for easy access. A designated “kid’s drawer” in the refrigerator is a great way for them to conveniently grab snacks without risking spillage from a high shelf or pestering mom and dad.

And throughout the home, soft-close drawers and door dampers will help avoid pinched fingers.

Designing for children requires creativity, innovation and the input of an experienced remodeler, as the space should be fun and functional. Whatever the space is, and whether remodeling existing space or creating an addition, a residential design build contractor can help in figuring out the best options for a family’s needs, budget and lifestyle.

Josh Baker is founder of BOWA, learn more at www.bowa.com.